Amazing Teacher 2021: The Nominees

What an, dare I say it, AMAZING group of educators we had nominated during the search for the ACM 2021 Amazing Teacher. SO much so, we’re going to honor 10… YES TEN! Amazing Teachers. San Antonio is home to a diverse educational landscape with top notch preschools to a variety of magnet programs, parochial schools to charter schools, and classic private to well-known public schools that have been the backbones of their neighborhoods for 50 years. Inside the walls of those schools, are some simply wonderful humans entrusted to care for and teach our children for hundreds of hours a year.

We’re pleased to introduce you to our Amazing Teacher Nominees:

Nominations have not been edited and appear as they were submitted! Special thanks to Broadway Bank for their support with this initiative. They are celebrating 80 years of commitment to the San Antonio community.

Preschool Educators
Rebecca Lopez

St. Paul’s

Nominated by RoxNne V.

Mrs.Lopez is amazing not only because she is a teacher but her commitment to our children at St. Paul’s is true dedication. She make sure that each child feels loved and is excited to learn more and more. My son completely adores her. He is constantly telling us all the new and fun things he learns in class. He tells us that he loves her and she is his favorite teacher! Teachers like Mrs.Lopez are truly special and deserve so much more. But hopefully she can be considered.
Holly Mason

Sunshine Cottage School for Deaf Children, preschool teacher

Nominated by Whitney W.

Most people think of preschool as pure fun and playtime. While that certainly happens daily in Holly’s class, she brings so much more as a deaf educator. Her students who wear hearing technology are in a crucial stage of language development. She flawlessly tracks and assesses each child’s language development, goals, and academic/emotional growth. Her ability to adjust for virtual learning when necessary has been remarkable. She sent home carefully prepared materials labeled for each specific day and provided engaging virtual instruction (even for 3 year olds). Most of all I appreciate her obvious love for the kiddos and concern for their well being now and in the future. She has truly gone above and beyond to help my son. I’ll always be grateful for her big heart and hard work.
Jessica Binversie

St Mary Magdalen School kínder Spanish teacher

Nominated by Alexis D.

Mrs B. as the students refer to her is just simply amazing. She has helped turn my very quiet little girl who had a distaste for school into an eager to learn little one. She went from not being very confident in speaking to now reading; yes reading in both English and Spanish. Mrs B’s passion for her students and her profession is something that is very easy to see. My daughter can’t wait to tell me about everything she learned from Mrs B! We feel very blessed to have her.
Jessica Binversie

St Mary Magdalen, K5 teacher

Nominated by Daisy C.

I was amazed with Mrs B’s patience and poise with handling her students (including my daughter) while on Zoom this year! She made learning fun in Spanish and English. She bolstered my daughter’s confidence to read — going out of her way to give her books in Spanish to practice.
Jessica Binversie

St Mary Magdalen, K5 teacher

Nominated by Maria G.

She is SUPER dedicated to her students even though this year she was pregnant, lets mention it was her first pregnancy and with all things going on, she was always there with a smile on her face, very caring of children. She goes above and beyond her duty and an educator.
Amy Endicott

Crown of Life Lutheran Preschool, 3’s Class

Nominated by Mariana R.

Ms. Amy has been a teacher for all my 3 big kiddos. She is so playful and loving. The kids love her and I always feel like my children are in the best hands. She knows their personalities and she remembers personal details like their siblings names or if their grandparents are in town. If I ever forgot something, she would always say “don’t worry about it” and always found a solution. She is a big part of our lifes, I would love for her to receive something in return for all that she’s given my family.
Yvonne Sifuentez

NEISD Ready Set Go Program for 3 and 4 year olds

Nominated by Nerisa J.

My kids have been in her program for the last 3 years. She has touched many lives, I’m always finding other mom’s, grandma’s, & teachers whom she has influenced as a teacher, coworker, and a mom. Her passion for teaching shows as she enriches her 3 and 4 year old students with STEAM activites, letter and math bags, table centers, show and tell, a wonder wall, and much more. My kids come home talking about what she has taught that day and they are able to apply it in the real world. Everything is hands on in her class and learn by doing. I myself am a new preschool teacher and I have learned so much from her just from observing at pick up and seeing what my kids bring home from her class. I truly believe she is such a positive and much needed person in the lives of these little minds. I really look up to her as a teacher and a mom.
Ann Garcia

Northside ISD

Nominated by Michelle R.

