One left a law career to teach children. The other felt duty-bound to tweet his students from the stage before giving his acceptance speech. Both are teachers of the year.
Campus-level teachers of the year paraded into the ballroom one at a time to begin the Killeen Independent School District’s Teacher of the Year ceremony Thursday. They sat at their school tables and listened as six elementary finalists and four secondary finalists stepped to the stage when called.
After building suspense, Killeen ISD executive director for elementary leadership Jo-Lynette Crayton named Lala Aghaian and Seth Edwards the teachers of the year.
Aghaian, a math teacher at Trimmier Elementary School, and Edwards, a math teacher at Patterson Middle School, become KISD’s entries in the Texas State Teacher of the Year process.
In video tributes for each finalist, principals praised their nominees for employing innovative teaching techniques, but emphatically emphasized each top teacher’s heartfelt concern for their students.
After naming each secondary finalist, Crayton revealed Edwards as the secondary winner and he rose from his chair, hugged his parents and several colleagues and walked to the stage where he watched a video made for the occasion.
A mother of one of his students praised Edwards for taking the time to meet each child and parent in August during Meet the Teacher and continuing to give of himself to teach math.
“You amaze me,” said Patterson principal Jill Balzer, speaking in the video. “You make them love math and their confidence rises.”
On stage, prior to thanking the school district, his family and many who invested in him, he said he needed to tweet his students, who he knew were waiting to find out if he won the honor.
“They are my world and my heart,” he said of his students.
Following the ceremony, Edwards said the award was a “validation of the life we pour into our students. It’s a lifestyle,” he said in reference to the campus teachers of the year. “We give our lives away so they can have better ones.”
With similar emotion, Aghaian teared up as she stood on the stage watching video of her students explaining how she cares for them.
“It’s not the math,” one student said, “it’s just herself that makes her special.”
“She’s a great teacher,” said another student. “She inspires us.”
Aghaian, a law school graduate from California, said her friends thought she was crazy to leave the legal profession to teach children in Killeen.
“You have provided so much,” said Trimmier principal Penny Batts on a video tribute. “You have provided hope for those who come in with no hope at all.”
“My students inspire me to be the adult I want them to be,” Aghaian said.
“I went to law school but I wasn’t happy in my career,” she said following the ceremony. “Teaching has given me a purpose, a mission and it’s been amazing. I know I am meant to be in the classroom.
“I’m so overwhelmed,” she said. “This is confirmation I took the right path.”