2013 Teacher of the Year Finalist - Sandra Ramirez

Sandra Ramirez
Buffalo Creek Elementary
Fourth-Grade Bilingual Teacher

Education: University of Houston, Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies-Bilingual Education, 2008

Teaching History: Buffalo Creek Elementary School, Fourth-Grade Bilingual Teacher, 2010-Present Rodriguez Elementary School, Houston ISD, First Grade Teacher, 2008-2010

In her own words: “I will never forget the first time I helped a student learn something… I knew at that moment that I was meant to be an educator. Even now, years later, I still get that same wave of emotion when my students make those important connections to what I taught them.”

“My philosophy of education revolves around one basic belief and that is that I wholeheartedly believe that all students can learn. I know that all students are different and that no two students will ever be alike, yet it is my responsibility to ensure that all of my students are successful.”

“I know that I cannot change a student’s home environment, but I can make every minute in the classroom count. I can make sure that my students are engaged at all times. I want my students to have so much fun in my classroom that they forget they are learning. I constantly have hands-on activities that keep my students actively learning.”

In the words of others: “In her classroom, every child really can learn. Sandra sees to it.” “Sandra Ramirez is an educator, a motivator, and a game changer. The impact that she has on a daily basis on the lives of her students is something that will go beyond the fourth-grade for these students.” David Rodriguez, Buffalo Creek Elementary Principal

“She does not work or serve for awards or accolades, but simply to inspire and impact all those she comes in contact with each day. She has mastered the elusive art of being firm but fair, having rules yet maintaining relationships, and keenly remembering that though she teaches numerous subject areas, she is really teaching ‘children’ whom she freely offers understanding, acceptance and grace.” Clarice Franke, Buffalo Creek Elementary Assistant Principal

Selected Honors, Recognitions and Activities:
  • Kappa Delta Pi-International Honor Society, Bilingual Representative
  • Fourth-Grade Elementary Team Leader, 2012-Present
  • Student Teacher Mentor, 2011-2012


2013 Teacher of the Year Finalist - Rebecca Kim

Rebecca Kim
Valley Oaks Elementary School
Second-Grade Teacher

Education: Texas State Board Certifications (5), Elementary Comprehensive (Grade 1-6, EC-4)/Professional Development/English as a Second Language/Gifted and Talented Supplemental University of Texas at Austin, Bachelor of Science in Applied Learning and Development, 2002

Teaching History: Valley Oaks Elementary School, Second Grade, 2010-Present Spring Branch ISD, Fifth Grade, Substitute, 2009-2010 Thornwood Elementary School, First Grade, 2003-2009 Jade Tree Project, Xining, Qinghai (Tibet), Adult English Teacher, 2004-2005 Crème de la Crème School, Prekindergarten, 2003

In her own words: “I have cultivated a passion for exploring the world and believe strongly in exposing my students to a greater global view. First thing my students learn is that being different is what makes us beautiful. Acceptance of their peers paves the way to appreciating one another’s differences, whether it’s cultural, status, emotional or physical. We are family.”

“I do not think it too much to hope to see my students become a Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks or Albert Einstein in this world. I know I can stay current on the best methodologies, and I will teach the curriculum successfully – but what I deem true success is to educate my students’ hearts.”

In the words of others: “She is skilled at the craft of teaching, she is patient and optimistic with her students, and she is a wonderful team member. I have received numerous comments from parents who had their children in her classroom. All of them have wonderful things to say about her teaching style and her ability to communicate effectively with both children and adults.” Valley Oaks Elementary Principal Gary Henry

“Last year, Ms. Kim was assigned a very difficult class with several challenging students. It was a long year for Ms. Kim with many ups and downs. I remember sitting down with her one day closer to the end of the school year, and discussing the year as a whole. I will never forget Rebecca telling me how grateful she was for the experience and sharing with me that what the year had reaffirmed for her as a teacher was the importance of having love, compassion and passion for all your students.” Valley Oaks Elementary Assistant Principal Morella Tapia