Ann “Anna” is an amazing Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) teacher. As one of the first professionals parents have to deal with on their journey, Anna provides them with comfort that their child will be taken care of during the school day. Anna creates a safe, loving environment for our youngest of students to grow and learn. She is an amazing teacher and deserves to be recognized for how hard she works.
Melissa Cornelius-Freyre

NISD Reddix Campus Coordinator

Nominated by Lorena P. 

I imagine the past year has been difficult for many teachers but Melissa rose to the occasion over and over. From countless Covid tests and quarantine scares. Then when teachers at her campus (for a variety of reasons) couldn’t teach students, Mel rolled up her sleeves and went back to the classroom. She ended up taking over FOUR classes, creating curriculum that would work virtually and in-person, making sure students didn’t regress or get lost in the system, plus still trying to transition students out into the workforce all while making sure her coworkers were managing. Mel always wonders if she is doing enough to make this world more inclusive for people with disabilities. Seeing how exhausted she is while juggling the foster care system trying to become a mom with her amazing husband I can’t imagine another person who has given more to make sure this world is a better place for everyone.
Elementary School Educators

 

Jasón Opalinski

Basis, basis San Antonio north central, 3rd grade virtual lead teacher

Nominated by Emma G.

Mr. O, as his students call him, has been the 3rd grade teacher for all 75 virtual 3rd grade students at basis north central. Although it’s a large class and kids are at home, he has managed to keep the children engaged. He ensures each child is able to participate during the day by calling on them to answer questions or share their projects. He has then make presentations, reads to them, and answers questions through the day. Although he has specific student hours for questions, he makes himself available throughout the day regardless. He is encouraging and tells the children, daily, how he is so proud of them for being resilient during this time of COVID.
 

Tiffany Ricker

NEISD- Tuscany Heights Elementary- 3rd grade teacher

Nominated by Erin R.

She is one of the most selfless teachers I’ve met. This tough year was made smooth and happy for her class because she tirelessly has given her entire heart to her class. She cares in a way that goes above and beyond- each and every day. She takes on more than requires, more than even expected and does so effortlessly. She has given my daughter wings over the past year and she truly loves her students. She encourages individuality, confidence and exudes love. She is professional and fair. She truly cares with her whole heart. We are the luckiest. Watching my daughter grow and blossom because of Mrs. Ricker has been so wonderful.
Dana Parish

San Antonio Academy, Art Teacher

Nominated by Jennifer D.

Mrs. Parish is an amazing teacher. Due to Covid-19 she was unable to instruct students in her art classroom but used her unique creativity to visit classrooms and take the art instruction to them instead. When my son unexpectedly had to quarantine due to a close contact that tested positive for Covid, Mrs. Parish went and collected all of his schoolwork from various classes and personally delivered it to our house, along with art supplies she had purchased so that he could continue to work on art while away from school. Mrs. Parish is an amazing art teacher and has a true passion for helping students uncover hidden talents. She has inspired my fourth-grade son so much that he sold one of his painting and donated the entire proceeds back to the art program at the school. My son shared that he wanted to make sure kids could continue to paint with Mrs. Parish and have her bring them joy just like she has brought him. She has persevered through mask-wearing and classroom social distancing to continue to bring joy for art in the students she teaches. Instead of focusing on all the things she couldn’t do with new protocols in place, she instead directed her energy and talents towards what she could do to bring a sense of excitement and normalcy for the students she serves. Mrs. Parish is an outstanding teacher and is fully deserving of the Alamo City Moms Amazing Teacher for 2021 award.

 

Christy Simon

University United Methodist Day School, First grade teacher

Nominated by Abigail B.

This is the first year for University day school to offer first grade, so this is all new territory for them. Mrs. Simon has done such an amazing job of connecting with each child, building such an inviting classroom, making learning fun again. After this past year with so many strange things, unknowns, and scary moments, having a school where the kids feel welcome, safe and loved is so important and the teacher is at the heart of that. Each one of these children know that Mrs. Simon is on their team, rooting for them, and willing to help no matter the struggle. She spends one on one time with them each day, meeting them where they learn and how they learn. She goes out of her way to offer extra help in areas where a child may be struggling and listens to the parents concerns. In the past, my concerns for my daughter’s reading struggles was pushed off and not listened to. Mrs. Simon has listened, and been open to hearing my concerns and meets me where I’m at with those and suggests how we can help her grow; build her confidence and see if she may need any additional help for any possible reasons. Above all else she loves these kids and wants to see them grow, and succeed and become life long lovers of learning. You couldn’t ask for a better start to the journey of learning than Mrs. Simon at University Day School.

