Superintendent Paul Cruz surprised four teachers in their classrooms yesterday to announce their selection as Austin ISD's 2018 Teachers of the Year for elementary and secondary schools.
Being selected as a Teacher of the Year is one of the highest honors the district bestows on AISD teachers.
"I am so proud of these exceptional teachers and the passion they bring to teaching," said Superintendent Paul Cruz. "Engaging and supporting our students in learning every day is our primary focus as a school district and we could not do that without our teachers."
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.
Two elementary school teachers were chosen, along with a middle school and a high school teacher. From these, an elementary and secondary teacher will be selected to represent the district in the regional Teacher of the Year competition.
This year's finalists 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.
AISD's 2018 Teachers of the Year are:
Area 1 Elementary School Teacher of the Year
Raven Reaves, Baldwin Elementary School
Raven Reaves, a fourth-grade teacher at Baldwin Elementary School, is in her 11th year of teaching.
Reaves is a National Board-certified teacher who shares her love of teaching by mentoring other National Board candidates.
Additionally, she promotes technology in the classroom by working with the PTA to address the misconception that more technology equals more screen time. In her role as a campus innovation coach, she teaches other faculty ways to integrate technology.
"One of my fundamental missions as an educator is to build a strong sense of community in the classroom," said Reaves, who hosts a potluck in her classroom to bring families of different backgrounds together.
"When diverse parents sit across from the table, breaking bread together, they get to interact with all the wonderful people from neighborhood outside of their own."
Area 2 Elementary School Teacher of the Year
Larry Perez, Barbara Jordan Elementary School
Larry Perez, a bilingual teacher at Barbara Jordan Elementary School, is in his fifth year of teaching.
Growing up in a low-income community in Houston, Perez said the believed that attending college and becoming a teacher was a far-fetched goal for him. However, an outreach program at the University of Texas at Austin allowed him to major in bilingual education.
He said that his background, along with key people who affected his life, made Perez want to help students with a similar background to his own.
"Growing up, I was surrounded by teachers that did not empower their students, so I was determined to motivate these young boys to set high expectations for themselves," Perez said. "Since 2013, I've had the pleasure of working with a diverse group of learners at Barbara Jordan Early College Prep. When a student enters my classroom, I try to provide a safe, meaningful and collaborative learning environment."
In 2013, his classroom reached 100 percent passing on the fifth-grade mathematics STAAR assessment.
Middle School Teacher of the Year
Julia Julian, Lamar Middle School
Julia Julian, a seventh-grade science teacher at Lamar Middle School, is in her fourth year of teaching.
Julian was named the Teacher of Promise, an award for first-year teachers, in 2015-16. Since then, she was appointed the science department chairwoman and seventh-grade team leader.
She said that her experience as a professional dancer allowed her to spearhead Lamar's ballet program.
"Every day, I model for my students a person who has created her own mold, based on her passions," Julian said. "My example of breaking the definitions and boundaries outlined by peer pressure and societal expectations is an especially important lesson for middle school students. From my own experience, my students see that their future can have a diverse array of options."
High School Teacher of the Year
Laurie Beaman, Lanier High School
Laurie Beaman, an 11th-grade AP history teacher at Lanier High School, is in her 10th year of teaching.
Beaman said diverse backgrounds and perspectives are an integral part of her teaching.
Through a Google-funded partnership with the Austin Monitor, she brought local government officials and city stakeholders into the classroom to share local perspectives relevant to U.S. history.
"Within my classroom, group work and project-based learning are the norm. Lunchtime revolves around building rapport and my classroom is always an open door for collaboration," Beaman said. "I believe effective teaching starts with finding connections and knowing the background, communities and interests of each of my students."
Additionally, Beaman is a campus innovation coach and the head track coach, and she serves on multiple district-level committees.
For more information, please visit https://www.austinisd.org/edquality/employee-recognition/salute.