New year, new outstanding teachers to celebrate! Two more educators received their Outstanding Teaching Awards for excellence in the instruction of the humanities. Read about the award winners below!

If you were nominated for a 2018 Outstanding Teaching Award, congratulations on being recognized for your excellence in the classroom! You now have until February 9, 2018, to complete the online application and elaborate on yourself, your teaching philosophy, and your accomplishments. This spring, our board of directors will select fifteen recipients to receive a $5,000 prize, with an additional $500 for their schools to purchase humanities-based instructional materials. Don't let the deadline pass you by!

Nicole Brisco, Pleasant Grove High School, Texarkana

State Representative Gary VanDeaver and Humanities Texas Program Officer Sam Moore presented Nicole Brisco with her award during Pleasant Grove High School's holiday luncheon on Wednesday, December 20, 2017.

In her nineteen years at Pleasant Grove High School, Brisco has taught honors, pre-AP, and AP classes in subjects ranging from art surveys to design, drawing, and sculpture.

"Ms. Brisco has a profound talent and knowledge of the humanities, but, more importantly, she is an expert in her craft of teaching students at high levels of creativity," said Principal Mendy Sharp. "She is a pillar of Pleasant Grove High School and our school district and represents our history of excellence at the local, state, and national level. She and her students have truly made an impact on the arts around the world."

In addition to classroom teaching, Brisco speaks at state and national art education professional development programs, sharing information on visual culture and curriculum building with fellow educators. She is also a division chair for the National Art Education Association, a position she has held since 2010. That same year, Brisco won the Secondary Educator of the Year award from the Texas Art Education Association.

"It was my privilege to present Ms. Nicole Brisco with her 2017 Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award," said Representative VanDeaver. "Ms. Brisco's artistic talent is amazing, but the real treasure is in the love of art that she instills in her students. That will be her legacy for generations to come."

Natalie Fontenot, Reagan Early College High School, Austin

Texas State Senator Kirk Watson presented Natalie Fontenot with her Award for Outstanding Early-Career Teaching during a ceremony at Reagan Early College High School on Thursday, January 18, 2018. Humanities Texas board member Michael L. Klein and his wife Jeanne also attended the program, as did Jim Furgeson, a teaching mentor of Fontenot.

Fontenot has been teaching at Reagan Early College High School for three years. Her primary subject area is U.S. history, but she also teaches a social studies skills course at both Reagan and Austin Community College. In her first year of teaching, she was awarded "Teacher of Promise," a distinction given to first year teachers who show exceptional dedication, leadership, and skill in the classroom.

"My approach to teaching U.S. history is to use content to teach students to question and learn about the world around them," said Fontenot. "In today's society, when information is abundantly accessible any time we desire it, the most important skills we can teach students in the humanities are to analyze, interpret, question, and synthesize material they are interacting with."

In addition to her U.S. history classes, Fontenot created Reagan's STAAR re-tester curriculum for students who failed to pass their end-of-course exams. Her interactive and skills-based lessons engage students using music, images, and primary sources and allow them to practice the critical thinking and analytical skills necessary to be successful on state exams.

"I'm proud of the teachers across Texas and Senate District 14," said Senator Watson. "Natalie Fontenot is a tremendous example of the dedication and commitment of teachers in our public schools. She inspires her students and fellow faculty every day and makes our public education system great."

OTA winner Nicole Brisco accepts her award from State Representative Gary VanDeaver. Photo by Molly Minter, Four States Living Magazine.
(From l to r:) Pleasant Grove High School Principal Mendy Sharp, Humanities Texas Program Officer Sam Moore, OTA winner Nicole Brisco, State Representative Gary VanDeaver, and Pleasant Grove ISD superintendent Jason Smith. Photo by Molly Minter, Four States Living Magazine.
Reagan Early College High School Principal Anabel Garza, OTA winner Natalie Fontenot, and State Senator Kirk Watson at Fontenot's award presentation.
(From l to r:) Humanities Texas Executive Director Michael L. Gillette, Reagan Early College High School Principal Anabel Garza, Humanities Texas board member Michael L. Klein, OTA winner Natalie Fontenot, Jeanne Klein, Jim Furgeson, and State Senator Kirk Watson.