 

 

Mrs. Prado

SAISD, first grade teacher

Nominated by Christina M.

She made my son love school! He wakes up and is so excited to go and learn. She goes above and beyond for her students and it shows! We love you Ms.Prado!!
Natalie Vasquez

NISD – Scobee Elementary – 3rd Grade teacher

Nominated by Casey S.

Ms. Vasquez is a remarkable young woman who has gone above and beyond during this difficult period to make her students feel safe and loved.

My son in particular is a difficult kid to teach – he’s the one that just never stops talking, has a hard time being flexible to change, and can be a challenge to keep focused. But she’s never given up on him and she’s never made him feel like he’s “trouble”. In fact, she’s constantly making him feel special, and reinforcing that being “different” and “weird” are awesome things.

She takes the time to sit and have personal conversations with her students during recess. She takes extra time after the main class instruction to talk them through difficult areas one-on-one. She learns about who they are as people, not just kids going through the third grade paces, and connects with them on that ground. My son is particularly invested in Harry Potter this year, and she went out of her way to send him a special Harry Potter present on his birthday. She sent out certificates and personal notes to every student in her classroom one day just to let them know they were great kids going through a tough time and she recognized that and was in awe of them for it.

During a time when it would be so easy to remain distant and disconnected, Ms. Vasquez has gone to such lengths to keep her students engaged and let them know they are seen and have a friend and a mentor in her classroom. It has been a beautiful thing to watch.

 

Alma Leyton

K5 Bilingual Teacher @ St Mary Magdalen Catholic School

Nominated by Norma J.

I would like to nominate my son’s kindergarten teacher, Mrs Alma Leyton. She goes above and beyond to make her students feel safe and confident about themselves. She helps each student individually even the students online. Each child receives a personalized plan from her which is great because they are only in kinder. My child has learned so much including in Spanish. He didn’t know a single word before he started this year. He was so shy and quiet. She has managed to get him out of his shell. He has more confidence and tries to speak in Spanish now. They are even learning the alphabet in sign language from her. I’m just so impressed with the way she works with these kids. She also has two young kids in elementary and always has time for her students. A while back there was a close contact with covid and the whole class had to be out to quarantine. She was home with her kids and doing online class. When I tell you I have no idea how she does it with all those kids, I mean it. She had so much patience with each child. These are all the reasons I feel she should win.

 

Yovhany Ortiz

NEISD, Roan Forest, Special Education chair/Redirect Room

Nominated by Amy L.

Mrs. Ortiz goes above and beyond on a daily basis to make sure that our special education kids have a warm, safe environment where they feel important and listened to. Her kind, calm patience is inspiring to everyone around her. She has a true gift in bringing out the best in every student she works with.
Cynthia Craven

Northside ISD

Nominated by Krystal G.

Ms. Craven has gone above and beyond for her students this school year. She’s always in a great mood, energetic and eager to help all of her students. We’ve been virtual all year and it’s never felt like we were missing out on in classroom instruction. She’s what all educators should be.
Camille Vacek

NEISD, Hidden Forest Elementary, First Grade Teacher

Nominated by Jill R.

Both of my daughters have been fortunate enough to have Ms. Vacek as their teacher. She is a ray of sunshine every day and truly loves her students. My daughter Scarlett is in her first grade class this year, and absolutely loves school. She has grown so much academically this year, but most of all, she has learned to love school and comes home excited about what she has done that day. Ms. Vacek quickly picked up on Scarlett’s helpful nature, and Scarlett has gained a lot of confidence as a helper in her classroom. Ms. Vacek is truly an amazing teacher and is very deserving of this award!
Jennifer Hodges

San Antonio Christian School

Nominated by Christine R.

Mrs. Hodges made my daughter feel so welcomed this year. In the midst of COVID-19 and our family switching schools, my third grader, Stella, was so nervous about starting over in a new school and this amazing teacher was so nurturing and encouraging to her and made her feel right at home in her classroom. My daughter is excited to go to school again! She makes learning fun and I love hearing about Stella’s day after school. She is so approachable and easy to talk to and always available for answering questions. I’m very grateful that Stella had an amazing year and that has everything to do with Mrs. Hodges.

 

Jessica Binversie

Catholic Schools of San Antonio, St. Mary Magdalen, Kindergarten Teacher (Spanish)

Nominated by Claudia G.

