EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — If there were ever any doubt in your mind just how difficult educating children is, the COVID-19 pandemic might have given you an idea. As a difficult school year comes to a close, many of El Paso’s educators are being recognized for being the top in their respective school districts.
All Elementary and Secondary Teachers of the Year will go on to compete in the Region 19 Teacher of the Year Competition.
Best of luck to all educators, but you’re already winners to us.
- Secondary Teacher of the Year: Claudia Esparza, Ricardo Estrada Middle School
- Elementary Teacher of the Year: Yvonne Palacio, W.D. Surratt Elementary
- Rookie of the Year – Yvette Rodriguez, Desert Hills Elementary
El Paso ISD
- Secondary Teacher of the Year – Michael E. Herrera, Andress High School
- Elementary Teacher of the Year – Denisse Almaraz Valencia, Lundy Elementary
The EPISD teachers would normally be honored during the Teacher of the Year Gala. The event was canceled this year due to the pandemic, but the district did it’s best to honor the award winners by placing signs in their front yards to honor them.
“This means so much to me, especially right now, as teachers face some of the most challenging times of our professional lives,” said Almaraz Valencia. “This award is for all the teachers in EPISD and all teachers in El Paso for going above and beyond to help the children we serve.”
Almara Valencia is a dual-language teacher with fifth and sixth grade students.
Herrera, who teaches social studies at Andress, says his award is a reflection of the impact the school is making on the lives of its students.
“Andress High School is such a special community and I am proud to be a part of it,” he said. “The
teachers there embrace students for who they are and that makes a huge difference in the work that they do.”
- Secondary Teacher of the Year – Crystal Avila, Socorro High School
- Elementary Teacher of the Year – Pedro Gurrola, Vista del Sol Elementary
Socorro ISD celebrated its teachers with an online event showcasing the 48 campus Teachers of the Year and Elite 8 finalists Friday. The announcement culminated with the announcement of Avila and Gurrola as top teachers for the distrit.
Gurrola has been teaching for 23 years and is currently teaching fifth-grade. He says one of the most important things to teach young students is the importance of never giving up and always believing in yourself.
“One of the highest compliments anyone can receive is when you are recognized by your peers. I would not be the educator that I am today had it not been for the good fortune throughout my career to have crossed paths with so many positive and amazing administrators, educators, custodians and cafeteria ladies,” Gurrola said. “For that reason, for a season, for a reason or a lifetime, they left footprints alongside mine.”
Avila has been teaching for 13 years, she’s currently a biology teacher at Socorro High School. She says it’s important for her students to trust her and said she cares deeply for the students she teaches.
“In no way, I cannot say that I am more deserving of this award over any other teacher because every single one of us works hard, every single day, and we have become even far more resilient during this pandemic,” Avila said. “But what I can say is this, I will continue to do my best to represent the great things that every single teacher in our district is doing.”
- Secondary Teacher of the Year – Angel Alvarez
- Elementary Teacher of the Year – Stephanie Mendez
- Secondary Teacher of the Year – Yvette Gonzalez, Hanks High School
- Elementary Teacher of the Year – Maria Armendariz, Constance Hulbert Elementary
Gonzalez has been teaching for 10 years, and currently teaches consumer science at Hanks High School. Prior to becoming a teacher, she spent 11 years in the high-fashion industry before finally realizing teaching was her calling.
“I do my best to provide a safe classroom environment that not only allows students to learn but gives them the structure they might not otherwise have,” Gonzalez added. “I truly believe my students would tell you that I teach them to learn from their mistakes, and I push them to be the best version of themselves.”
Armendariz, a physical education teacher at Constance Hulbert Elementary, has been teaching for an impressive 31 years. During her career, she’s taught at several Ysleta ISD campuses and the children’s program at El Paso Community College. Armendariz has also coached sports at local middle schools and high school campuses, including volleyball, basketball, softball, and tennis.
“My personal passion is being a mentor, encouraging and motivating colleagues in the teaching profession,” Armendariz said, adding that her students would describe her as a caring teacher who always encourages them to “be good to everyone.”
*Note: Anthony ISD, Canutillo, Del City ISD, Fabens ISD, Ft. Hancock ISD, San Elizario ISD, and Sierra Blanca ISD are also in Region 19. Their elementary and secondary teachers will also be competing for the Region 19 Teacher of the Year awards, but have yet to announce the names of their district award winners.