Texas Teacher of the Year (TOTY) is the highest honor that the State of Texas can bestow upon a teacher. It is a way of honoring excellence in the classroom.
Facilitated by the Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA) since 2011, the program annually recognizes and rewards teachers who have demonstrated outstanding leadership and excellence in teaching.
The initial honors, though, begin in local classrooms and continues when teachers are selected by their colleagues as Campus TOTY honorees. Then, they are considered for the District Elementary and Secondary TOTY honors.
For San Benito educators, being named a Campus TOTY means becoming a member of an elite group of educators that are considered at the “top of the class.” It is an honor that is bestowed upon only 18 classroom educators each year.
For educators that were selected as the 2021 TOTY honorees at the conclusion of the 2019-2020 school year, it was a long wait for them to be recognized. The COVID-19 pandemic had changed the process of celebrating, honoring, and recognizing the top two teachers districtwide.
The year they were named a Campus TOTY ushered into our world many unprecedented challenges. Nonetheless, they rose above and beyond the effects of a global health pandemic and continued educating our students with enthusiasm and a relentless spirit.
Just recently, our 2021 honorees were recognized during a luncheon in their honor. This was a whole year after the 2021 District Elementary and Secondary TOTY honorees were announced via Zoom by Superintendent Dr. Nate Carman, members of the Superintendent’s leadership team, and respective principals in order to follow protocol and safety measures in place at the time.
Dr. C.M. Cash Elementary teacher Maki House had been named the 2021 District Elementary Teacher of the Year, and San Benito Veterans Memorial Academy teacher Clarissa Guerra had been named the 2021 District Secondary Teacher of the Year.
“Each campus Teacher of the Year being recognized here today has dedicated their time to educating our students with a resilience that has no bounds. Teachers, you are a role model for our leaders of tomorrow,” said Ramiro M. Moreno, Board President Ramiro M. Moreno during the luncheon honoring the 2021 honorees.
“You are paving the way for student success both in our classrooms and well into the future. Be proud of all that you have done and will continue to do,” added Moreno.
“Unless someone has been a teacher, it can be difficult to understand the challenges each of you faces on a regular basis,” explained Superintendent Dr. Nate Carman during the 2021 honoree luncheon.
“In reality, you get students with varying aptitude, drive, personal experiences, and parental involvement. You have students who have two gainfully employed, educated parents at home and other students who don’t know where they’ll be sleeping the next night or if they’ll be eating again until they come back to school,” Carman added.
Most recently, in a “prize patrol” style, the district’s 2022 District Elementary and Secondary TOTY honorees
Frank Roberts Elementary teacher Lilia N. Nezzer was named the 2022 District Elementary Teacher of the Year, and Berta Cabaza Middle School teacher Jason Lee Isquierdo was named the 2022 District Secondary Teacher of the Year.
Both Nezzer and Isquierdo were surprised with a special “prize patrol” visit to their classroom with a celebratory visit by Moreno, Carman, members of the Superintendent’s leadership team, and the respective campus principal.
“For some of your students, the time they spend with you is the safest, most rewarding time of their day. To be recognized as a Teacher of The Year, you’ve gone above and beyond and have connected with students who need you the most,” said Carman of all Teachers of the Year.
A luncheon honoring the 2022 honorees will be held later this month.