Mrs. B has been the most devoted and loving teacher in a year when we all needed it! From day one of school, she consistently showed her dedication to teaching our kids in her Spanish immersion Kindergarten class. She emailed every week with updates on progress, curriculum focus and with links and materials for virtual students. Our school offered in-person classroom instruction all year and Mrs. B handled the pressure of virtual and in-person teaching with the patience and perseverance of a saint. My child learned how to read, in Spanish, during a global pandemic. And, Mrs. B did all of this while pregnant with her first child! She recently gave birth and, while our kids will miss her in their final weeks of Kindergarten, I’m so happy for her to experience the love of a classroom of Kindergartners and of her first child this year, a year that could have been so much worse, but made brighter with Mrs. B’s love and light. Please help me honor her as the amazing teacher she is!!!

 

Marissa Martinez

NISD, Evers Elementary, Special Education Co-Teacher

Nominated by Maxine S.

Ms. Martinez is the best at creating engaging and memorable lessons by incorporating student interests. All year she has been teaching the writing process using a WWE theme! When I think about teaching 4th graders to write, the last thing I would think to relate it to would be a body slam, but that’s just what Ms. Martinez did and it worked! She even got a real wrestler to speak to the class about preparing for a match prior to the state assessment. Ms. Martinez is an AMAZING teacher.
Staci Edgar

NEISD, Castle Hills Elementary, 2d Grade

Nominated by Shanti D.

My son is, let’s say, a difficult student. He’s hyper. He’s a know it all. He annoys other kids. A lot. School has always been something he endures, rather than enjoys.

We started second grade with trepidation. On Zoom. With a teacher none of us had met in person. I was nervous, to say the least.

But now my son comes home with “I don’t want the year to end. I really like Ms Edgar!” He trusts her. He listens to her. And he has blossomed in this weird hybrid Covid Year. I had the unusual experience of getting to witness her teaching for the first three months while my kid Zoom’d. She spoke to the children with patience and respect. And they gave that right back to her.

When I started talking to other moms about this great teacher, it turned out my kid is nothing special. Ms Edgar elicits this reaction over and over again. She’s tough and expects her students to succeed. But she’s also so very supportive of her “Edgars”. Apparently my son going from apathetic to loving school isn’t unique at all. But Ms Edgar is. We have been so fortunate to have amazing teachers year after year at Castle Hills. For Ms Edgar to stand out among these wonderful professionals is worth taking note of.

Sarah Tragord

AHISD

Nominated by Lindsay S.

Mrs. Soupiset is an amazing reading teacher. She does such an amazing job of bridging the awkward stage moving from Elementary School to Junior High. She is an amazing example of a teacher who has adapted to changes within her department and classes during this Covid school year while encouraging her students to find a love for reading. Her classroom is a warm and cozy home to her students and they love her for it.

 

Leanna Hazelwood

Basis Northeast

Nominated by Jessica P.

She always goes above and beyond for her students. This is the first year that Basis NE has been open and she was very patient and caring towards the kids during this difficult time. She has amazing communication with parents about the students progress!!
Christy Witherspoon

Basis Northeast

Nominated by Nicholas P. 

Ms. Christy is hands down absolutely amazing!!! She had so much patience with the students and she’s always so full of energy!! She definitely goes above and beyond to help a struggling student. She is real quick to notify parents if there are any issues and she also helps parents help their child. Real quick at finding solutions and helping solve the issue.
Barbara Blakely

NISD

Nominated by Emily F

We have been distance learning with Mrs. Blakely since August and have 20 more days left of the school year. My daughter, hands down, could not have done this without the support and encouragement from her teacher. It’s hard enough that we have never met in person and struggled with internet connections, school computer issues and so on but these teachers this year had to pull double duty. Thank you so much for being a constant rock and companion Mrs. Blakely!

 

Julie Vandertulip

NEISD Encino Park Elementary 4th Grade

Nominated by Amanda P.

Mrs.Vandertulip is one of the sweetest teachers. My son Logan was a vertual student till January. She made the transition to in class learning so easy. My son has a hard time with change and she was super understanding. She engages the students to want to learn. Logan always comes home saying how fun science is and actually wants to go to school. This year has been tough but with teachers like her it’s been the best it can be.
Melissa Thurmond

North East ISD

Nominated by Katie K.

