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Six Educators Named Finalists for 2016 Texas Teacher of the Year

TOY logo08.24.2015 — TASA announced today that six outstanding educators from across Texas have been chosen as finalists in the 2016 Texas Teacher of the Year program.

Texas Elementary Teacher of the Year Finalists

 Balakrishnan Revathi Balakrishnan says that the talented and gifted (TAG) programs she built at Forest North and Patsy Sommer Elementary Schools in Round Rock ISD are among her biggest contributions. However, the TAG specialist also wants to inspire others to teach. “I hope that my rewarding experiences will convince people of underrepresented ethnicities to follow in my footsteps and enter this noble profession,” says Balakrishnan, who emigrated from India 30 years ago. “My own daughter did, saying, ‘I see you come home from work every day, excited for the new day to begin. I want the same for myself.’” 
 Dismuke Christina Dismuke, the second-grade team leader and inclusion teacher at Morton Ranch Elementary in Katy ISD, says it is her privilege to serve her students. She is passionate about preparing them for the future. “We learn collaboratively through technology, and we connect with classrooms around the country,” says Dismuke, who has taught for five years. “We recognize that the jobs [students] might hold haven’t even been created yet, and we need to develop minds that are flexible and capable of rising to the occasion by confronting challenges.”
 Vincenzo Lori Vincenzo says that if someone asks her to name her biggest professional accomplishment, she points to the wall of her classroom in Town Center Elementary in Coppell ISD, where she has displayed photos of all the classes she has taught during her 18-year career. “Each picture shows a wonderful promise of our future,” she says. “It is because of these faces and the countless more to come that I love my calling as a teacher.” She says that while others may view her kindergarten students as the “little ones” and wonder who they will become, she is in awe of who they already are and honored to set high expectations for them, then watch them reach their potential.

Texas Secondary Teacher of the Year Finalists

 Bodet Lynn Bodet teaches gifted and talented math at Frank Tejeda Middle School in North East ISD in San Antonio. “I thoroughly love teaching math and helping students deepen their understanding of the concepts,” says the 34-year veteran educator. “I pray that I challenge them daily with some new bit of knowledge. … I want them to know that there is no problem they can’t solve — they have the foundation, the work ethic and the confidence to succeed in a future that none of us can imagine right now.”
 Gable John Gable, a 26-year career educator, says that teaching should be “relational, student-centered and innovative.” He takes the time to get to know each student in the welding program he has developed over the past 23 years at Jefferson High School in El Paso ISD so he can provide opportunities that build on student strengths. It’s important to him to offer new opportunities. “Because welding is a hands-on, ever-changing industry, I am continually challenged and motivated to teach my students the new technologies and skills needed to be successful in the field. I want my students to be job-ready for a career in welding and academically prepared to attend college.”
 Martha Saucedo Martha Saucedo credits her own teachers along with life’s hardships for pushing her to get where she is today. “For me, the teachers who influenced my life, influenced who I became, what I believe, and how I teach also helped to develop the best part of my teaching philosophy today: Pay it forward,” she says. “My whole life people paid it forward to me, and I will do the same as a teacher. No needed stickers, stars, checkmarks or pats on the back. My rewards are walking in the halls of Brady High School, in colleges all around the United States, serving in our military, and creating families; my rewards are paying it forward every day.” Saucedo has taught family consumer science at Brady High School in Brady ISD for the past seven years of her nine-year career in education.
“This year’s finalists not only challenge students with high expectations, but also inspire them to take advantage of opportunities that will help prepare them for their future,” said Johnny L. Veselka, executive director of TASA, which has coordinated the Texas Teacher of the Year program since 2011. “They are representative of the thousands of teachers across Texas whose dedication influences so many lives.”

A panel of judges composed of representatives of Texas teacher associations and the 2015 Texas Teacher of the Year finalists selected the finalists from the 40 Texas Regional Teachers of the Year — one elementary and one secondary teacher from each of the 20 Texas Education Service Center regions.


