Local educator named as top six state finalist

Press Release
AUSTIN – The Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA) announced today that six outstanding educators from across Texas have been chosen as finalists in the Texas Teacher of the Year program.
Three elementary and three secondary school educators were selected from the 40 regional Teachers of the Year from each of the state’s 20 education service centers. The finalists will now contend for the honor of being named Texas Elementary Teacher of the Year and Texas Secondary Teacher of the Year.
The elementary school finalists are:
• Katherine Cass, a fourth-grade reading and social studies teacher at Chisum Elementary in Chisum Independent School District (ISD);
• Whitney Crews, a sixth-grade English teacher at E.J. Moss Intermediate in Lindale ISD;
• Stephanie Green, a first-grade teacher at Hays Magnet Academy in Ector County ISD.
The secondary education finalists are:
• Chrissy Amerson, an English language arts teacher at Travis Middle School in Calhoun County ISD;
• Irene Kistler, librarian at Edward H. White Middle School in North East ISD;
• Shanna Peeples, an English teacher at Palo Duro High School in Amarillo ISD.

“I congratulate these six amazing educators who strive every day to make a difference in the lives of students,” said TASA executive director Johnny Veselka. “They represent the thousands of dedicated educators throughout Texas who share their love of learning and inspire students to excel in and out of the classroom.”
In their Teacher of the Year applications, each educator offered insight into their teaching backgrounds, philosophy and style.
Cass, who teaches 4th grade reading and social studies in Chisum ISD, writes: “I am not just a teacher, educator, or life-long learner. I am a role model for any child I come into contact with.” Despite attending more than 30 different public schools in her academic career, a special teacher provided Cass with the security, attention and resources she needed to become successful. After serving in the Army, Cass began her teaching career in 2004 and said she believes it’s her duty to se that students have new experiences and opportunities to grow both academically and socially.
A 6th grade English teacher at E.J. Moss Intermediate in Lindale ISD, Crews said that even though she didn’t come from a long line of teachers, her love of teaching came at an early age. Crews had a few teachers who attempted to persuade her to pursue other opportunities because she was ‘smart and could do anything,’ but Crews believed it was “important for teachers to be smart (and creative, driven, and enthusiastic),” so she never strayed from her goal of becoming a teacher. With 18 years of experience in the classroom, Crews expects her students to learn the academic content, but her ultimate goal is that her students leave the classroom having learned how to learn.
Green, a first-grade teacher at Hays Magnet Academy in Ector County ISD, writes: “I believe that my most significant contributions in education are my students. They are the reason I teach. I am never able to go home at the end of the day and say, ‘Today was perfect. I am doing the best job I can do.’ Instead, I go home and ask myself what else could I have done, what area(s) I could improve in, or what other things I could try to reach that child who is so hard to engage. Every day I strive to teach my students that education is not just about what they learn in the classroom, or what they regurgitate on a test—it’s about what they do with their knowledge.”
Secondary education finalist Amerson, a 6th grade English language arts teacher in Calhoun County ISD, noted that there was one kindergarten teacher, above all others, to whom she owes everything. She writes, “This is a teacher who didn’t teach me how to teach; she taught me how to love the world, forget the negative, and believe in the good of everyone around you. I would spend my entire childhood in her classroom, watching her build countless lifelong relationships, and pouring her heart into every child that stepped in her room. Everyone who came into her life was blessed, but I was no doubt the luckiest of all, because she was my mother.” Amerson’s mother taught her the greatest lesson in life: “Your life isn’t about how long you live, but the relationships you create while you are here.”
A librarian in North East ISD’s Edward H. White Middle School, Kistler began her career in the military. She writes, “As a 23-year-old lieutenant, it caught me by surprise to learn someone could be an adult and unable to read. While home on leave, my sister invited me into her classroom to observe and volunteer. I witnessed kids engaged in the learning and literacy process and thought of my soldiers.” After serving five years in the Army, Kistler became a teacher with the goal of getting every child to fall in love with reading, but as her education career evolved, it became important to teach on a larger scale. In an effort to fulfill this goal, Kistler has written literacy units to help classroom teachers, developed a classroom blog, and her classes have used Twitter and Skype to communicate with students around the world.
An English language arts teacher in Amarillo ISD, Peeples writes: “It’s the toughest job you’ll ever love, the ad said about the Peace Corps, but it’s also a perfect slogan to describe my relationship with teaching and learning. Teaching chose me, but I tried everything I could think of to avoid its call: disc jockey, medical assistant, pet babysitter for the rich, journalist, and finally, finally a teacher.” Her fear of teaching was a fear of connecting to pain in her own life. Peeples had teachers who encouraged her to see that there was life outside of her own personal struggles. “My students, survivors of deep and debilitating trauma, have shaped the kind of teacher I am. Books, I tell them, help us find our way out of the forest, so to speak, and help us make peace with our past while showing us the promise of a multitude of futures. And so, in a sense, I sell hope to my students.”
The six finalists were selected by a panel of judges that included representatives of the state’s four teacher organizations and last year’s Teacher of the Year finalists. Each of the finalists will now be invited to Austin for interviews on Sept. 13 before a larger judging panel, which will determine the top elementary and secondary teacher. One of the top winners will also be selected as Texas’ representative in the National Teacher of the Year program.
The Texas Elementary and Secondary Teacher of the Year, as well as all of the Regional Teachers of the Year will be honored at a luncheon and awards ceremony on Oct. 24 at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin.

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