Today, Superintendent Meria Carstarphen surprised three teachers in their classrooms and announced their selection as Austin ISD’s 2013 Teachers of the Year for elementary, middle and high school.
Being selected as a Teacher of the Year is one of the highest honors bestowed on AISD teachers. Each year, one of the finalists is named Austin Teacher of the Year and selected to serve as the district’s nominee for the Texas Teacher of the Year.
This year’s finalist will be named May 14 during Salute, which recognizes outstanding employees district-wide.
“AISD is fortunate to have so many talented and dedicated teachers in our schools, serving our students every day and helping to ensure their success in the classroom and in life,” Superintendent Carstarphen said. “Selecting the Teachers of the Year is an annual opportunity to celebrate educational excellence. The three finalists represent the exemplary teaching that goes on every day across our school district.”
AISD’s 2013 Teachers of the Year are:
Susan Abigail “Sloan” McLain, Elementary School Teacher of the Year
McLain is a second grade teacher at Brentwood Elementary School. She teaches core content by incorporating creative techniques, including arts-integration, themes and life skills, to help students develop into socially responsible, world citizens.
This school year, she and her students demonstrated arts-integration in action during AISD’s launch of the Any Given Child Initiative.
McLain is an avid traveler whose first teaching position took her to Chiang Mai, Thailand, where she taught English as a Second Language in immersion schools.
McLain, who joined AISD in 2004, has 12 years of teaching experience and comes from a family of educators. Her grandfather was a superintendent in Ohio during the Great Depression, and both of his daughters went on to pursue teaching careers.
“Yet, when I voiced my intent to teach elementary school, my aunt promptly advised against it: ‘After working through the ranks to vice president of Merrill Lynch,’ she explained, ‘I can assure you no job is more difficult than teaching school.’”
“Following my nature to conquer the next challenge,” McLain said. “I committed myself to teaching elementary school students.”
Alexa Humberson, Middle School Teacher of the Year
Humberson joined Murchison Middle School in 2006. She serves as a social communication resources and services teacher in the school’s special education department.
“Helping students with special needs is the very reason I became a teacher,” she said.
At Murchison, Humberson has created a foundational curriculum for social skills classes that includes research-based interventions for students with autism spectrum disorders. For example, Humberson films her students demonstrating expected social behaviors. The students then watch the videos so that they have a visual memory of themselves doing the expected behavior and are more likely to practice it.
Humberson also created community-based learning trips to off-campus sites, such as the grocery store, so her students can practice social skills in real-life settings. She created another program that pairs students with special needs with students in the school’s International Baccalaureate program.
“One of our students who used to need multiple prompts in order to even say, ‘Hello,’ now tells his peer buddy jokes regularly,” she said.
Sarah Dille, High School Teacher of the Year
Dille teaches English and writing to 9th through 11th grade students at Crockett High School. Dille, who has been a teacher for 13 years, comes from a family of educators and said she was born to be a teacher.
“Little did my family know that they would not only mold me into a life-long learner but into a life-long teacher as well,” Dille said.
Dille taught in the Boston area before joining Crockett in 2005. She serves on the school’s technology committee and is chair of Crockett’s English department. Most recently, Dille has helped lead a campus-wide initiative to implement AVID strategies across the school and has led seminars on how to help students improve their reading skills. Dille also leads professional development groups focused on creating a viable and engaging writing curriculum that targets students struggling with STAAR-level writing.
Dille, whose own writing has appeared in the New York Times and Huffington Post, said she has considered other careers a few times, such as writing full-time or becoming a lawyer.
“But nothing else feels quite like the ground under my feet in my classroom,” she said. “Nothing else fulfills me and challenges me quite like the art of teaching.”
About the Teacher of the Year Program
Each year, the Texas Teacher of the Year Program, which is facilitated by the Texas Association of School Administrators and the Texas Education Agency, recognizes teachers who have demonstrated outstanding leadership and excellence in teaching.