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AISD Announces Elementary, Middle and High School Teachers of the Year During Surprise Visits

Superintendent Paul Cruz surprised three teachers in their classrooms today to announce their selection as Austin ISD's 2015 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. 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 19 at the Performing Arts Center during Salute: A Tribute to Excellence, which recognizes outstanding employees districtwide.

"Each year, AISD gets to recognize three teachers who have gone above and beyond their teaching responsibilities to provide exceptional learning opportunities," said Superintendent Paul Cruz. "I am proud of these teachers, as well as all the other exceptional staff we have throughout the district."

AISD's 2015 Teachers of the Year are:

James Supak, Elementary School Teacher of the Year

James Supak is a National Board Certified physical education teacher at Zilker Elementary School. He teaches his students to live healthy lifestyles with compassion and is particularly motivated by a desire to prevent and treat childhood obesity. 

Supak earned a master's degree in exercise physiology from the University of Texas at Austin in 2004, and continues to work with the university to train physical education teacher candidates. He has worked at several AISD elementary school campuses since 2005.  

In addition, Supak serves as the co-president of the Austin Association for Physical Education and Recreation. He also worked with the National Association for Sport and Physical Education to develop curriculum standards to improve the quality and quantity of physical activity programs across the United States. 

Supak said he that when he was a student, he was often bullied during physical education classes. Those experiences and the mentorship of his college professors shaped his desire to become an educator.

"Because of [Dr. Dolly Lambin], I began to realize that I didn't want any child to go through the pain and embarrassment that I suffered in PE class," Supak said.

Supak attributed his success as a teacher to his commitment to being a guardian to all his students, and working to ensure that "they will never have a negative PE experience at Zilker Elementary."

Quevette Terrell, Middle School Teacher of the Year

Coach and physical education teacher Quevette Terrell has worked at Webb Middle School for 12 years and serves as the director of the school's Physical Education Department.

Terrell said she approaches her teaching with energy and conviction to motivate students and colleagues alike.

"My passion and my purpose is to be a positive influence who inspires my students to be proud of who they are and strive to do better every day, [and] to be a resource and support system to our faculty and staff," she said.

In 2010, Terrell created a program that pairs teachers with high-needs students for weekly mentoring sessions. The program has expanded every year and now includes more than 45 teachers and staff members mentoring more than 150 students.

She also launched an after-school dance class, which has received invitations to perform throughout the city, including at the state Legislature and Dell Children's Medical Center of Central Texas.

"My relentless pursuit will be to inspire, support and encourage my students to dream big," she said.

Angela Del Grande, High School Teacher of the Year

Angela Del Grande is a high school Life Skills Teacher and director of the Transition to Life in the Community program at The Rosedale School.

She began working as a substitute teacher at Rosedale in 2007 and has been full time since 2008. Rosedale serves many of AISD's students with disabilities and prepares students to live, work and enjoy life independently in their community.

Del Grande said she has known she wanted to be a special education teacher since the seventh grade, when she led a class of elementary school students through an exercise to learn about blindness.

She said she was excited and inspired by the students and by the teacher's words to her, "You will do amazing things for the students of this world. Embrace the gifts you have."

During her seven years at Rosedale, Del Grande said she has strived to improve her students' communication and emotional skills, while exploring the beauty and wonder of Austin.

"[We take] every possible advantage to leave the classroom and venture into the community for vocational instruction," she said.

The Transition to Life in the Community project at Rosedale was created for 18- to 22-year-old AISD Life Skills students who need support as they leave school and enter the community.

Del Grande has been invited to present at several professional conferences about her experience developing transition programs for older students.

She said her most significant teaching achievements happen daily, "when a struggling student can express their feelings in a safe and productive way."




AISD is the fifth largest school district in Texas, serving approximately 85,000 students at 129 schools. Follow AISD on Twitter at @AustinISD or on Facebook