She is the most loving and kind teacher we could have wished for during such a difficult year. She is an excellent communicator, is fun and energetic, and has empathy for both the students and their families. She is loved by our entire campus because she is so positive and encouraging to be around. Both of my boys have had the joy of being in her class and it has prepared them to love school and be successful in future grades. She is such a gift to our community and I am grateful for her dedication to such an important job!

 

Suzanne Williams

St. Mary’s Hall, Form 2

Nominated by Francois G.

Suzanne is an amazing teacher that goes out of her way to take care of her students and their educational journey. She has a huge heart and loves her students as if they were her own children. This translates to the classroom with how she engages parents on the uniqueness of each student, and adapts her approach to each student’s needs. Her love, care, and influence for the student doesn’t stop at the end of the year when the student leaves the classroom. Mrs. Williams continues to check in on her students and offers assistance to both the new teachers and the former student on the new challenges that they face. She does not seek recognition for her efforts, rather, a good bottle of wine and another day to wear the super hero cape.

 

Bailee Ufert

BASIS San Antonio Northeast, Fourth and Fifth Grade History and Writing

Nominated by Dawn R.

When school started virtually, Ms. Ufert was the first voice and friendly face that appeared onscreen, welcoming my fourth grader to his first class of the first day of the strangest start of a school year none of us could have imagined. As I hid in the kitchen listening in, I was floored by how much comfort and friendliness poured through speakers. For a group of kids jumping into the unknown, she was calming, soothing and passionate about making them feel connected, normalizing the day and setting a tone I’ve seen her carry throughout the year. As my son continued virtual lessons, then switched to in-person in February, Ms. Ufert has continued to connect with her students both in History and in her writing class. I was in awe listening to her live lessons as history unfolded: the election and its aftermath, explaining it all and answering every question the kids came up with, somehow tying it all back to their government lesson. As the Capitol was under siege, she was onscreen with a live lesson, keeping the kids calm and addressing all of their questions, while still teaching about the Electoral College and our election process. Then I listened to her livestream the Inaugural, again using actual events to help the kids connect with history in a different way. Her eloquent lectures on Indigenous Peoples, slavery and racial justice are classes that adults should be lucky to hear. In spite of the fact that I was supposed to be working, I inevitably found myself eavesdropping and learning along with my son. And when he went back in person, I’ll admit I missed that part of my day. Who could have guessed I’d miss fourth grade history lessons?? Yet for all of the knowledge she’s poured into the students, what I admire most is her emotional intelligence. She has innate ability to tell when a student is struggling, acknowledges them and makes them feel heard. Through pet stories and jokes of the day, I watched her create a classroom environment where the kids felt connected in spite of being online. She never failed to let them know that we all have tough days and we all struggle–and that working together, they could overcome that by supporting each other. And now that he’s in person, my son brings those same stories home. In addition to her classes, Ms. Ufert also leads the students in social and emotional learning sessions during study hall, helping them grow emotionally and connect with each other while learning how to manage the stress of school, home and well, life during a pandemic. My son has repeated those lessons back to me, truly embracing what she’s shared. Having heard her lessons first hand, then seeing the impact on my son, has left me in awe of Ms. Ufert’s teaching skills. The kicker? It’s her first year teaching! Knowing that she tackled the craziest of years in such a fantastic way as someone new to the profession has only deepened my appreciation of her skill, passion and heart. Thinking back to that first day and how she kicked off the year astounds me, but that’s just who Ms. Ufert is–and why we feel she deserves to treated like the rock star she is.

 

Tara Silvers

NEISD

Nominated by Alejandra G.

Have you ever tried to host a zoom call with 36 six-year-olds? Well, Mrs. Silvers has and she had complete control of it.

Mrs. Silvers has been the designated virtual teacher for 1st grade at Tuscany Heights Elementary. For some reason, her class had a large number of students that kept fluctuating during the year, reaching almost 40 students at one point.

Her zoom morning meetings were the best thing in the world. There were always students who had lost a tooth and had many things to share… the way they all did it in an orderly manner, OVER ZOOM, was truly impressive.

Before COVID, I would see her walk the halls at school. Every time she entered the cafeteria with her class, her former students would wave or hug her in the sweetest way. She had a fan club, and now that I’ve seen her teach on zoom, I know why.

She is the most loving, patient, and understanding teacher there is. The way she connected with her students, making sure every single one of them felt heard, special, and an important part of the class was truly amazing. She also made sure that her students’ needs were met, and on top of it all, she set time to connect with her students, and encourage them to connect with their friends.

