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The two Regional Teachers of the Year were named last week, hailing from the Sharyland Independent School District and La Joya Independent School District.
On Aug. 18, 2020, the Region One ESC held its first virtual celebration of the region’s most celebrated teachers at its Annual Regional Teacher of the Year event. According to a press release from Region One, 46 educators representing 25 school districts were recognized as their district’s teacher of the year nominee.
Over 100 attendees participated in the virtual event, “sending in words of encouragement via the chat line, or un-muting and shouting out their congratulations.” At the end of the ceremony, Carlina Capelo-Pichardo (La Joya ISD) and Michele Galvan (Sharyland ISD) were named the Regional Elementary and Regional Secondary Teachers of the year, respectively.
According to Region One each district teacher of the year nominee received a commemorative silver apple for their achievement. Regional Teacher of the Year recipients received the silver apple and a Star Polisher Award: a statue of four children, hands held high, holding a star. Each received a personalized Teacher of the Year ring from Jostens, “The Class Ring Company,” which celebrates 10 years as a sponsor for the Region One Teacher of the Year celebration.
The teachers are nominated by their school districts, and must submit an application consisting of essay questions that require nominees to describe a lesson or unit that defines them as a teacher, give insight on a project or initiative that has contributed to the improvement of overall school culture, give an explanation of “how they ensure that education transcends the classroom,” what they consider to be a major public education issue and detail how, if they were to act as a spokesperson for teachers and students, what their message would be on the profession to the public.
A committee of representatives from various teacher and administrator groups evaluated the essay applications.
Carlina Capelo-Pichardo – Regional Elementary Teacher of the Year
Carlina Capelo-Pichardo is an Elementary Gifted and Talented teacher at Narciso G. Cavazos Elementary at the La Joya Independent School District. She is in her 19th year as a teacher at LJISD.
After earning a Master of Business Administration and a Bachelor of Business Administration in International Business at the University of Texas Pan American, Capelo-Pichardo’s first career was in international business at a Maquiladora in McAllen and Reynosa, Tamaulipas, Mexico. She said she switched careers to education after realizing she wanted to teach, inspire and make a difference in children’s lives.
“I had this feeling of wanting something more, I wanted to teach kids,” Capelo-Pichardo said. “Really it happened when I had my first born [child] – I knew that I was going to leave her with others to teach her, and I wanted to be part of that as well, and I wanted to do that for other students.”
For Capelo-Pichardo, who teaches Gifted and Talented students from kindergarten to fifth grade, every lesson is an opportunity to grow.
“The best part about teaching is truly working with the students and seeing them flourish,” Capelo-Pichardo said. “We as educators have to provide those learning conditions for them. By providing opportunities to see them grow, it’s phenomenal.”
Capelo-Pichardo credited her mother for planting the seed of teaching when she was in high school.
“She told me, ‘You need to go into education, it’s the best career you could go into,’” Capelo-Pichardo said, noting that at the time she wanted to travel more in business and see the world. “
She said that living in a world of uncertainty, it has been a trying time for everyone. Capelo-Pichardo noted they have to be prepared for the unexpected.
“We have to be ready for those changes, because you never know,” Capelo-Pichardo said. “We have to be innovators, because we have to be quick when we’re told there is a change and work with it.”
During the virtual ceremony with Region One, leaders began reading excerpts from the essays of winning Teachers of the Year before announcing them by name. Capelo-Pichardo couldn’t believe it when they started reading hers.
“It was an honor to be recognized among the other teachers of the year across the Valley,” Capelo-Pichardo said. “I couldn’t believe it, I was in shock, I was excited, there were all these emotions.”
She also credited her colleagues at Cavazos Elementary for their support in her becoming the Regional Teacher of the Year.
“It’s been quite a journey,” Capelo-Pichardo said.
What motivates Capelo-Pichardo is her belief that students should be curious, creative and tenacious. She wrote in her essay that “students should be confident to ask questions and understand that no matter how young they are, they have a voice to make a positive impact in their community.”
“When I teach, I keep in mind that I want my students to be curious, creative and productive,” Capelo-Pichardo said. “I always tell my kids, ‘It doesn’t matter how young you are, you can make a difference in the world.’ That’s what I want them to do – make a difference. They need to know they can do it and use their voice right now. As an educator, I need to teach them how to do that.”
Michele Galvan – Regional Secondary Teacher of the Year
Michele Galvan is an 8th grade English Language Arts/Reading teacher at B.L. Gray Junior High School at the Sharyland Independent School District. She is a 26-year teaching veteran, and said she wanted to pursue a career in education “to make a difference for any student who would otherwise be ‘lost’ or ‘unnoticed,’ for the student struggling to fit in.”
Galvan uses a creative approach for teaching poetry, finding an outlet for the students who need someone to hear them. When she introduces poetry to her classes, she starts by pulling out her guitar and singing a Maya Angelou poem set to music.
“Poetry is not exclusive; it is inclusive,” Galvan said. “It cares not about your race or religion. It matters not if you are rich, or impoverished. Poetry is for everyone.”
Galvan said she knew many students often have a negative bias about poetry, so she tries to make it engaging. Last year, it all culminated in a campus Poetry Slam in which students performed their own works for others.
“I try to show them that poetry is everywhere,” Galvan said. “I was just moved to tears when I saw my middle schoolers lining up to read their poems out loud. I never thought I’d see the day.”
Galvan said she never wanted to do anything other than teach. Of her four sons, three have gone on to become teachers as well.
“My dad was an educator, so maybe that was it. I was driven to become a teacher since I can remember,” Galvan said. “It’s always kind of been there.”
Galvan credited the leaders, as well as several programs offered at B.L. Gray Junior High, as strong supporters for her as an educator. She spoke on programs like Capturing Kids Hearts, which focuses on relationship-building and focusing on the child.
“I commend Sharyland and B.L. Gray for understanding that it’s important,” Galvan said. “You can’t teach a child unless you build a relationship with that child.”
As she was getting ready to graduate from high school, Galvan brought up college to her counselor, they ignored her intentions and started suggesting trade schools. From then on she knew that no child should go unnoticed at school.
“It’s so easy to lose sight of the child in all that we have, like lesson plans, 504s, the STAAR Test, grading papers,” Galvan said. “I felt like I wasn’t seen as a child, so I have to work every single day so each child is seen.”
These years later, to be recognized as a Regional Teacher of the Year is a great accomplishment for Galvan.
“It never even crossed my mind that I would be selected,” Galvan said, noting when they started reading parts of her essay she texted her boss in excitement. “I was already crying by the announcement.”
Galvan said there was a common goal of serving students.
“I was surprised and humbled,” Galvan said. “I’m still trying to process. No one would have expected me to go to college. There’s always going to be that little girl in me that thinks I fall short, so it means a lot to have something this special. I’m in awe and humbled that I was selected.”
Each of the state’s twenty regional education service centers submit their regional elementary and secondary teachers of the year for the Texas Teacher of the Year award. Region One ESC will nominate Capelo-Pichardo and Galvan for the Texas Teacher of the Year award.
Semi- finalist judging will take place at the Texas Association of School Administrators headquarters in Austin, Texas to determine the six Texas Teacher of the Year finalists, who will be announced in early September.