Superintendent Surprises Elementary, Middle and High School Teachers of the Year

Superintendent Paul Cruz surprised three teachers in their classrooms yesterday to announce their selection as Austin ISD's 2016 Teachers of the Year for elementary, middle and high school.

Being selected as a Teacher of the Year is one of the highest honors the district bestows 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. 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.

This year's finalist for Texas Teacher of the Year will be named May 17 during Salute: A Tribute to Excellence, which recognizes outstanding employees districtwide at the AISD Performing Arts Center.

"Getting to recognize the best of the best is one of the highlights of the school year," said Superintendent Paul Cruz. "I love being able to surprise teachers in their classrooms to thank them for going above and beyond in teaching students."

AISD's 2016 Teachers of the Year are:

Allison Ashley, Elementary School Teacher of the Year

Allison Ashley is a bilingual teacher of romance languages and Literature–Hispanic Studies at Perez Elementary School. Ashley has a master of education degree from Harvard Graduate School of Education and is a National Board Certified Teacher. She has nine years teaching experience, three of those at AISD.

In addition to teaching, Ashley has been conducting research on teacher preparation programs with the U.S. Department of Education. Her focus is on school reform.

“I hope all my students leave my class with a pride in who they are becoming, confidence in who they are becoming and hope for what they can be,” Ashley said.

Katherine Martin, Middle School Teacher of the Year

Katherine Martin, a science teacher at Webb Middle School, is in her fourth year at AISD. With a master of arts degree in teaching from Lewis and Clark College, Martin also has completed some graduate coursework in climate change through the American Museum of Natural History. 

Prior to becoming a teacher, Martin spent time in Peru with the Peace Corps and has taught at numerous outdoor schools.

Martin finds creative ways to teach her students, most of whom are newcomers to America—with less than three years in the U.S.  

She illustrated chemical and physical change by borrowing a friend’s camp stove and making s’mores. When she found out some of her sixth-grade students did not know where vegetables came from, she partnered with United Way and the Sustainable Food Center to build a vegetable garden.

Martin said her inspiration comes from her father, who has taught for more than 30 years.

“Like my father, I think of my students as my clients, and like the veteran teacher, I expect myself to improve on what may not be working,” she said. “For language learners, this often means showing instead of telling.”

Christina Burbank, High School Teacher of the Year

Christina Burbank, a theatre arts teacher at Crockett High School, has taught for 14 years, seven of those at Crockett. Prior to AISD, she taught theatre and color guard in Hidalgo.

Burbank has attended numerous conferences to stay up-to-date in her theatre practices. She said her students’ achievements reflect her most significant contributions in education.

This year, one of her seniors won the English Speaking Union’s Annual Shakespeare Contest in Austin and an all-expense paid trip the national competition in New York this month.

Crockett Theatre was awarded the Send a Troupe grant for $18,000 last year for registration, housing, meals and transportation to the 2015 National Thespian Festival, where the group won nationals in group acting.

“Working with my theatre kids is why I get out of bed every day. They are my morning coffee … the good, the bad and everything in between is why I became a teacher,” Burbank said. “Theatre, dance, art and music place the students’ attention on something bigger than themselves.”

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