Juan Seguin Elementary School teacher Jennifer Han was left speechless in two ways Friday at a ceremony honoring the McAllen ISD educator for being named the Texas Association of School Administrators State Teacher of the Year.

Han, a fourth grade teacher at Seguin, was speechless because she was emotional, talking to the crowd through tears. She also quite literally didn’t have a speech; the announcement was a surprise.

TASA President Doug Williams had the careful task of affecting that surprise Friday. He delicately threaded Han’s name into the end of an address complimenting the district and McAllen and Hidalgo County, making the mention of Han seem, at first, almost like an afterthought.

Then Williams dropped the hammer.

“But not only was she a finalist,” he said, “I’m here to announce Juan Seguin Elementary School is the home of the 2022 Texas Elementary Teacher of the Year.”

Snare drums began beating out a lively tune. Two men came out and pinned up a poster with Han’s face on it behind the podium.

Han walked up herself a moment later, looking just a tad bewildered amid a salvo of hugs and camera clicks. An oversized check for $5,000 came out of one corner. A bouquet of roses and a trophy from the other.

“Was there ever any doubt?” someone yelled from the crowd

It was, Williams said, a well-deserved honor for a dedicated educator.

“One of the things that really resonated with us when we interviewed her was her passion for her kids,” he said. “She couldn’t hide that.”

Juan Seguin Elementary School teacher Jennifer Han, center, is surrounded by her McAllen ISD colleagues, local elected officials and other dignitaries Friday, when she learned she had won the 2022 Texas Elementary Teacher of the Year. (Courtesy Photo)

That passion includes involvement in the district’s Minitropolis Program and in its Community Youth Development program. It includes coaching robotics, and teaching bilingual and gifted and talented education.

On Friday, Han attributed her success in those endeavors to God and to the way the McAllen ISD community cooperates.

“It’s true,” the 14-year veteran educator said. “The secret to McAllen ISD’s success is our unity. We work together, we do this together.”

Eventually someone did bring Han out some prepared remarks. Through tears, she described the importance of teaching and the teaching that’s happening in McAllen.

“I think we need to remember why we became educators: because we care and because we can,” she said. “Because we make a difference. We are the driving force that changes the course of humanity.”

Han beat out six other finalists to win the distinction. She’s the fifth in the Rio Grande Valley to be named Teacher of the Year, the district said.

Superintendent J.A. Gonzalez described Han as an ideal educator.

“Your light is shining,” he said. “Your fearlessness is beyond anything I’ve ever seen. The way that you’ve been able to teach, the way you’ve been able to represent our district, the way that you carry yourself, gives me hope for a brighter future. Gives me confidence in what we’re doing. And I know that the great state of Texas is represented very, very well by the Texas Elementary Teacher of the Year, Jennifer Han.”