Cove VFW honors CCISD teachers, students on Saturday


Special to Leader-Press


Copperas Cove ISD teachers and students compete for top military honors at VFW Post #8577 on Saturday. The local veterans’ organization and Ladies Auxiliary holds its annual ceremony to announce the winners of its Smart/Maher VFW National Citizenship Education Teacher Award, Patriot Pen, and Voice of Democracy contests.

Sixteen CCISD teachers were nominated by their respective schools. The judges will select one teacher in grades K-5, 6-8 and 9-12 whose nominations will then be forwarded to the district level. The nominees are selected based on their commitment to promote civic responsibility, teach flag etiquette and instill patriotism in their students.

Crossroads High School Principal J.T. Irick nominated Noo Noo Garner. Garner teaches grades 9-12 at the alternative high school.

“Mrs. Garner has taken on the challenge of working with our students to help them on their path of overcoming odds and preventing students from dropping out (of school),” Irick said. “Mrs. Garner has been known to stay long after the school day. She is a motivator for students but also accommodates for the individual needs of all of her students.”

Copperas Cove High School’s first nominee is Heather Bortz, a math teacher, nominated by Assistant Principal Daniel Dodson. Bortz is also head of the math department at CCHS.

“She adapts her instruction to meet her students’ needs and is constantly looking for new ways to teach math concepts,” Dodson said. “She embodies the term servant-leader as she works tirelessly to put the needs of her colleagues ahead of her own.”

Copperas Cove High School’s second nominee is Carol Hawkins, also a math teacher at CCHS, and also nominated by Assistant Principal Daniel Dodson. Hawkins teaches AP Statistics, Pre-AP Calculus, and Pre-Calculus and has more than 30 years of teaching experience.

“Carol is devoted to improving her students’ college-readiness by increasing the rigor in her advanced placement classes. She has implemented a multi-year plan to improve the success rate of her students on AP tests,” Dodson said. “She is always looking for new and exciting ways to teach math.”

Copperas Cove Junior High School teacher Rita Alaniz was nominated by fellow educator Jennifer Czuhajewski. Alaniz is a seventh grade English/Language Arts/Reading teacher.

“(Mrs. Alaniz) is often found working in her classroom late into the night and on weekends preparing for the next lesson or search for a way to reach that one student who is struggling,” Czuhajewski said. “She has held tutorials on weekends in order to have extra practice time with those struggling students.  She spends much of her free time researching techniques, attending professional development and differentiating her instruction to help lower learners.”

Copperas Cove Junior High school social studies teacher Catherine Sharbeno was also nominated for her school by fellow educator Veronica Sheon. Additionally, Sharbeno is a sixth grade team leader, chairperson of the campus history department, sponsor of the school’s Junior Historians club, and parliamentarian of the CCHS Pride of Cove Band and Guard Booster Club.

“She leads by example, representing the ideals of civic responsibility and patriotism in her dedication to putting others’ needs above her own,” Sheon said. “She actively seeks out opportunities to help and does not reject requests for leadership and assistance.”

Copperas Cove Junior High’s third nominee is Jennifer Wills who teaches English as well as being the cheerleading sponsor and assisting with the National History Day project and the Junior Historians club. She was nominated by fellow educator Catherine Sharbeno.

“Jennifer Wills is a prime example of a teacher who goes above and beyond her job description and requirements. She voluntarily moved from teaching sixth grade to eighth grade because that was where she was needed the most,” Sharbeno said. “She has the respect and admiration of her students and her peers.”

S.C. Lee Junior High School’s nominee is Archie Franks is a math teacher and the seventh grade team leader who imparts more than just rigorous curriculum to his students, said nominator and school principal Kayleen Love.

“He is modeling and promoting characteristics that are held in the highest regard in America,” Love said. “The high expectations he places on himself personally and as an educator shape his approach to all that he undertakes, and students begin to see and emulate the high values of perseverance, honesty and respect for self, others and institutions.”

House Creek Elementary’s nominee is Marissa Northrup who began her career as a physical education teacher four years ago, Principal Larea Gamble said. Northrup is credited with starting the school’s annual Veterans Day Parade which has continued to grow since its inception.