This was a strange year for everybody, and a very hard year on teachers. But I would dare to say that it was even harder on virtual teachers. Mrs. Silvers did double the work and went the extra mile to make this school year it as smooth as possible for her students.

Sebastian Macias

NEISD

Nominated by Soliel M.

Mr. Macias is great teacher because he always puts his students first. He is funny and kind and teaches in a way to reach each student. He uses Star Wars stories and music videos to help his student learn. He does virtual charades and make learning fun.
Michelle Wiley

NEISD

Nominated by April C.

Mrs. Wiley goes above and beyond to help her students have the best year possible and succeed. She has zoomed with students after school and on the weekends to give words of encouragement, let them know she cares and is interested in what they are doing, and to lift spirits.

Mrs. Wiley even called my son when he needed to stand on stage at a public event but was too scared to. It was her enthusiastic and kind words that got him on stage.

Teaching during the pandemic has not been easy for any teacher but Mrs. Wiley shows up everyday with a smile on her face, doesn’t falter when frustrated, and has provided a pillar of strength for her students during this different year.

I have also never seen a teacher who takes such care to not only follow but do her best to improve the experience for children with education plans. All that she does is for her students and it shows.

Jonathan Ortiz

NEISD

Nominated by Lucia G.

Mr. Jonathan Ortiz has made a significant difference in the lives of his students by being authentic, caring, dedicated and above all, kind. In the same fashion of Mr. Ortiz’s role model, Mr. Rogers spoke to children, I see how Mr. Ortiz relates, shows genuine interest and takes great pride in his students and their individual areas of growth. Mr. Ortiz asks that students do their personal best, relates to their needs and individualizes his teaching to meet their different learning styles. Mr. Ortiz is also the grade level teacher who provides inclusive services to students with auditory impairments. Mr. Ortiz establishes eye contact with each of his students when speaking to them, makes a point to kneel next to his students at eye level, clearly enunciates and expresses his appreciation using introductory signing such as “thank you” “happy” and “proud” to his students.

Mr. Ortiz participates in all school and community building activities and includes his family in the after school and weekend activities such things as trunk or treat and dressing up, attending students’ outside of school activities like baseball and basketball games.

At the end of an unprecedented school year and abrupt end to in person classes, Mr. Ortiz wanted to ensure his students had a happier closure to their time learning with him. Mr. Ortiz collected his students monthly writings, personally paid for each student writing collection to be spiral bound and titled “My first Published Book by …” and wrote the introduction page how he knew this book would be the first of many and how proud he was of them, their hard work and how he’d always be their teacher. Mr. Ortiz personally delivered them to his students at their home and thanked them for the opportunity and privilege to be their fourth grade teacher.

Additionally there is also trailing evidence of Mr. Ortiz’s success in teaching STAAR material and earned Science distinctions at his current school Oak Meadow and his previous school Wilshire. Mr. Ortiz is a passionate and dedicated teacher and it is a joy to see the deep connections he cultivates with his students. I know that Mr. Ortiz’s students will not only remember what he taught them but also and more importantly how he made them feel.

 

Yvonne Sterling

NEISD, Hidden Forest Elem., 4th-grade teacher

Jill R.

Ms. Sterling is such a happy and positive person. She is very encouraging, and she really seems to love her job and truly care about her students. In addition to the required school curriculum, she also strives to teach her students to be caring and productive members of society. As the students approach the STAAR testing date, she reminds them that the test does not define them and that there is much more to each student than a test score. Ms. Sterling makes learning fun and truly is an amazing teacher.
Hamby Senser

NEISD hidden forest elementary, 2nd grade

Nominated by Tiffany F.

Ms. Senser is a first year teacher, but you’d never know it. She has taken this year, as crazy as it’s been and made it my daughters best year. We homeschooled our kids the first semester and took the trip of a lifetime visiting 9 national parks in 4 weeks. We were very hesitant to put them back in school with covid restrictions, masking, and everything that would make it unlike the other years they’d had at Hidden Forest. After much thought we decided it would be best to reenroll them. It was THE BEST decision. Ms. Senser welcomed our daughter with open arms and made her feel loved and important from day 1. Getting back to school wasn’t as easy for our daughter as we thought it would be and she began to struggle with some pretty bad anxiety. She started wanting to stay home and getting her out of the car each morning was a huge ordeal. Ms. Senser saw what was happening and took our daughter under her wing and made her feel like her feelings were normal and ok. She would allow her to call me to calm down, all while keeping the rest of her class going. I honestly don’t know how she did it, but she kept it all together and helped me feel like my daughter would be ok each day even if she had a panic attack at school. She also went out of her way when our family got covid, to keep our daughter caught up in school and even brought her work to her and talked to her through the window to say how missed she was! She is also a wonderful encourager to each child’s interests. She treats her students as our future leaders and teaches them not only what’s required in the books, but how to be a better person each day. Our entire family has been so grateful for the love and attention she has shown our sweet girl. Every student is lucky to call her their teacher!

