We are pleased to conclude our recognition of the 2021 Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Awards winners by featuring these three recipients. Each award winner received $5,000, with an additional $500 for their respective schools to purchase humanities-based instructional materials. Read more about these amazing Texas teachers, and stay tuned for the announcement of our 2022 Outstanding Teaching Award winners later this spring!

Steven Caplan, Leadership Academy, Austin

Humanities Texas awarded Steven Caplan of the Leadership Academy in Austin a 2021 Award for Outstanding Early-Career Teaching, which recognizes exemplary contributions of early-career humanities teachers who have completed three or fewer years of teaching. During his first years in the classroom at the Leadership Academy, Caplan has taught U.S. history, world history, economics, and government. 

"The practice of teaching 'humanities' has such a vast scope," Caplan said, "but I like to think of it as simply helping our young humans become well-rounded citizens that focus on their ability to think critically and act empathetically."

Outside of his teaching responsibilities, Caplan volunteers with the Central Texas Food Bank. Since the beginning of the pandemic, he has assisted at food drives to help community members in need.

"Whether it's a new way to answer a question, gather data, or collaborate, Steven has an idea that always makes the project better," said Austin ISD School Counselor Kim Andersen. "He reaches out to those who would otherwise be left behind, both students and teachers, and lends a hand to get them up to speed so they can join the group."

Jacquelyn Manz, Hutchison Middle School, Lubbock

Humanities Texas awarded Jacquelyn Manz of Hutchison Middle School in Lubbock a 2021 Award for Outstanding Early-Career Teaching. For the last three years, Manz has taught language and literature at Hutchison Middle School. 

"My teaching philosophy is simple," Manz said. "Each student deserves to see themselves in what I teach, each student needs to walk out of my room better prepared than when they walked in, each student needs to be open-minded and engaged, and each student deserves the best version of me every day."

In addition to teaching language and literature, Manz is also Campus Academic Leader for the Language and Literature Department. She provides input on hiring decisions, mentors new teachers, and is responsible for sharing new information with her language and literature colleagues.

"Jackie has a high level of professionalism while caring for and loving her students well," said Hutchison Middle School Assistant Principal Laura Tatum. "Her students are challenged to use their own interests and beliefs to support learning in literature, poetry, and writing skills."

Yvette Peña, International School of the Americas,
San Antonio

Humanities Texas awarded Yvette Peña of the International School of the Americas (ISA) in San Antonio a 2021 Award for Outstanding Early-Career Teaching. For the last two years, Peña has taught English and world geography at ISA. 

"My teaching is guided by the philosophy that the humanities help students question and understand their role in the world," Peña said. "They learn to analyze how people, ideas, and issues are connected and expand that knowledge into action for lasting change."

Outside of her teaching responsibilities, Peña founded the ISA Equity Evolution Committee to foster a more inclusive environment for students. She designed professional development sessions for staff to examine how bias effects campus policies.

"[Her] empathy, passion, and understanding combined with her drive to take action make [Ms. Peña] an excellent teacher and colleague," said ISA Principal Steve Magadance. "As an early-career teacher, Yvette's impact has been immediately positive and necessary."





2021 OTA winner Steven Caplan at the Leadership Academy in Austin.





2021 OTA winner Jacquelyn Manz in her classroom at Hutchison Middle School in Lubbock.




2021 OTA winner Yvette Peña with a student at the International School of the Americas in San Antonio.