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Winner Spotlight

One of the best parts of the Excellence in Education Awards is hearing the inspirational stories behind the winners. Here’s a look at some of our past winners as they work their magic in the classroom, and after their win at the Awards ceremony.

Leo Vaughns, Jr.

2022 Lifetime Achievement Secondary

Kirkpatrick Middle School
Fort Worth, Texas

Leo Vaughns Jr. decided to become an educator to use his passionate personality to lay the foundation, inspire, motivate, encourage and make a difference in the lives of others. Affectionately known as “Pops” and “Mr. Kirkpatrick,” Vaughn’s focus on relationship building during his 31 year tenure has been instrumental in creating a positive campus culture.

When an educator executes passion towards students, the school and the community, the educator’s positive energies are contagious, brings life, causes community support and creates a classroom atmosphere that is conducive for learning - the impossible will be made possible."

Vaughn’s active involvement in the campus community – which includes donning the school mascot costume, organizing pep rallies, talent shows and school dances, developing monthly school themes, decorating the hallways and singing and dancing during drop off – was recognized by the naming of the school auditorium in his honor. 

Dr. Carlos Philips II

2020 Principal Secondary

Booker T. Washington High School
Houston, Texas

In 2020, Booker T. Washington High School Principal Carlos Phillips was named the H-E-B Excellence in Education Secondary Principal Award winner.

This is a very humbling feeling to be recognized for this prestigious award. There are many educators in our state who could have been selected, however, I am honored to be able to represent our great school district and such a historic school with amazing staff and students in this capacity."

"Dr. Phillips is an exceptional leader who exemplifies the hard work, dedication and resolve it takes to transform student outcomes."

Grenita Lathan, Interim Superintendent

In February, Phillips was named HISD’s 2020 Secondary Principal of the Year when Interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan made a surprise appearance in front of a large crowd of Washington High School students and staff. Representatives from H-E-B also made a surprise appearance at the event to inform Phillips that he was a finalist in the Excellence in Education Awards competition.

Students have books in their hands and are taught how to walk through them to find meaning."

Lone Star Early Childhood Center

2022 Early Childhood

New Braunfels, Texas
Heather Salas, Principal

Lone Star Early Childhood Center provides Pre-K students in New Braunfels ISD with engaging and purposeful learning through play. The child-centered curriculum integrates all Texas Pre-K guidelines in both English and Spanish in meaningful ways that engage and challenge the whole child while catering to individual development needs. Lessons are incorporated into daily classroom routines that allow exploration through play-based learning activities which are adapted for auditory, tactile, visual and kinesthetic learning styles. Students develop language learning skills in both English and Spanish through Zoo Phonics and Estrellita programs, which use visuals for each letter of the alphabet by mapping letter sounds to familiar pictures.

A gardening program, developed in partnership with the Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Service and the Comal Master Gardeners, provides students and teachers with plants, materials and instructional support from a Master Gardener in order to enhance food security and encourage healthy habits. Students deposit food waste in a compost and worm farm, tend to the garden and enjoy the harvest. Other weekly enrichment opportunities include a gym and motor lab, bilingual library and hands-on discovery lab, music lab, STEAM lab and technology lab.

All students participate in social emotional concepts using Social Thinking’s “We Thinkers!” curriculum, which helps them to better understand themselves and others, develop self-awareness, perspective taking, and social problem solving skills. Conscious discipline techniques, including I Love You Rituals help students connect to their school families while improving their overall wellbeing.

Canutillo ISD

2022 Small District 

El Paso, Texas
Dr. Pedro Galaviz, Superintendent

Canutillo ISD’s focus on equity and excellence strives to position all students on an even playing field, providing equal chances for success. District leadership is guided by three words – shaping, service, and safeguarding – with the belief that it is the role of every member of the learning community to shape the organization, inside and out, so it continues to grow and be responsive to the current and future needs of students and the community.

Removing barriers that impede on our students’ education is our passion and responsibility.”

The district community defines success as learning that is meaningful in students’ lives beyond the walls of the classroom, so students are prepared to be book smart, street smart and career smart. Written curriculum is developed with the mindset that college readiness begins in kindergarten and support is differentiated and customized to ensure the unique needs of each learner are continually addressed to quickly close academic gaps.

McAllen ISD

2022 Large District

McAllen, Texas
Dr. J.A. Gonzalez, Superintendent

In McAllen ISD, students’ success is defined as the ability for students to gain new knowledge that will, in-turn, help them become happy productive citizens. The district’s input-output model creates a student-centered environment by focusing on input – including student engagement, educator skill and high-level content – to make systems and processes highly effective.

As entrepreneurs of the human spirit, we are in the dream business. We are putting students in a position to accomplish their dreams, no matter what they may be.”

The district strives to add academic value to every student – not just filling in the gaps, but enabling students to reach as high a level as possible. The district was the first in the Rio Grande Valley area to offer an International Baccalaureate (IB) program, which has one of the highest success rates in the world with 93 percent of students in the program earning an IB diploma. High school students personalize their learning experience through dual enrollment academies in medical science, engineering, business administration, teaching, pharmacy, and criminal justice, and can earn professional licenses and certifications in 13 CTE programs. 

Allen ISD

2022 School Board

Allen, Texas
Amy Gnadt, President

The Allen ISD Board is compassionately committed to every learner’s current and future success. This moral imperative, developed collaboratively during Texas Association of School Board’s (TASB) XG training, is a reflection of the critical role the board plays in accountability.

Children learn best when they feel safe and stable.”

The seven-member Board believes that community engagement is critical to the establishment and review of the district’s mission, vision and strategy. Community members are offered multiple opportunities to learn about the value proposition offered by the district, including Board Academy presentations for the general public to learn about board operations and how to become a board candidate. The Silver Eagles initiative works to increase outreach with empty nesters and community members aging in place, providing education on how their taxes benefit the overall quality of life in Allen. 

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