“She has a deep understanding of patriotism and a sincere desire to instill appreciation in students for the service and sacrifices of our active military and veterans,” Gamble said. “Numerous agencies from fort Hood set up tables on campus to offer services to military families and veterans. Since that first event in 2011, the parade has become an annual tradition that is a favorite among the students, staff, parents and veterans of our community.”

Williams/Ledger Elementary’s nominee is Paul Warren, a science and social studies teacher who now teaches music, nominated by Principal Marla Sullivan.  Warren is a U.S. Army veteran and uses his military experience to help his students learn.

“Mr. Warren helps plan and coordinate our annual Freedom Walk in commemoration of 9/11 and our annual Veterans Day flag ceremony. He also helps train and facilitate our flag patrol responsible for raising the flag and taking it down each day on campus,” Sullivan said. “He took over 80 letters from our students on an Honor Flight. Each veteran received three letters during a mail call that he created.”

Hettie Halstead Elementary’s nominee is Texie Sage, nominated by Assistant Principal Laura Montes. Sage has more than 35 years of teaching experience and places student safety and achievement as her top priorities.

“Mrs. Sage has developed a thorough understanding of challenging learners and is able to share her knowledge with her students in a manner that inspires them to be a student and person,” Montes said. “Mrs. Sage has taken on a leadership role in piloting programs to increase the achievement of our students so they may gain confidence as able learners.”

Fairview/Miss Jewell’s first nominee is Bernice Gonzalez who works with at-risk students. She was nominated by Principal Leah Miller and fellow educator Adrianne Waters who said Gonzalez was always positive with both students and peers.

“Mrs. Gonzalez inspires and encourages her students to be respectful, responsible, and kind,” Miller said. “At-risk students are especially vulnerable to low self-esteem. Mrs. Gonzalez’s approach is to discuss goals with her students both academically and behaviorally and follow through with monitoring their success.”

Fairview/Miss Jewell’s second nominee is music teacher April-Dawn Weimer. She was nominated by fellow educator Joann Mendez who said Weimer demonstrates a true passion for teaching and a genuine love for a passing art form in today’s schools.

“Her patriotism is reflected through her school programs for the veterans of our community and the parents of military families,” Mendez said. “She employs different approaches to teaching musical concepts so that all of her students benefit from her instruction. She continually searches for new and intriguing lessons to engage her students.”

Fairview/Miss Jewell’s third nomination is Makesha Johnson nominated by fellow educators Nicole Sisco and Alanna Phillips. She brings excellence to the classroom when she prepares students to be active and responsible members in their community.

“In addition to being an excellent educator, Ms. Johnson is very involved in the community supporting autism awareness and special-needs individuals,” Sisco said. “She puts in countless hours above and beyond her required time and duties. Makesah integrates social skills and citizenship in her daily lessons to help build character and ethics in our students.”

Clements/Parsons Elementary’s nominee is Sheila Wright nominated by fellow educator Nicole White.  Wright is an interventionist for students in kindergarten through fifth grades. She also is the adviser or the award-winning Kids Care Club, an after-school program, and served as the campus’ United Way representative.

“Mrs. Wright is a focused and diligent worker not only academically but also in her commitment to helping our community,” White said. “Mrs. Wright show initiative in overseeing the Kids Care Club at our campus and works hard to ensure a positive learning experience for students hosting several community projects for nursing homes, animal shelters, homeless shelters and churches.”

Martin Walker Elementary’s nominee is Theresa Garcia nominated by fellow educator Deanna Stoneroad.  Garcia teaches fourth grade where good citizenship is a pillar of education in her classroom, Stoneroad said.

“Mrs. Garcia teaches her students how to embrace and personify…honesty, compassion, respect, responsibility, and courage,” she said. “She often discovers new and exciting ways to teach lessons. Being a wealth of sound and innovative educations resources makes Mrs. Garcia a teaching touchstone.”

CCISD students in grades 6-8 have entered the VFW Patriot’s Pen contest which requires them to write a 300-400 word essay reflecting on American history and how they view today’s society. 

Cove High School students have entered this year’s Voice of Democracy contest. Established in 1947, the VOD requires students to record a 3-5 minute speech.  

Winners of both the Voice of Democracy and Patriots’ Pen contests will be announced along with the VFW Teachers of the Year on Saturday at the VFW Post #8577, 1506 Veterans Ave., Copperas Cove. The program includes lunch and begins at 11 AM.

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