Alamo City’s Amazing Teacher: Five Finalists

We are in complete awe of the teachers who were nominated in Alamo City’s Amazing Teacher contest! We asked our readers to nominate teachers who have made an impact in their and their children’s lives. With more than 7,000 teachers in one San Antonio school district alone, there are thousands of wonderful educators in the San Antonio community, and we are honored to be featuring some of them today.

Here is an introduction to our finalists. We want our readers to help us determine who will receive the title of Alamo City’s Amazing Teacher!

Voting will open Monday, May 2 and continue through Wednesday, May 4. To cast your vote, simply click on the button below the nominated teacher. Our winner will be announced on Friday, May 6!

Rebecca Adams

Early Childhood, Kay Franklin Elementary, Northside ISD

Nominated by Melissa Besch

Rebecca is absolutely amazing! She works with students between the ages of three and five years old, and her class consists of children with multiple academic/cognitive abilities and functioning ability levels. Her lessons are based on the set curriculum, but she puts a spectacular twist on each subject. Seriously, who can gracefully take the TMNT to teach science, math, and letter recognition? Ms. Adams can! Her homemade play-dough, which glimmers with glitter and smells of sweet Kool-aid, can get any child to sit down for an entire 30 minutes while creating animals and matching letters. Each lesson has every child’s interest taken into consideration. Ms. Adams’ creativity and love for each child is obvious upon meeting her. Parents trust her with their children, and the children adore her passionate love for education and them. Everyone feels loved upon walking in her room! She goes above and beyond for her students and checks in regularly on her former kiddos. You can stop her in the hall to ask her about any random student in her class of 17 (yes, 17 three- to five-year-olds) all at one time, and she can tell you everything you need to know. It is a blessing to have her as a teacher and lifelong friend. Once you have met her you will never want to lose touch, because your next child needs to be in her room without a doubt!

Bio

Rebecca graduated from UTSA, and her heart is in working with the youngest students. Her seven years of teaching have all been in the collaborative setting for children three to five years old with and without special needs. She feels there is no greater privilege than being a child’s first teacher because she has the responsibility to influence the rest of his/her school career by showing them there is joy in learning. Ms. Adams believes her role is to nurture and cultivate curiosity, independence, creativity, responsibility, and problem solving; these are the traits that will make all children successful not just in school, but in life. She spends her days talking about princesses and super heroes, playing tag on the playground, wiping noses, and tying shoes. She is honored to witness children read their first words or learn to write their names, and sometimes she even gets to hear them speak for the first time! She falls asleep in her dinner practically every Friday from exhaustion but wouldn’t have it any other way because she loves every minute of her huge and wonderful job!

Bonnie Anderson

Music teacher, Coronado Village Elementary, Judson ISD

Nominated by Heather Johnson

Ms. Anderson is definitely Alamo City’s Amazing Teacher of 2016! This year she was a finalist for the Grammy Music Educator of the Year but didn’t win. I really want to show her that even though the Grammys didn’t pick her, San Antonio knows she is the best!

No one at my children’s school stays as late after school working with children as she does. She usually stays two to three hours extra, helping children with choir, piano, marimba, ukulele, and other instruments. She has a lot of Saturday rehearsals as well.

I know my children come home excited about school because of how much they love playing the marimbas! I thought she was a little crazy when I found out she was having a marimba program for my daughter’s Kindergarten class. It was amazing to see the children playing together at the same time and hitting the right bars. It is no wonder her older groups get invited to perform so many places. Just last week they played at an event where the audience included the Mayor of San Antonio and David Robinson. I can’t wait to see the places Ms. Anderson’s music will take my daughters.

It would be nice for Ms. Anderson to win something for herself because she spends so much of her own money on our students. She always tells the parents that if they can’t buy the right clothes for music programs to let her know so that she can buy them. Whenever her students have performed for a Rampage Game, she has offered to buy tickets for students who can’t afford them. I also found out that there are a lot of instruments in the school that she bought out of her own pocket. I know she is a single mother, and that can’t be easy on a teacher’s salary.

Ms. Anderson has given so much of her time, talent, and money, and I hope San Antonio can give back to her!

Bio

(via Ms. Anderson’s website)

This is the story of how I climbed out of my box. When I was in elementary school in Valley Center, Kansas, I was put in a box by the teachers in my life. They labeled me as hyper, disruptive, and not very smart. In fact, my second grade teacher literally put me in a box. She had a wooden box made just for me that had three walls directly around my desk. I spent nearly an entire year sitting in the box and looking at those three walls. She constantly criticized me and made me feel like I was no good. She put me down because of my inattentiveness and poor behavior. Back then, “bad” meant “stupid,” so she put me in the low academic groups. That is the year that I knew I was going to become a teacher, so that I could be a nice teacher. After experiencing that teacher, it was no wonder that I made terrible grades and had a very hard time making any friends. I wasn’t able to conquer the damage she did to my self-esteem until high school.

I discovered music in middle school. I joined band in the seventh grade, two years later than everyone else in my grade level. The band director tried to hide me in a sea of clarinets, but by the end of the year I was first chair. Once I realized I was good at something, this gave me the desire to excel in my academic areas as well. I went from getting C’s and D’s to straight A’s by the time I was in high school. Music totally changed my life. There’s no doubt in my mind that I wouldn’t be a successful person today if it hadn’t been for music.

