Lisa Richardson Teacher of the Year finalist

By Eddie Villa

Teacher of the Year finalist Lisa Richardson’s life has been shaped by her experiences.

Richardson is now a bilingual second-grade teacher at Walnut Creek Elementary. But she started as the daughter of immigrant parents.

After growing up, she saw families face injustices when coming to the United States while volunteering at The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, also known as RAICES.

From that experience, she felt a call to teach and serve school communities where they face similar challenges.

“I never had teachers or anyone at school that was able to communicate with my family, so I know how frustrating that is, and I want to be the difference for students at my school,” she said. “I want to bring students joy, and use my talents to benefit my community.”

Richardson dedicates her work to end the disparities that black and brown students face. Through her teaching, she helps students find their brilliance and be able to demand and provide the best for themselves. 

Outside the classroom, Richardson has assisted the Walnut Creek community to earn more than $38,000 in grants and in-kind donations. The grants have allowed her and fellow teachers to have materials to successfully educate students.

Her devotion does not go unnoticed. In April, the Austin ISD superintendent named Richardson a finalist for Teacher of the Year. 

“This award means my Walnut Creek family can be proud of me,” she said. “They see me and they know what I do, but getting this type of recognition from the district feels like we are all getting a pat on the back.”

Walnut Creek Principal Dinorah Bores said the Walnut Creek community is grateful to have an amazing teacher like Richardson.

"Mrs. Richardson has added a unique and colorful spark to our school since her first year as a teacher,” Bores said. “However, I did not realize how much that spark could light up a whole community. We are so proud of you!”

Teachers like Richardson impact the lives of millions of children every day—whether it is an uncommon school year with virtual and in-person instruction or a common one like in previous years, their work provides a much-needed sense of community and connection. 

“Instilling within students a passion for lifelong learning is a skill that can change the world, it’s an incredibly important job,” Richardson said. “My students make me laugh, their curiosity and interests delight me, and every single day we collaborate on learning and celebrate gaining knowledge. I love what I do and I find each and every day of it rewarding.”

Austin ISD’s annual Salute event honors educators throughout the district for their excellence in the classroom. Richardson is one of four finalists for Teacher of the Year. Tune in at 6:30 p.m. May 20 to watch the virtual awards ceremony.