LaDon Ward, Christi Van Wassenhove are top principals
ALDINE – Aldine ISD celebrated its top teachers and principals at the Educator of the Year Breakfast, held Friday, March 11 at the Hyatt Regency Houston Intercontinental Hotel. This year’s theme was “Garden Tea Party.”
Aldine ISD Trustees, district administrators, campus administrators, teachers and business partners donned their best high team ware to celebrate Aldine’s top educators.
Daryle Freeman of Davis High School was named the district’s Secondary Teacher of the Year, while Linda Nigro of Vardeman Primary School was named the district’s Elementary Teacher of the Year. Freeman is the choir director at Davis High School and Nigro is a physical education teacher at Vardeman Primary School.
The four Teacher of the Year finalists were Chantil Gill of Kujawa Elementary School, Jordy Rios of Oleson Elementary School, Carissa Clohessy of Drew Academy and Mackenzie Cho of MacArthur High School.
For the third consecutive year, the district also announced it Rookie Educators of the Year. Griselda Calvo of Hinojosa Primary School was named the Rookie Elementary Teacher of the Year, while Brandon Jordan was named the Rookie Secondary Teacher of the Year.
In addition, Aldine ISD’s Principals of the Year and Rookie Principal of the Year were also announced.
LaDon Ward of Goodman Elementary School was named the Elementary Principal of the Year, while Christi Van Wassenhove was named the district’s Secondary Principal of the Year. Charles Land of Nimitz Ninth Grade School was named the Rookie Principal of the Year.
The two overall winners, the four finalists and all Campus Teachers of the Year received monetary awards from the Aldine Education Foundation. Freeman, Nigro, Ward and Van Wassenhove each received two round trip airfare tickets from United Airlines.
The two winners also received gifts from Whataburger and Josten’s.
Dr. Xochitl Rodriguez, School Assistant Superintendent of High Schools, announced the Rookie Principal of the Year.
Land said it is important for him to serve as the leader and example setter at his campus.
“As the instructional leader, I must continue to learn and grow. I can’t expect others to grow and learn if I am not growing and learning,” he said. “The district’s ‘inspire’ indicator talks about recognizing potential, encouraging risk taking and supporting the growth of others. That is what I hope to do each day on my campus.”
LaTonya Amerson, School Assistant Superintendent of Middle Schools, introduced Van Wassenhove.
Van Wassenhove said she believes it is her duty to create a safe and nurturing environment at her campus for her staff and students.
“To create and foster a safe environment for my staff, I make a concerted effort to get to know each staff members so I have a better understanding of how to effectively communicate with each person,” she said. “My goal is to make everyone feel comfortable and encouraged to reflect and grow.”
Patricia Rodriguez, School Assistant Superintendent of Primary and ACE Schools, introduced Ward.
Ward said she encourages her students and staff to expand their horizons.
“We encourage teachers and students to think outside of the box and take some ricks,” she said. “In order for teachers to feel safe doing that, they must feel secure and supported. Our expectation is for our staff to grow professionally, so we encourage them to apply for positions outside of the classroom.”
Dr. Javier Villarreal, Chief Human Resources Officers, announced the Rookie Teachers of the Year and the Secondary and Elementary Teachers of the Year.
Calvo began her career as a virtual bilingual teacher. Dr. Villarreal said she is poised, ambitious, professional, hard-working and an effective teacher.
Dr. Villarreal said Jordan possesses an ability to motivate his students to perform, particularly with at-risk students and student who are struggling with the English language. He fosters a safe, judgment-free space and stimulates autonomy by helping students learn how to make positive choices.
Freeman said music has always played an important role in his life and he cherishes sharing that love with his students at Davis High School.
“I was born a choir and band student,” he said. “My first students were my high school band peers. From increasing the membership of my first choir program from 76 to 150 students, to being the first choir to earn four sweepstakes ratings at UIC Concert and Sight-Reading in one year, I have accomplished many firsts in Aldine ISD.”
Nigro said she relishes the challenge of getting the most out of her young athletes.
“My greatest contribution to education as a teacher is the ability to take a group of ordinary students and train them to be amazing runners,” she said. “I think teaching physical education and coaching is a great combination. I am able to enhance learning, connect and challenge my students.”
Aldine High School senior Earon Johnson opened the event with welcoming remarks and told the audience what a profound influence teachers have had on his life. He told the audience how thankful he was to the many teachers who helped him overcome a number of challenges.
“You comforted me, you made me feel as if I was not different. You made me feel better about my situation by providing support,” he said. “You offered me help. You prepared me so I could be strong and wide. You knew what needed to be done. So I thank God for every last one of you, because you dedicate your life to children like me and those who will come after me.”
Breanna Jagodzinski, the 2021 Elementary Teacher of the Year, introduced Aldine ISD Trustees, Superintendent Dr. LaTonya M. Goffney and her Executive Leadership Team, and recognized all of the Campus Teachers of the Year and their Principals.
“Every educator being celebrated today knows what it means to sacrifice,” she said. “You go above and beyond when it comes to giving. And not because you are forced to, because it’s innate. You are simply doing the job that you were called to do!”
Following breakfast, Richard Cantu, President of the Aldine Education Foundation, thanked the sponsors who made the Educator of the Year Breakfast possible.
Amplify was the Exclusive Presenting Sponsor, while United Airlines served as the Platinum Sponsor. The Gold Sponsor were Sarah and Doug Foshee. Silver Sponsors were Prect. 2 County Commissioner Adrian Garcia, GLF Environment, Howard Kelly and the Elizondo Family, Margaret and Bill Ginder, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and Dr. Yacovodanato Educational Consulting LLC. The Campus Sponsors were the Aldine Federation of Teachers, Camdon Graphics, LLC, Carrie Durley, Claire and Joe Greenberg, Renaissance/Muses3 LLC, Solid It Networks, Tarkett and Teach for America. The EOY Breakfast Underwriters were H-E-B, who provided the centerpieces, Josten’s (who provided calendars for all winners and rings for the finalists) and Whataburger (gift cards for all Campus Teachers of the Year and Whataburger for a year for the winners).
Following the announced of the two Teachers of the Year, Aldine ISD Board Secretary Rose Avalos delivered remarks.
Ms. Avalos, who served Aldine ISD as an educator for close to 35 years, said she knows the vital role teachers play in the lives of their students on a daily basis.
“On behalf of my fellow Trustees, we want to you to know how much we value each and everyone of you and we can’t thank you enough for your dedication and devotion to the children of Aldine,” Ms. Avalos said. “All of you have stepped forward in the last three years to meet the academic needs of your students and we will forever be grateful to you for working through these challenging times.
“As a former educator, I am well aware that teaching is a calling and those who answer that call play a vital role in preparing students for college, and successful careers so that they can enjoy bright and unlimited futures. All of you have selected the most worthwhile profession on earth,” she said.
Dr. Goffney delivered closing remarks.
She also thanked teachers for all that they do for students in Aldine on a daily basis.
“We absolutely cannot, we cannot provide choices and opportunities for our students without the passion and hard work of our educators,” Dr. Goffney said. “Each of you is the reason we can deliver on the program for what every Aldine ISD student deserves – an education that opens doors to choices and opportunities now and in the future. You lead and inspire your students each and every day. You show them what it means to be a positive contributor to their community. You model for them inclusion, support, equity, empathy and resilience. You inspire me each and every day.”
Prior to the start of the Educator of the Year Breakfast, the Carver High School String Ensemble performed.