After I graduated from the University of North Texas, I began teaching in East Texas. I had trouble my first year fitting into the box my principal had for me. After one year, he didn’t renew my contract. He told me I was “too innovative.” Instead of forcing my students to sit in chairs and sing songs from books, which was what most elementary music teachers were doing back then, I taught them to play instruments and incorporated movement and games into my lessons. 

Twenty-three years later, I get to teach music to more than 400 students at least once a week. My goal is to make the most of it. Looking back, I am now very grateful to that second grade teacher. I learned at a very early age what not to do as a teacher. I also learned that all teachers, but especially elementary teachers, have a lot of power, and we need to use it wisely. I’ve climbed out of my box, and I want to use music to help other students climb out of their boxes.

Teri Beitel

Behavior Specialist, Kitty Hawk Middle School, Judson ISD

Nominated by Frederick Ward

Ms. Beitel should be considered for the Alamo City’s Amazing Teacher of 2016 because of her tireless efforts to reach at-risk students. She primarily teaches students with emotional disturbances, but she also reaches all the students at our school. You will find her at school three hours before everyone else, every day. She even gets to school before the custodians. There is no method, intervention, or strategy left unturned when she works with students. She has unique ideas about how students should be treated. Ms. Beitel believes strongly in building personal relationships with her students, and that is built on mutual trust and respect. Please consider her for this award. I could go on and on and on, but you really have to meet her to see and believe all she does for students!

Bio

Teri Beitel is an educator at Kitty Hawk Middle School. She is the behavior teacher of sixth, seventh, and eighth graders. Teri is also the Special Education Department Chair at her school. A typical day consists of supporting students with disabilities who also present with challenging behaviors. Teri teaches all core classes and social skills. She works within the confines of 15 different curricula. When Ms. Beitel is not teaching or addressing discipline issues, she is helping manage the Special Education Department at Kitty Hawk. Ms. Beitel received her Bachelor’s Degree at the University of Texas at San Antonio in Interdisciplinary Studies. Last year she gradated with her Masters in Special Education from UTSA. She is currently pursuing her second Master’s Degree in Educational Administration. Last year Ms. Beitel was awarded several honors for her initiatives in the field of education and, more specifically, her unique way of handling behavior situations at school. She was named the Kitty Hawk Teacher of the Year, The Judson ISD Distinguished Educator of the Year, The KENS 5 EXCEL Award, and the prestigious Trinity Prize for Excellence in Education. Teri, aside from her pride in her students, is most proud of her son, Bob, who is currently finishing up his sophomore year at the University of Texas at Permian Basin.

Julie Kelly

2nd grade teacher, Kendall Elementary School, Boerne ISD

Nominated by Jenny Breuer

Mrs. Kelly is so fantastic and runs a great classroom. This year, in particular, she gained a new student in the first part of September who was adopted from the Congo the week prior (!) and spoke no English, only Lingali. This little girl had never been exposed to anything outside her remote village, much less the overwhelming United States and simple things we take for granted like bathrooms and running water. Coming from a war-torn country, this new student had endured and seen more in her short life than anything we can imagine. And then one day in September she walked into Mrs. Kelly’s class and was greeted with love, structure, warmth and…butt freckles. (Look those up! They are stuffed animal balls/freckles she uses as incentives for math Olympics. And of course all the kids desperately want to earn one!)

This child could not have been placed with a better angel or teacher. Mrs. Kelly went to many hours of classes to figure out how to best help this child adapt and learn in the most effective way possible. With countless hours and effort, fast forward to April, and her student is thriving! She is speaking fluent English, competing in math contests just like the rest of the class, writing in her journal, joking with her friends, and being “knighted” for the core virtue of service. Mrs. Kelly loves her like her own, and we have all been fortunate to witness the transformation in this child. Most teachers work tirelessly for small gains in each child, and while Mrs. Kelly does this every day, in this case went above and beyond. She deserves a high five and a huge hug for walking along side this sweet girl. It has been amazing to see this student blossom and shine at school because her teacher believed in her from the moment she walked in that door.

Bio

I graduated from Texas A&M with a Bachelors in Business Administration but wanted to be a teacher from the time I was in second grade (thanks to an amazing teacher named Andrew Kraska at Castle Hills Elementary). Unfortunately my father was not supportive of this dream so I got a business degree, went to work for a few years to save money and went back to school. I received my teaching certificate and graduated University of Arlington in 1994.  Teaching was not only a dream but a passion of mine and I was blessed to start my career in Broward County, Florida teaching 3rd grade.  I moved back to Texas in 2000 and have taught in Buda, Flour Bluff, and for the last 8 years in Boerne, at Kendall Elementary.  There truly is no greater gift in life than working with children. Seeing a child light up with confidence when they know they can accomplish something on their own is priceless. In my 20 years of education I have worked with students from K – 6 and I have loved every minute and every student!

Polo Trejo

4th grade teacher, Woodridge Elementary School, Alamo Heights ISD

Nominated by Brooke Peacock

Sr. Trejo is truly dedicated to the total well-being of his students. He is always looking at questions about his class of students: Are they learning the material presented? Are they developing character? Are they having fun while learning or is it the same old boring lesson? Is each student missing out on the ability to participate in traditional or extracurricular learning? He is an encourager, a jokester, a mentor, and a friend to all students while maintaining a respected authority figure in the classroom. We think he is the best teacher ever!

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One Response to Alamo City’s Amazing Teacher: Five Finalists

  1. charlotte yost May 4, 2016 at 2:10 pm #

    I would like to vote for geri johnson….shw is awsome….she is kind and patient….she is an excellent teacher