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CISD Celebrating 2020 Campus Teachers of the Year

                Dedication to students, teammates—and their profession—is being celebrated as Cleburne ISD announces the campus Teachers of the Year for 2019-2020.

                Elected by their colleagues and co-workers, the 12 honored educators will be presented “virtually” to Trustees at Monday’s school board meeting, which will be live streamed on the district website.

                “We are honored to recognize these educators for what they do in making excellence happen at their schools and within our district,” Dr. Andrea Hensley, assistant superintendent for Human Resources said. “It is a true honor, and a humbling one, to be selected by your peers for your work, and the professionalism and passion you display every day. We are grateful for these master teachers and all they do in helping their students be successful.”

                “I think a lot of these teachers were using the concepts of the Capturing Kids’ Hearts program before it was even implemented in our district,” Hensley said. “They realize the value of knowing each of their students and establishing a positive bond with each one as the way to take classroom engagement and learning to a higher level. Their students want to come to school because of the learning environment they have helped to create on their campuses.”

                Elementary Teachers of the Year, by campus, include Cristin Head, fourth grade English/language arts-Adams; Elizabeth “Libby” Dill, dyslexia/reading specialist-Coleman; Sofia De La Rosa Ibarra, bilingual kindergarten-C.C. Cooke; Dianna Holland, fifth grade reading and social studies-Gerard; Stacey Yzquierdo, second grade-Irving; Vicki Rhoades, third grade-Marti and Shirley Swallow, pre-kindergarten-Santa Fe.

                Secondary campus Teachers of the Year are Lisa Phipps, Special Education Inclusion-Smith Middle School; Donald Williams, seventh grade social studies-Wheat Middle School; Kim Estes, ninth grade English-Cleburne High School; Lisa Chandler, science-TEAM School and Stacey Foster, science-Phoenix Campus.  

                Head, who is in her 15th year in the teaching profession, says that when she teaches reading, she gets excited.

                “I love reading a chapter book aloud to my fourth graders,” she said. “I think it draws in every student. It doesn’t matter what their reading level or ability is. We take 15 minutes of class and go to a totally different place each day—depending on where the story takes us.”

                “I want my students to be fearless learners,” Head said. “I want them to know that learning doesn’t happen when we make a 100 on a comprehension test. It happens when we talk about why we didn’t make 100--and try again. I know lessons have had an impact, and been learned, when I see my students show kindness, patience, perseverance—and take risks.”

                Dill is in her third year in her current position at Coleman and is a 19 year teaching veteran. She says the impact of COVD-19 has brought the role of teacher into a new light.

                “As I look back on the last two months during this COVID-19 pandemic, I see how valuable teachers are and how much public education is needed,” she said. “I have always known that teaching is my calling and that I have a responsibility to teach all students, knowing that each child learns differently. We have all missed being with our students. It has been so wonderful to hear from parents saying that they didn’t realize how much teachers really do. I think teachers are appreciated more--and we appreciate parents telling us that.”

                “Even as we have taught via Remote Learning, we have stayed connected with our students as they ‘ZOOM’,” Dill said. “Teachers have worked hard to create meaningful, engaging lessons to continue the learning process and not let our students fall behind. As we continue to encourage students, and their parents, in this new way of learning at this time, I want to be an encourager to my fellow teachers, so that they will know how much they are valued and appreciated.”

                Ibarra is in her third year as a classroom teacher. She began her career at C.C. Cooke, but first worked with students as a volunteer at Santa Fe Elementary right after high school.

                “I grew up wanting to become a teacher, in honoring my mother’s dream for me,” she said. “I found out teaching was indeed my passion when I was a school volunteer at Santa Fe—it was not only my mother’s dream for me, but mine as well.”

                “As a kindergarten teacher, I have always tried my best to make the learning fun, but with a purpose,” Ibarra said. “I want to create lifelong learners who will exceed in what they do. I want my students to leave my classroom feeling loved and respected—and for them to show those same feelings to others.”

                Holland has spent her entire 24 years of teaching in Cleburne ISD. She says a love of kids and being willing to do whatever it takes for a child to be successful are the driving elements that define her career.

                “Teaching is a calling,” she said. “I love teaching reading students. Fifth graders for the most part come to me being readers, so my job is to create lifelong readers. My most successful influence on students is when they become ferocious readers. The best problem ever is the challenge of finding enough books in the library to satisfy their desire to have a book in their hand.”

                Yzquierdo believes strongly in the value of the Capturing Kids’ Hearts philosophy in her work with students. In her nine years in education, this is her second time to be honored as a Teacher of the Year.

