Parkland MS math teacher honored with NEA Foundation excellence award


EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — It’s been a busy year for Parkland Pre-Engineering Middle School math teacher Michelle Sandoval Villegas. Earlier this year, she was honored as the 2020 Texas Secondary Teacher of the Year. Now, she’s the recipient of the 2021 NEA Foundation excellence award.

Villegas has been teaching for 13 years in the Ysleta Independent School District and was honored during a virtual awards ceremony Friday.

“Being a teacher during a pandemic is definitely no easy feat – if I could literally break this award into so many pieces, I would give a piece to all teachers right now because they deserve all the recognition possible,” Villegas said. “This is truly an honor, and I will continue to advocate for students from afar because they deserve every single bit of the love and compassion and joy that education brings for them every single day.”

The Awards for Teaching Excellence program recognizes educators from around the country who shine in their schools, their communities, and their own learning – they advocate for each other, the profession, and students, and embrace the diversity of their communities and the wider world, according to NEA Foundation officials.

“Celebrating Michelle has become quite a common occurrence at the Ysleta Independent School District, and it is a testament to the type of teacher she is,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Xavier De La Torre. “She is an exemplary educator with all the qualities and attributes we look for in a teacher, and she is certainly meritorious of this recognition.”

There are three levels of recognition within the Awards for Teaching Excellence program:

  • California Casualty Awards for Teaching Excellence: Winners are nominated by NEA state affiliates; awardees compete for one of five Horace Mann Awards.
  • Horace Mann Awards for Teaching Excellence: Five winners receive $10,000 and compete for the NEA Member Benefits award.
  • NEA Member Benefits Award for Teaching Excellence: One winner is chosen from five finalists to receive $25,000 at a special February virtual gala.

Villegas, the only El Paso educator among this year’s winners, was among 46 to win the California Casualty Award for Teaching Excellence. She will be recognized with fellow winners at the NEA Foundation’s Salute To Excellence in Education virtual gala in February 2021 for her instructional expertise; advocacy for the teaching profession and students; community engagement; attention to diversity; and leadership in professional development.

“I’d like to thank the NEA Foundation and California Casualty for showing the nation what we already know – and that’s the high caliber of teacher that Ms. Villegas is,” said Ysleta ISD Trustee Shane Haggerty, who presented Villegas with a bouquet of roses during the ceremony. “We are lucky to have her in our community, and we are reaping the benefits of her talent.”

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