2021 Teachers of the Year Finalists Revealed


In a series of surprise visits filled with congratulatory elbow bumps, sheet cake, and plaques, Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde visited four Austin schools on Wednesday to celebrate four teachers who were selected as Austin ISD’s 2021 Teacher of the Year finalists. 

The finalists include Angie Baca-Ross, Joslin Elementary School; Lisa Richardson, Walnut Creek Elementary School; Joseph Alan Sosa, Lamar Middle School; and Dr. Sanford Jeames, Eastside Memorial Early College High School.

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. Teachers from two elementary schools, one middle school and one high school are selected each year to represent their level.

“We would not be Austin ISD without the hard work and sacrifices that these educators make daily to provide our students the best education,” Dr. Elizalde said. “They are the beating heart of our district and are key to the future success of our children. The impact they have made on our children and their families will help shape a prosperous and bright future in so many lives.”

Dr. Elizalde began her morning at Walnut Creek Elementary where proud students and staff sat in socially distanced seating in the library enjoying breakfast tacos and donuts. She honored dual-language second grade teacher Lisa Richardson who has taught in Austin ISD for five years.

Richardson, who says she became a teacher to end racial disparities in education, hopes to help students who have been historically underserved by schools and help them find their brilliance and demand and provide the best for themselves.

“In everything I do, I try and make sure that I am creating opportunities for students to meet with success,” Richardson said. “I push them to explore, to think independently, to argue, to justify, to create, and to explain the world around them and dream of how they could improve it.”

Richardson has also helped her school secure more than $28,000 in grants and in-kind donations.

Dr. Elizalde continued to Lamar Middle School where she announced the next finalist, Joseph Alan Sosa, an eighth grade science teacher who has been with the district for nine years.

Both of Sosa’s parents were special education teachers. Their passion for education created a desire in him to teach and create an impact in students’ lives.

“I spent a lot of time in my parents’ classrooms and saw the impact that a teacher can have on students,” Sosa said. “I think being teacher of the year requires a commitment to your students to find what their needs are, learning about them and doing your best to meet those needs, whether it's academic or emotional.”

Lamar principal Megan Tesano says Sosa is not only a fantastic teacher but also a leader on campus.

"He is not only a good teacher but a leader on the campus with his peers," said Tesano. "He is someone who dives in and is committed to equity and raising the level of education for all his students."

In his years at Lamar, the percentage of on-level students who passed the science STAAR test almost doubled to 74 percent, and the school earned a Texas Education Agency distinction of academic achievement in science.

The third finalist to be honored was Angie Baca-Ross, a bilingual kindergarten teacher at Joslin Elementary School. Baca-Ross has served the district for four years, making a tremendous impact on her community by showing the value in communication between parents and caregivers.

“Being involved with my families is about getting to know each family respectfully––their struggles, their joys, their goals,” she said. “It is about being an ally and a bridge to help them achieve success.”

Joslin principal Chaolin Chang says Baca-Ross demonstrates what the Joslin culture is all about.

“We are very happy and blessed to have Ms. Baca-Ross at Joslin,” said Chang. “She demonstrates three different key points in her classroom which are equity, accountability, and community. She makes sure everyone is treated fairly, that student progress is being made while also instilling community in the classroom. She does an amazing job getting parents involved and we are so proud to have her.”

Baca-Ross hopes that her relationship with students and their families will provide a positive impact on their lives.

Finally, Dr. Sanford Jeames of Eastside Memorial Early College High School was honored as a finalist for his outstanding character in the classroom.

Jeames, a health science program coordinator who is commonly seen in his lab coat, has been with AISD for eight years. He has spent time in the United States Army Reserve and has brought an expectation of excellence to his classroom. 

“I got into education because I wanted to be in a position to help people know that they can contribute to their community, their society, and more importantly, they contribute to their own future,” Jeames said. “I see myself as someone who helps facilitate a lifelong passion for learning regardless of what the discipline is going to be.”

Dr. Jeames brings an extensive list of awards, affiliations and development and leadership activities.

“I got tired just reading your resume,” said Dr. Elizalde in presenting the semi-finalist plaque to Dr. Jeames.

For more information on the Teacher of the Year award, please visit www.tasanet.org.