RRISD celebrates 2018 Elementary Teachers of the Year

Please join us in congratulating our 2018 Elementary Teachers of the Year.

Round Rock ISD recognizes and honors teacher excellence. Each school’s Teacher of the Year was elected by their peers and administration in recognition for their contribution in the classroom and throughout the campus learning community.

“Teaching is the most engaging job in the world. No calling is more purposeful, ever changing, and occasionally humbling. There is always more that I could be doing. Teaching keeps my mind occupied!”

Brian Sookram, fifth-grade
Anderson Mill Elementary

“I base my teaching on the concerns and real world experiences of my students. I want to teach my students relevant information so they are able to go into the world and function as positive contributing members of society. I strive to help my students better grasp and retain the information being taught and I achieve this by designing lessons and projects that allow students choice in how they take in the information and how they present their learning.”

Jesse Doñes, theatre arts
Berkman Elementary Arts Integration Academy

“The most meaningful moments for me when teaching are when you see that lightbulb go off for a student. It is so exciting watching them learn new material and put that knowledge to good use.”

Courtney Williamson, fourth-grade
Blackland Prairie Elementary

“The most meaningful moment in my teaching career has been watching my kids become comfortable in their own skin. I get to watch them come in without social or problem solving skills or they struggle academically and it means the world when they finally do things that they were unable to do before.”

Vanessa de Luna, first-grade, dual language
Bluebonnet Elementary

“I am passionate about teaching students to build strong self advocacy and vocational skills. It is our job as educators to give them the skills they need to participate in society to their full potential post secondary school. We need to create real life scenarios within our schools to promote and practice application of these skills in effort to best prepare them.”

Kaitlyn Troyer, third-fifth grade, functional academic classroom
Brushy Creek Elementary

“My grandmother had been teaching in her community of New Braunfels for quite some time before I came into her life. I noticed the amount of people who came up to my grandma when out and about in town. Each person told her how special a teacher she was and how she had touched their life in many different ways. I wanted to be just like her. It showed me that being a teacher meant you could be a positive change for good in the world.”

Eva Brazle, fourth-grade
Cactus Ranch Elementary

“My inspiration for becoming a teacher has been guided by my parents support and the impact of my previous teachers and professors. Their contribution to my education has inspired to advocate for all students the same way in which they have advocated for me.”

Myrna Escajeda, fifth-grade, dual language
Callison Elementary

“I feel passionate about teaching students to read. The ability to read and gain self-confidence is the most important thing I can give to my students. It is my job as an educator to notice their strengths and weaknesses and be accountable in their progress, by giving them the individualized instruction they need. I find my success in their progress and accomplishments.”

Diana K Fitzpatrick, first-grade
Caldwell Heights Elementary

“My teaching philosophy focuses on the child as an individual. Each student has strengths and weaknesses that need to be fostered in order to progress. To meet each child’s needs, I must discover how each child learns best and differentiate my teaching to meet each child at their level so they can access the content. I also believe that all children should be subject to high expectations and standards.”

Rebecca Mitchell, fifth-grade
Canyon Creek Elementary

“Other than doing my best to ensure that students enjoy and are enthusiastic about learning, I am passionate about providing students with opportunities and tools to learn the social and independence skills they will need in life. In order for these children to continue to grow into caring, thoughtful, curious, independent adults that contribute to their own lives and their community, we must give them the tools to do so and provide them with opportunities to learn and internalize these aspects of life.”

Courtney Forman, special education
Caraway Elementary

“My teaching philosophy is I truly believe all kids want to learn. Our job is to figure out the best way to reach each child. They are all different, they all come from different backgrounds, so of course they all learn differently. I feel it is part of my job to find a way to “light the fire” under each of my students.”

Allison Barrett, fifth-grade
Chandler Oaks Elementary

“My teaching philosophy is to do WHATEVER IT TAKES for each of my students to make sure they are academically, socially and emotionally successful. I work to build relationships with my students. They know I hold them in my heart and truly care about them. This allows me to challenge them to be their best and to help them achieve academic progress.”

Natalie Driskell, special education – resource K-5
Deep Wood Elementary

“My mom inspired me to become a teacher! It was never my intention growing up to become a teacher, even though my mom was a life-long educator. Then, when I was a sophomore in college, and it was time to make a decision, I realized that I WANTED to grow up to be just like my mom. She was kind, caring, empathetic, active, and, though some people dread becoming their parents, I realized that I could only hope to be half of the person that she was. I love you, momma!”

Jessica Cheyney, kindergarten
Double File Trail Elementary

“I believe that relationships and a positive environment are the building blocks to academic success. A strong classroom community that fosters collaboration and a growth mindset is essential. I believe my role as a teacher is to facilitate learning while guiding students to discover ideas on their own. Learning should be student driven where passions and curiosity are the driving force of learning.”

Deborah Swyers, third-grade
England Elementary

“I believe strongly in an individualized approach to education. I think children learn in different ways and should be encouraged to grow independently.”

Ginna Hill, librarian
Fern Bluff Elementary

“I feel passionate about making sure my students are encouraged to do the very best they can do. I want them to feel pride in their work and put 110% into everything they try to do and accomplish. I also want them to feel loved and respected.“

Lisa Brannan, third-fifth grade, functional academic classroom
Forest Creek Elementary

“I always knew that when I began my teaching career that I would care for my students. I had no idea what that really felt like until I started teaching. I think about my students constantly. I worry if they are hungry, if they are sick, if they are happy, my heart constantly beats for them. The day my adventure began in education was absolutely my most meaningful moment!”

