Jennifer Han of McAllen ISD has been named the Regional Elementary Teacher of the Year -- the 18th time a McAllen teacher has won the award in the past 30 years.
Han was announced as the winner at the annual Regional Teacher of the Year banquet held Thursday evening at Region One Education Service Center in Edinburg. Han, a fourth-grade teacher at McAllen ISD’s Seguin Elementary, has taught for 13 years and is also a robotics team coach.
Since fall 1991, McAllen teachers have earned an astounding 20 Regional or State Teacher of the Year titles – the most in the region. Two of the 17 previous regional winners went on to be named state winners -- most recently in 2009.
Earlier this month, Han, as McAllen ISD’s District Elementary Teacher of the Year, spoke to more than 100 new teachers at the McAllen ISD New Teacher Orientation. She reminded them of their tremendous power to impact students’ lives.
“You can change humanity one classroom at a time,” she said.
She describes herself as a risk-taker, innovator and an agent of classroom change, according to a news release from Region One ESC. Han recognizes the power of the written word to get to know her students and to give them a voice.
“I have learned through the years of being a writing teacher that kids want to be noticed, acknowledged and liked,” Han said. “They want to share and show us who they are. They love talking about their dreams, families, special talents and things that make them proud. Though not all students may have the ability to glide on paper to express themselves, in my class all students are encouraged to try their best to tell their own story.”
Understanding that the students in her classroom come from different backgrounds, Han uses writing to engage and include all students.
“No matter if you are a gifted and talented or a special education student, an English as a Second Language (student) or a native student, a student from an affluent or a humble family, writing time is the great equalizer in my class. They are all provided the guidance, the tools and, more importantly, the platform to share their story and be heard.”
Han, a 2003 graduate from McAllen Memorial High, will now be in the running for the Texas Teacher of the Year Award. Six state finalists will be identified and the Texas Elementary and Texas Secondary Teachers of the Year will be announced October 15, at the Texas Teacher of the Year Awards Ceremony in Austin.
“I’m actually a product of McAllen ISD and if it wasn’t for McAllen ISD teachers, I wouldn’t be here,” Han said when accepting the district award in May.
According to Region One ESC, nominees submitted an application consisting of essay questions asking nominees to describe a lesson or unit that defines them as a teacher, describe a project or initiative that has contributed to the improvement of overall school culture, an explanation of how they ensure that education transcends the classroom, what they consider to be a major public education issue, and finally, as a spokesperson for teachers and students what is their message to the profession and to the public.
A committee comprised of representatives from various teacher and administrator groups evaluated the essay applications.
Emphasizing that each of the regional teachers of the year are a shining example to their colleagues, each district teacher of the year nominee received a Silver Star trophy award for their achievement.
Regional Teacher of the Year winners were presented a Star Polisher Award, a statue of four children holding a star, by Dr. Eduardo Cancino, Region One ESC Interim Executive Director. Each Regional Teacher of the Year recipient also received a personalized Teacher of the Year ring from Jostens, The Class Ring Company. Jostens, The Class Ring Company has served as a sponsor of the Region One Teacher of the Year celebration for the past 11 years. Additionally, each was awarded a $100 gift card on behalf of Lone Star National Bank.
Bert Ogden Motors sponsored the Regional Teacher of the Year event.
The Region One ESC is part of a state-wide system of 20 regional education service centers created in 1965 by the 59th Texas Legislature to assist school districts across the state. Originally slated to work with school districts as a media center, the role of the education service center has expanded to work alongside school districts to carry out the three main objectives as stipulated in the TEC §8.002: to assist school districts in improving student performance in each region of the system; enable school districts to operate more efficiently and economically; and implement initiatives assigned by the legislature or commissioner. Region One ESC serves 38 school districts and 10 charter school systems in the eight-county
areas of Brooks County, Cameron County, Hidalgo County, Jim Hogg County, Starr County, Webb County, Willacy County and Zapata County.