 

Melissa Gonzales

NISD, Kallison Elementary, 3rd grade teacher

Nominated by Jen B.

Words can’t express how incredible Mrs. Gonzales is! In a year with so many unknowns I’ve been blown away by the joy and success she has brought to her students life. My son has been primarily a virtual student of hers. Even with a mix of virtual and in person students she has still managed to create an amazing classroom community. Her students have had a chance to connect and be silly and socialize with one another, all while learning together. It has been a joy as a mother hearing her voice and laughter over Zoom in our house this past year. I’ve heard her start a Zoom meeting only to notice one of her “Zoomies”, as she calls them, appeared to be sad or seemed off. She had him join a break out room where she was able to connect with just that student to make sure he was okay. Another above and beyond moment was when my son was on campus for an unrelated class, she brought the entire classroom to where he was so they could all say hi and wave to him from a distance. Another time she even brought the class snake for him to meet! She has made learning so much fun! During a time when many kids have been struggling my son has been thriving and I know this is grateful due in part to Mrs. Gonzales. He was recently able to return to in person learning and he has assured me that, after one week, Mrs. Gonzales is just as incredible in person as she is on a computer screen! I will be forever grateful for the year of learning and memories that she has given my son.

 

Michael Shay

NEISD/Oak Meadow/ 4th grade teacher

Nominated by Ramona L.

Mr. Shay is brilliance, compassion, and creativity all wrapped up in one tireless, knows-no-limits 4th grade public school teacher. Undaunted by things such as core curriculum or standardized tests, his true mission is to inspire a life-long love for learning and inquisitiveness in each child. His “hands-on science” experience are what sparked my own daughter’s love for science, and he encouraged her to believe she could be an engineer. Similarly, he has inspired a love and talent for poetry in other young minds. When Covid-19 first hit, in spring of 2020, he knew that what kids needed most was comfort for the soul. He wrote, and hand-delivered to each of our houses, the “What’s Important Book;” a book with a poem and photos of each child, and what makes them uniquely important in the universe. My daughter clung to that book nightly, quietly remembering the important and beautiful traits of each of her friends. It makes me cry now to think of how much time that took, and how significant it was for them. Last spring he also made a time capsule, that each student contributed to, because we were living history. He greeted each Zoom with a song and guitar, and kept that class community going even through that awful summer of 2020, so the kids could have a connection. We’ve had the good fortune of having Mr. Shay as a teacher for 2nd and 4th grade, and feel incredibly blessed by his outlook on life, and his living mentorship in embracing the wonder of the universe.

 

Jamie Sauder

North East ISD, Oak Meadow Elementary, First Grade Teacher

Nominated by Jennelle B.

Mrs. Sauder was my older son’s Kinder teacher and this year we were blessed to have her as my younger son’s First Grade teacher. The week before school the teachers call their new students to introduce themselves. I still had Mrs. Sauder’s number in my phone so when her caller ID popped up to say I was happy would be an understatement. I was thrilled that she would be helping my son navigate his most unusual school year after having had his first year of school cut so abruptly short. She truly has done an amazing job this year meeting the students where they were, finding the gaps, and figuring out the best way to help them grow and excel. I’ve watched my son become a confident reader under her guidance and encouragement. She has a playful nature but can manage a classroom with ease. It’s no small feat to maintain the attention of a group of 6 year olds in person let alone via Zoom! Due to capacity limitations, my son was the only child in his class still distance learning for two weeks prior to his turn to return to campus. Mrs. Sauder went above and beyond to make sure he was still engaged and included in their lessons and activities. She has bonded with him over their shared love of turtles. She surprised him once on a Zoom call with a silly hat she made to mimic one he wore during a show & tell activity. She lets him and his friends be their energetic and silly boy selves but also knows how to reign in the hyper with love and gentle authority. Without revealing too much since it’s personal, I often think about how returning to the classroom during a pandemic was likely a tough decision due to recent family health scares. To have that doubt and worry be overpowered by her passion and love for teaching speaks volumes. She would be an amazing teacher anyway but I think about this every day and am so thankful she chose to continue doing this job she was clearly meant to do…because she’s amazing at it.