Amber Velasquez, fourth-grade
Forest North Elementary

“I feel passionate that the success of every child depends on several people on the campus. It’s hard to recognize just one teacher as the most important, as everyone works so hard to ensure every child is reaching their potential. Teaching is a team effort and I am blessed to be part of an amazing campus team at Gattis.”

Dawn Carlson, second-grade
Gattis Elementary

“My most meaningful teaching moment was developing a relationship with a student who’d had trouble connecting with others that led to a successful year for him, his teachers, and his peers.”

Kimberlee Butler, fourth-grade
Great Oaks Elementary

“I feel passionate about teaching my students to be caring citizens. I always try to view my first graders as the adults and leaders they have potential to become. It’s important to me that when my students leave my classroom they are better equipped to someday become caring and empathetic adults who can work to solve our society’s issues.”

Clifton Klaverweiden, first-grade
Herrington Elementary

“I feel passionate about is developing teachers through continuous ongoing professional development. It is easy to invest in programs and resources but in reality we need to invest in people. These teachers are the ones who tailor instruction to meet the needs of the individual student. My ultimate goal is for my students to learn how to be emphatic, flexible, persistent, resilient and optimistic citizens who feel empowered to make a difference in the world and dream big.”

Allie Duffy, first-grade
Joe Lee Johnson Elementary

“Building relationships with the students is essential, showing them you care and love them unconditionally. I tell my students that I may not like your behavior but I still love you and care that you succeed. I also make it a point to be consistent. I like to instill in my students a feeling of well being: we are a school family and we are kind to each other.”

MaryAnn Finegan, functional academic classroom
Jollyville Elementary

“Teach every child as if he/she is going to be a Nobel Peace Prize Winner, a Newberry Award Winner, the Pope,  the president of a great country, a world changer….because that is exactly who you are teaching.”

Lisa Ferriola, talented and gifted specialist
Laurel Mountain Elementary

“I feel that teaching social-emotional skills is just as important as academics. Children can only be successful if they believe in themselves, understand how to manage their emotions and can work well with others. Teachers must constantly adapt to the needs and strengths of their students, which means a willingness to reflect and change. The best teachers share ideas, collaborate and learn from others.”

Brittany Kendel, second-grade
Live Oak Elementary

“I want my student to have fun while learning. I want them to challenge themselves to learn new things and understand that mistakes are okay. I want to instill self-confidence, a growth mindset and ultimately, a love for learning. I often say, “Don’t give up! We can do this together.”

Debbie Clifton, first-grade
Old Town Elementary

“My job is first and foremost to love my students. By getting to know them on a personal level and building relationships, I will be able to make the biggest impact in my classroom. When you have a struggling student who does not think himself capable of learning, you realize exactly how important your job is. Seeing THAT student make progress and begin to believe in himself makes this work worth it.”
Mary Beth O’Connell, kindergarten
Pond Springs Elementary

“Anyone can learn therefore adaptation is my key to teaching so that I can teach each student in a way that makes sense to the individual, but not always the whole group.”

Shannan Casey, kindergarten, dual-language
Purple Sage Elementary

“The most meaningful moments in my teaching career are when I see a student finally understand a concept. That ah-ha moment.”

Lynette Doney, first-grade
Robertson Elementary

“I am most passionate about helping students to recognize their potential for making a positive change in this world. I want them to be kind, grateful, curious kids that take control of their learning and help others along the way. I want learning to be fun, active and real life.”

Marjorie Manning, kindergarten
Sommer Elementary

“I aspire to teach to the unique individual learning styles of all of the students in my classroom so that every child will be successful. ‘No child left behind’ is a real driving force behind my philosophy, however for me it takes on a different meaning. I believe all children can succeed in their very own way, at their very own pace, regardless of any disability a student might have.”

Lauren Morrison, kindergarten
Spicewood Elementary

“Helping students see the awesome powers they possess and giving them the tools to use those powers for good.”

Amy York, special education/ACHIEVE
Teravista Elementary

“As a teacher I strive to provide a safe and caring learning environment where students can thrive and become productive members of the community. Students succeed when their physical, emotional, and academic needs are met. Building strong and lasting relationships with parents to provide a complete support system is essential for student success.”

Sonya Hunter, kindergarten
Wells Branch Elementary Arts Integration Academy

“I have a meaningful moment every day! I have started a goal for myself this year to write a personalized, handwritten note to each of my 500 students. It was a daunting task, but I am almost done! The students love receiving their notes, but it has turned into a type of therapy for me at the end of each day to think of things I am grateful for in each student instead of dwelling on something negative that happened. When I deliver those notes first thing in the morning, it is my most meaningful moment of the day.”

Kristin Gadgil, music K-5
Union Hill Elementary

“I teach to make my students better, I teach because it makes me HAPPY, I teach because I make a difference. So from the moment I greet my students at the door to the last high five as we launch to go home I’m smiling, praising them, hugging them and showing them I’ll be here tomorrow.”

Tanya Shantee Gonzalez, kindergarten, dual language
Voigt Elementary