Fort Worth ISD honors model teachers, names finalists for ‘District Teacher of the Year’

By Clayton Youngman

Karen Gonzalez had been nominated multiple times over the last 24 years. This was her year.
“The profession can be thankless at times,” said Gonzalez, a social studies teacher at W.P. McLean 6th Grade Center. “But in other times, we really get wonderful accolades from things like this.”
Gonzalez was one of 132 Fort Worth ISD teachers who received “Campus Teacher of the Year” awards on Tuesday. Members of the school district gathered with teachers at the Botanical Research Institute of Texas to celebrate the teachers’ success in the classroom.
“I just believe that my job as a leader is not to create followers, but rather to create leaders and empower you to lead as teacher leaders in your schools,” Superintendent Kent Scribner said to the crowd on Tuesday.
Before handing out various door prizes — a $1,000 travel voucher, a wine party, a free year-long lease on a new Nissan and more — Scribner said his vision for improving the school district hinged on the award-winning teachers.
“We’re trying to replicate what’s happening in your classrooms across the district,” Scribner said. “We want your colleagues, your brothers and sisters to believe in that.”
Gonzalez said the classroom values Scribner referred to were not based on curriculum.
“It’s all about relationships to me,” Gonzalez said. “I’m pretty good with content, but…it’s making those personal relationships with students that propels them on to do other things.”
Elsa Chavez, a second grade dual language teacher at Clifford Davis Elementary School, said she knows a big part of her job is being an example for her students.
“Where even though I grew up in an area like they did, I didn’t become a statistic,” said Chavez, a Fort Worth native. “Every day I show them you can do what you set your goals to.”
Chavez’s younger brother, Daniel, also won a Campus Teacher of the Year award.
“It’s not every day that they honor you with this award,” said Daniel Chavez, a first grade dual language teacher at Bonnie Brae Elementary School. “It keeps you motivated to try harder with your students and to continue [educating] yourself so you can help out the community.”
Ten finalists for District Teacher of the Year — five elementary teachers and five secondary teachers — were also announced at the event. One elementary winner and one secondary winner will be selected by members of the school district and the community. The winners will receive $5,000 prizes.
While not everyone can win at the district level, teachers honored by their campuses said they just enjoyed being recognized.
“It’s a boost, it truly is,” Gonzalez said. “For the teachers in my building to decide that I deserve this honor, that was very touching for me.”