Selected Honors, Recognitions and Activities:
  • SBISD Second Grade Language Arts Curriculum Developer Grade Level Chair, Second Grade Team, 2012-2013
  • Teacher Mentor, University of Houston, Fall 2011
  • School Bell Award Winner, 2012, and Nominee, 2011
  • Who’s Who of American Women, 2008
  • Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers and Educators Award, 2006-2007
  • Spring Branch Education Foundation, J. Landon Short Mini Grant for Education, 2005-2006 & 2007-2008
  • Keep Houston Beautiful Grant Award for butterfly garden, 2007-2008


2013 Teacher of the Year Finalist - Tracey Jensen

Tracey Jensen
Stratford High School
Physics, Grades 10-12

Education: University of California-Los Angeles, Advanced Placement Physics B & C, 2008 & 2012 Texas A&M University, Master of Science in Mathematics, 1986 Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, TX, Bachelor of Science in Physics, 1983

Teaching History: Stratford High School, Physics, Advanced Placement/PreAP and others, Grades 10-12, 2009-Present Oklahoma School of Science & Mathematics, Oklahoma City, OK, AP Physics, Grades 11-12, 2007-2009 Ponca City High School, Ponca, OK, Special Education, Grades 9-12, 2007 Ponca City Public Schools, Ponca, OK, Substitute, K-12, 2006 Wesleyan Christian School, Bartlesville, OK, Math, Science, Computer Science, Grades 7-8, 1997-1998 Oklahoma Wesleyan College, Bartlesville, OK, College Physics, 1987-1999 Rogers State University, Claremore, OK, College Physics, 1999-2001 New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, NM, College Developmental Math, 1987 Texas A&M University, College Physics/Calculus, 1984-1986

In her own words: “Two years ago, I started a FIRST (For Inspiration in Science and Technology) Robotics Team. I had seen FIRST bring my own child out of his shell and encourage him to complete college. We started with three students and finished the first Build Season with 30 students! This year, I have 48 students on the rolls. Most of these are not PreAP or straight A students. Many can drill and design with ease, but struggle in their course work. All belong to the team. Stronger students tutor weaker students… I overheard a sophomore encouraging a junior to “Keep going – You can pass the Six Weeks!” And he did!”

“This year I started flipping. I put everything on my webpage so everyone knew what was going on each day. I made videos of each of my lectures and put them on YouTube (JensenPhysics). I no longer lecture to 33 students quietly taking notes.”

“In order to instill a passion for learning in our students, we as teachers must have a passion for learning ourselves. My students are shocked when I begin reciting ‘Macbeth’ or give a history lesson, or talk about how the brain is an electrochemical engine. Many students want to know what kind of music I listen to, or what type of books I read, or what games I play.”

In the words of others: “She has embraced the technique of ‘flipping’ her classroom, and has really helped her students to take responsibility for their learning. When students see themselves as primary actors in a classroom, learning increases. Ms. Jensen’s students actively pursue knowledge of physics instead of merely waiting for her to do all the intellectual work.” Straford High Associate Principal Jennifer Jordan

“Tracey eagerly accepted the opportunity to be an ‘early adopter’ on our campus. This program puts a small group of teachers with a consultant with the goal of innovating and sharing ideas. Tracey has used this year to ‘flip’ her classroom for her physics students. She has put in some long hours getting lessons and videos recorded so that they are ready for her students, but the effort is paying off and her students are excelling.” Stratford High Principal Chris Juntti

Selected Honors, Recognitions and Activities:
  • Advanced Placement (AP) Physics Reader, 2012-2013
  • Team Leader for Stratford High Physics and IPC Teachers
  • Texas Nominee for Presidential Awards in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST), 2013
  • West Houston Teacher of the Year Nominee, 2012
  • Claes Noel Award (Student Nominated), 2011 & 2012


