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20140328 rosbelpenaAlton Memorial Jr. High School Math teacher Rosbel Peña had a surprise visit this morning by representatives from H-E-B. He is one of six South Texas educators to be named as a finalist for a 2014 H-E-B Excellence in Education Award, spotlighting him as one of the best educators in Texas.

The H-E-B program is the largest monetary awards program for educators in Texas, and among the largest in the nation. The honor was kept a surprise from Peña, who learned he was a finalist when the H-E-B representatives visited his classroom with balloons, cake, flowers and a check for $1,000. AMJH also received a $1,000 check.

Peña is entered as a finalist for the Lifetime Achievement Award that salutes teachers with more than 20 years of experience. He will travel to Houston, Texas in early May to compete on a statewide level for larger cash prizes. Winners there will each receive $25,000 in cash for themselves and a $25,000 grant for the school.

H-E-B launched the Excellence in Education Awards program in cooperation with the Texas Association of School Administrators in 2002 as a positive way to support public education in Texas. It has become the largest monetary program for educators in the state, spotlighting best practices and celebrating the passion and creativity of Texas educators.

H-E-B asks customers, employees, and community members to nominate teachers, principals, district, early childhood facilities and school board in Texas. Each nominee is sent an invitation to complete an application online and is asked about their professional experiences, educational philosophies and achievements both in and out of the classroom.

A team of judges reviews the applications, narrowing the field to semi-finalists. From that pool, five regional judging panels comprised of former winner, administrators, and university and community leaders select 40 teachers and principal finalists. Finalists and their schools receive a cash prize of $1,000 to $2,500, depending on the category.

This year, H-E-B will award $430,000 in cash and prizes at its annual awards gala. Eight winners- two principals and six teachers- will be announced along with two school districts, one large and one small, a public school board and an early childhood facility, at a celebratory dinner on May 3.

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