2016 Texas Regional Teachers of the Year


Region Elementary Teacher of the Year

Region Secondary Teacher of the Year


Patricia Gonzalez, Scott Elementary,
Roma ISD

Kevin Kelly, Roma High School, Roma ISD


Catherine Graham, Flour Bluff Intermediate, Flour Bluff ISD

Barbara Ann Garcia, Alice High School,
Alice ISD


Deidra Kalina, Industrial Elementary West, Industrial ISD

Jonathon Sixtos, Victoria East High School, Victoria ISD


Christina Dismuke, Morton Ranch Elementary, Katy ISD (Finalist)

Anthony Tran, Clear Falls High School,
Clear Creek ISD


Rachel Choate, Little Cypress Intermediate, Little Cypress-Mauriceville CISD

Samantha LeBlanc, Nederland High School, Nederland ISD


Laura Zapata, Turner Elementary, Willis ISD

Laura Wildman, Splendora Junior High School, Splendora ISD


Sheryl Quarles, Story Intermediate,
Palestine ISD

Tracy Dewoody, Hallsville High School, Hallsville ISD


Allison Hanley, Justiss Elementary, Paris ISD

Holly Mooneyham, Texas High School, Texarkana ISD


Renée Blackwell, Zundelowitz Elementary, Wichita Falls ISD

Tracy Duff, Burkburnett Middle School, Burkburnett ISD


Lori Vincenzo, Town Center Elementary, Coppell ISD (Finalist)

Wanda “Jean” Streepey, Highland Park Middle School, Highland Park ISD


Catherine Champon, Timber Creek Elementary, Lewisville ISD

Lee Ann O’Loughlin, Stripling Middle School, Fort Worth ISD


Danielle Spencer, Hillsboro Elementary, Hillsboro ISD

Jared Nazarian, Cesar Chavez Middle School, Waco ISD


Revathi Balakrishnan, Sommer Elementary, Round Rock ISD (Finalist)

Cristanne Plummer, Bastrop Middle School, Bastrop ISD


Alana Jackson, Kelley Elementary,
Colorado ISD

Paula Ordway, Sweetwater High School, Sweetwater ISD


Raquel Cardenas, Chavira Elementary, San Felipe Del Rio CISD

Martha Saucedo, Brady High School, Brady ISD (Finalist)


Dixie Smith, Gus Birdwell Elementary, Spearman ISD

Jennifer Boren, Canyon High School,
Canyon ISD


Haley Beardemphl, Crestview Elementary, Frenship ISD

Jacinda Langen, Slaton High School,
Slaton ISD


Kelsey Riley, Austin Elementary,
Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD

Cheryl Ann Cavin Cunningham, Career and Technical Education at New Tech Odessa, Ector County ISD


Karla Gandarilla, Eastwood Heights Elementary, Ysleta ISD

John Gable, Jefferson High School,
El Paso ISD (Finalist)


Teresita Villa, Kuentz Elementary,
Northside ISD

Lynn Bodet, Tejeda Middle School,
North East ISD (Finalist)

The six finalists will be invited to Austin in October for interviews before a panel of judges composed of representatives of educational leadership associations, community and business leaders, a member of the State Board for Educator Certification, a member of the State Board of Education, and prior Texas Teachers of the Year.

The panel will select two state-level winners — Elementary Teacher of the Year and Secondary Teacher of the Year — and designate one to represent Texas in the National Teacher of the Year program. The winners will be announced at an awards ceremony Oct. 16 at the Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin, where the 40 Regional Teachers of the Year will also be recognized.

The Texas Teacher of the Year program has honored excellence in classroom education since 1969. The program, facilitated by TASA since 2011, annually recognizes and rewards teachers who have demonstrated outstanding leadership and excellence in teaching. In 2015, Texas Teacher of the Year Shanna Peeples of Amarillo ISD became the second Texas teacher to be named the National Teacher of the Year.