2013 Teacher of the Year Finalist - Victoria Beard

Victoria Beard
Spring Woods High School
Speech and Debate Teacher and Coach

Education: University of Houston, Master of Arts in Drama, 1982 Houston Baptist University, Bachelor of Arts in Drama and Speech, 1980

Teaching History: Spring Woods High School, Speech and Debate Teacher and Coach, 2005-Present Northbrook High School, English, Speech and Drama Teacher, 1985-2005 Landrum Junior High School, Speech and Drama Teacher, 1984-1985 Paul Revere Middle School, Houston ISD, English, Speech/Drama Teacher, 1982-84 School for Theater Arts, Houston, TX, Acting Teacher, 1982-83 Actor, Management and Industrial Training Films, 1981

In her own words: “In my debate program, I impart the value to higher education to my students and make sure all of them attend college. Since most of them are on free or reduced-price lunch, I counsel them to ensure that all are on the right path to graduation. One example is the graduate two years ago who became our top debater and was ranked 15th in the nation in Congressional Debate. Since his parents spoke no English, I helped him with applications, proofread his college essays, as well as advised him on the colleges where he should apply. Not only did he receive a full scholarship to attend George Washington University, he’ll graduate in a few years and pursue a law degree.”

“This year, I have helped many of my students. I have 10 debaters graduating. Most of their parents can not afford to pay for any college tuition so I assist them with scholarships and grants. This year, we have had another top debater who has received a full scholarship to George Washington University located in the District of Columbia. Students understand that a college degree will make them successful leaders of tomorrow.”

In the words of others: “When Mrs. Beard took over our debate program seven years ago, it was floundering with poor participation and even poorer success. In just a few short years, she has turned the program into a powerhouse. The walls of her debate room are covered in trophies and hardly a weekend goes by without me receiving a text message from her about how well her kids have done in a tournament.”

“Her enthusiasm is contagious. In the past year, teachers on our campus have recognized her as both our Campus Teacher of the Year and the recipient of the Jim Moore Award, a campus award that recognizes the teacher who has gone above and beyond for students.” Spring Woods High School Principal Lance Stallworth

“I would not be the person I am today if it were not for Mrs. Beard. When I first met Mrs. Beard, I had lived in the United States for merely seven years and had yet to figure out where I belonged in this new world I had been put in. When I left Mrs. Beard’s team, I was nationally ranked among the students who could most effectively articulate politics and the inner workings of the American government, and had found a new passion both academically and professionally.” Silverio Ramirez, former Spring Woods High debate student now studying at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

Selected Honors, Recognitions & Activities: Stars in the Classroom Award (Houston Texans and First Community Credit Union), 2012 Diamond Key Award, National Forensic League, 2011 Texas Forensic Association Convention workshop instructor, 2011-2012 Jim Moore Memorial Award, Spring Woods High School, 2011-2012 Teacher of the Year, Northbrook High School, 2001 Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers, 1998, 2000, 2001 and 2004


2013 Elementary Teacher of the Year - Theresa Schwab-Trevino

Theresa Schwab-Trevino
Rummel Creek Elementary
Second-Grade English as a Second Language/Gifted and Talented Teacher

Education: Houston Baptist University, Masters in Education, Curriculum and Instruction with specialization in Instructional Technology, 2001 University of Houston, Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies, 1997

Teaching History: Rummel Creek Elementary School, Second Grade ESL/GT, self-contained, 2001-Present Grace School, Summer Enrichment 3rd-7th Grade, 1997-2003 Thornwood Elementary, Summer School, 1997 Woodview Elementary School, Prekindergarten/Kindergarten, 1997-2001 Spring Branch ISD, Substitute Teacher, 1994-1996

In her own words: “My goal today is to make learning fun, and help children become successful at anything they do. I am very open with my students and explain to them, as well as their parents on Back to School Night, how hard it was for me to learn. The truth is there is nothing I can’t do!”