 

 

Middle School Educators

 

Ericka Martinez

Mount Sacred Heart – Science Teacher

Nominated by Nancy S.

Amazing science teacher that always encourages her kids to think outside the box. I’m addition to managing all middle school science classes she also runs four robotic programs for the kids starting in 4th and 5th grade. Her robotic teams consistently win awards every year and advance in their respective divisions. She also coordinates the annual middle school science fair. She takes her winners to the Alamo Regional science fair and her students have consistently advanced to the Texas State science fair and in 2021 one of her students won at this level. Three students were invited to participate in the Broadcom National Science Fair! She is a wonderful teacher with a Masters degree in Mechanical Engineering. I feel blessed that she was the science teacher for two of my children.
Zelvia Rodrigues

NEISD- Family Specialist.

Nominated by Candice C.

Zelvia doesn’t teach a class or have a group of students who belong to her. Every student in the school is Zelvia’s, she makes sure every single student is cared for and safe. As a single mom of three, she manages to balance her work and home with grace. The halls of JMS echo her famous words “Make Good Choice” and those words will stick with the kids for years to come. Zelvia is truly one of a kind and deserves to be celebrated.
Pricilla Prathers

NISD, Folks Middle School, Principles of Human Services Teacher

Nominated by Maria C.

The first thing is that my daughter enjoys and looks forward to her class everyday, which tends to be hard when you are doing virtual school. She is very understanding and kind. She makes my daughter laugh in class, which is great during this stressful time. She is always doing the most, and I greatly appreciate a teacher like her.
Celinda Camacho

South San ISD, Karen Middle School, Math Teacher

Nominated by Lucianna C.

Mrs. Camacho goes above and beyond for her students. Throughout this Covid season, Mrs. Camacho has taught from both home and in person without hesitation of fulfilling her purpose as a teacher. After school hours Mrs. Camacho also visits with students and their parents at home to ensure that they are progressing in class and completing our schoolwork.

On top of being an amazing Math teacher and focusing on her students, home life, and her own kids, Mrs. Camacho has no end there. Mrs. Camacho will be graduating May 14th with her master’s in education from Angelo State University. She was also just presented in the honors graduate recognition ceremony with Angelo Stare University. Mrs. Camacho excels as an individual and as a teacher. Mrs. Camacho deserves to be an amazing teacher for the year!

 

High School Educators

 

Charles “Max” Gorham

Fort Sam Houston

Nominated by Rebecca G.

He spends hours dreaming up and implementing new ways to present history to his students in a way that they can find interesting and interactive. He goes above and beyond to use technology in the classroom and engage with students one-on-one.
Kate Rickman

NISD, O’Connor HS, Speech and Debate

Nominated by Jo-Anne W.

Kate goes above and beyond for her students. Her debate kids have won many awards this year at this district and state level. Despite this year being tough, she has provided opportunities for kids to continue to grow their skills and succeed. She volunteers when and where she can to help provide more opportunities for students. She does all of this very humbly and without expecting recognition.

 

Our 2021 Amazing Teachers will be announced VERY soon and we can’t wait to drop their prizes off to their campuses.

What goodies will they receive?

A $30 Target Gift Card, a personalized Broadway Bank Yeti cup and, a custom, one-of-a-kind director’s chair for their classroom.

We can’t wait to tell you who they are!

A fifth-generation San Antonionian - who happened to spend her formative years in Austin - Amanda loves the SAT from the confetti in her hair to the bluebonnets under her feet. Never one to miss a reason to host a party or decorate for a theme, Amanda revels in the 'mas Fiesta' attitude of the city. She's mom to Vivi (2012) aka #HurricaneVivi, Mac (2020) and wife to Francois, whom she met at Texas A&M (FTAC '05). She has a Masters in Early Childhood Education and a Doctorate in Making it Up As She Goes - which means she's a sometimes-fun-mom. You can find her on Instagram . She loves confetti, croissants, and a cold Ranch Water. Favorite Restaurant: Piatti's Favorite Landmark: Johnson Street footbridge in King William Favorite San Antonio Tradition: Fiesta Medals