                “As a veteran educator, I know how amazing teachers can be at making connections with their students,” she said. “My belief is that we must set higher expectations for our relationships and work towards getting to know as many students on our campus as possible. I believe in the power of relationships first, which leads to academic success. I know I appreciate being recognized when I am walking in the hall--and our students feel the same way. As we build relationships, eventually staff and students will strive to make everyone they meet feel welcomed and cared about.”

                Rhoades also believes the power of developing meaningful relationships and a sense of community are important keys to successful learning. She is a ten-year teaching veteran and has had a sign posted on her desk that reflects her mission as an educator.

                “If you have a child’s heart, you have their mind,” she said. “I believe you love them first, and teach them second. This sign serves as a reminder to me that if their primary need of love and acceptance is met, my students can open up their hearts and minds—and I can help them achieve success.”

                Swallow has worked with early learners much of her career, now in its 27th year. She is among the district’s retiring personnel.

                “A nourishing classroom encourages academic success,” Swallow said. “I think education should be fun, diversified, full of experiences and collaborative in order to impact student learning. I work hard in my classroom every day to help children feel my love. While it is important for me to have my students know I care, it is also important that they trust me enough to let me teach them. If a child does not trust you, love you or connect with you, it is very hard to get them to learn. My job is to also teach my students, in the face of any problems they may be facing even at this young age, and to nurture them, no matter the issues. I have loved every minute of my teaching career.”

                Phipps has spent much of her years in teaching and inspiring middle school students to become young scientists. She is finishing her second year as collaborative/inclusion teacher at Smith.

                “Lisa is fantastic with the kids,” Special Education Director Cory Borden said. “They love being in her class. I’m very excited to have her on our team of inclusion resource teachers at Smith. They all work together as a group and do a great job for our students.”

Williams strives to bring history—Texas history—to life for his seventh grade learners. He is also very involved with the Wheat hockey program, which he introduced at the campus in 2018-19.

                “I believe it’s my job to bring historical characters and events to life,” he said. “I try very hard to inspire students with my passion and excitement for history. I also believe the best way to ensure that education transcends the classroom is by building positive, lasting relationships with students. When these relationships are fostered, students are motivated to work and put their best effort forward while they are in your classroom, and in life outside the classroom. They learn to believe in themselves because their teacher first believed in them.”

                Estes is new to the Cleburne High School staff this year, but is 21-year teaching veteran. With her Master Teacher Certification in technology as an added tool to her educator skills, she is adept at engaging the 21st century learners in her freshman English classroom.

                “Every teacher is a technology teacher. Every teacher is a technology user,” Estes said. “Every student is both. We cannot alter technology to fit antiquated teaching philosophies. We must change our teaching to more accurately reflect the reality beyond the school walls. As teachers we need to put technology in our belt of amazing tools to reach students, to access information, to engage, inform and inspire.”

                Chandler, who teaches biology at TEAM School, is always looking for ways to inspire her high school learners. This year, her students have been engaged in science, as it relates to gardening. Chandler was the recipient of a 2019 Innovative Grant Award from the Cleburne Education Foundation. Through the above ground gardening initiative she has established at the campus, students are experiencing hands-on learning in biology, environmental science and sustainability.

                “Lisa loves her TEAM students and sees their full potential from the minute they arrive in her classroom,” Principal Georgann Storm said. “She is incredibly talented and intelligent and uses her love of science to help students see the world around them. She sets high expectations for all her students and will do whatever it takes for them to be successful.”

                After a number of years as a member of the science faculty at Cleburne High School, and head coach of the Jackets tennis program, Foster made a move to the District’s Phoenix campus where he has continued to teach science. He is among the district’s staff members who will be retiring at the end of the school year.

                “Stacey Foster is the perfect example of a dedicated teacher,” Principal Dwayne Smith said. “He has spent 30-plus years in education and has touched the lives of so many students. Even though this is his last year in education, he has been as excited to teach as if it was his first year. He is a great example of what can happen when you work hard for your students.”

                The Cleburne ISD Elementary and Secondary Teachers of the Year will be chosen from the list of honored campus educators. As representatives if the district, the two selected will move on to the Region XI Teacher of the Year competition. The announcement of the district’s candidates will be made at Monday’s school board meeting.



Santa Fe Elementary Teacher of the Year Shirley Swallow was treated to a limousine ride during the school’s Teacher Appreciation Parade around the campus. Swallow is a pre-kindergarten teacher.