“Teachers are very similar to brain surgeons when you think about it. Although teachers do not operate on the brain per se, we do help correct and develop the future of a child by firing off the synapses necessary for obtaining new information.”

“[Students] are always surprised to hear about how hard it was for me to learn. Many students feel that teachers are supposed to know everything. So, when my second-graders hear how hard it was for me to read and write, and even learn math, it opens up our level of trust and helps build relationships where honesty and reality set the stage.”

In the words of others: “In my 20-plus years of experience as a teacher and an administrator, I have never worked with anyone as gifted in using technology to enhance learning and motivate students.” “I think the thing that puts Theresa Trevino over the top as a great teacher is her compassion for her students and her zest for teaching. Many of the items that she exposes students to during lessons open up numerous new avenues to students in their lives.” Rummel Creek Elementary Principal Nancy Harn

“I would recommend Mrs. Trevino for Teacher of the Year and, if possible, Teacher of the Century, or, better yet, the new millennium and Teacher of the USA! She is a true diamond among teachers. She is amazing and then some in all she does as a teacher and person – she is just incredible and an outstanding example for all teachers to follow.” Kimberley Henckel, Parent

“Theresa was one of the best teachers that my child has ever had. She pushed my child to help meet his academic goals. My child was above grade level in reading, but his level had remained stagnant for two years. Theresa made it her goal to bring up my son’s reading level by the end of the school year and I am happy to say that she was successful.” Francine Todes, Parent

Selected Honors, Recognitions and Activities:
  • ICLE Classroom Observation Volunteer, 2012-Present
  • Clearwater Marine Aquarium Educator, 2012
  • ActiveEducator Technology Staff Developer, 2012-Present
  • Spring Branch Education Foundation (SBEF) Grant Recipient, 2012
  • SBEF J. Landon Mini Grant Recipient, 2012, 2009, 2002, 1998
  • Region IV Technology Teacher of the Year, 2011
  • Teacher Mentor, 2001-Present


2013 Secondary Teacher of the Year - Danielle Prontka

2013 Secondary Teacher of the Year Winner Danielle Prontka
Memorial High School
Orchestra Director

Education: Northwestern State University of Louisiana, Bachelor of Music Degree, 2000

Teaching History: Memorial High School, Orchestra Co-Director, Grades 9-12, 2002-Present Highlands Junior High School, Goose Creek ISD, Orchestra Director Grades 6-8, 2000-2002

In her own words: “The most significant accomplishments in my education career have been the successes of my students. I have been blessed to see several of my ex-students go into our field of education, which I believe is the greatest contribution that any educator could give to the field.”

“Cross curricular education is the basis for high scholarship… The reason why? It is the understanding of cross curricular education in fine arts. There is not a day that goes by in my classroom that my students do not learn about science, history, English or math as part of their orchestra education.”

“Students learn about division of beats and how to change patterns from duple to compound meter. We discuss the physics of bow control and velocity versus weight. I challenge students to write essays on what emotion the music is creating. We often discuss the history of the composers of music and how the time period influenced the music. It is through this multi-faceted learning that we improve the teaching profession. It is through this cross-curricular teaching that our students are constantly learning in new creative ways.”

In the words of others: “I served as Danielle’s principal for approximately nine years at Memorial High School. One thing that struck me as one of Danielle’s strengths was her continuous interest in improving not only her teaching, but her organizational skills, counseling skills and her interpersonal skills. She strives as a “continuous learner” to focus on ongoing improvement for herself, professionally and personally.” Steve Shorter, Former Memorial High School Principal

Selected Honors, Recognitions and Activities:
  • Texas Music Educator Association Region Chair, Orchestra Division, 2012-Present
  • Solo Texas Music Educator Association, Chair of Judge and Monitor Panels, 2007-2011
  • Texas Music Educator Association, All State Panel Judge, 2002-Present
  • Memorial High School Student Council Sponsor, 2002-2008
  • PTA Lifetime Achievement Award
  • SBISD Teacher Appreciation Award


Spring Branch ISD