As we enter the new year, Humanities Texas continues to recognize the incredible winners of our 2021 Outstanding Teaching Awards. Each teacher received $5,000, with an additional $1,000 for their school to support further excellence in the instruction of the humanities. Learn more about these exceptional educators below.

And a reminder to those teachers who were nominated for a 2022 Outstanding Teaching Award—be sure to submit your application by February 4!

Cynthia Rios, Faulk Middle School, Brownsville

Humanities Texas awarded Cynthia Rios of Faulk Middle School in Brownsville a 2021 Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award. While Rios has taught reading at Faulk since 2018, her classroom career spans eight years.

"One of my goals when developing lessons has always been to engage students with twenty-first-century activities that promote student learning through communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity with the use of educational technologies," Rios said. "I strive to increase their digital literacy and give them opportunities to demonstrate their learning in a variety of ways. I believe that by developing students' literacy, we can support their ability to critically read and navigate our ever-changing world."

Outside of her teaching responsibilities, Rios used digital platforms to create instructional resources for her district on the domains of language and holds workshops for fellow educators on using these resources.

"What defines [Rios] as a great teacher goes beyond her content knowledge and skills," commented Faulk Middle School Principal Benita Villarreal. "She takes personal responsibility for her students' success, and [they] know that she cares because she takes the time and energy to create technology-based, student-centered lessons that bring real-life experiences into the classroom."

Leora Uribe, Harlandale Middle School, San Antonio

Humanities Texas awarded Leora Uribe of Harlandale Middle School in San Antonio a 2021 Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award. Uribe has taught U.S. history and contemporary world cultures in her eight-year span as a teacher at Harlandale Middle School.

"Social studies examine life and culture—the beauty, passion, and struggle that make us who we are and form the core of our communities," Uribe said. "As a teacher of contemporary world cultures, I approach the curriculum with two primary goals for my students: connection and engagement."

In addition to her work in the classroom, Uribe is campus coordinator and coach for seventeen University Interscholastic League A+ Academics teams and founder/sponsor of PEACE Club (Positive Experiences in Art, Culture, and Environment).

"Leora is a leader on our campus and in the world of humanities," said Harlandale Social Studies Department Chair Kellie George. "We are all truly richer in culture for knowing her."

Della Watson, Paducah High School, Paducah

Humanities Texas awarded Della Watson of Paducah High School a 2021 Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award. While she has taught English language arts and reading, junior high and high school band, elementary music, and dyslexia at Paducah High since 2018, Watson's classroom career spans fifteen years. 

"I believe that learning should be engaging and fun for students so that they look forward to coming to class," Watson said. "I do my best to ensure that all of my students have many opportunities to succeed. Students very rarely fail my class, as I believe that if they fail, I have failed at doing my job, which is to teach all of my students."

Outside of her teaching responsibilities, Watson volunteers at Mel Mel's Boutique, a local business created in memory of a former Paducah student. Proceeds from the boutique support scholarships for seniors at Paducah High School and within the surrounding communities.

"[Ms. Watson] goes above and beyond what is expected because she deeply cares about her students and their learning, especially in the area of the humanities," said Paducah ISD Superintendent Gary Waitman. "She connects with her students and causes them to enjoy learning as she makes it fun and exciting."






2021 OTA winner Cynthia Rios with students in her classroom at Faulk Middle School.


2021 OTA winner Leora Uribe with her student at Harlandale Middle School.



2021 OTA winner Della Watson with students in her classroom at Paducah High School.