An elementary teacher known for bringing space science to her kindergarten students and a middle school coach who motivates students and teachers alike are Killeen ISD Teachers of the Year.
Palo Alto Middle School coach Elise Kea is the Secondary Teacher of the Year. Lisa Stewart of Skipcha Elementary School is the Elementary Teacher of the Year.
The school district combined virtual technology with surprise-at-the-front door tactics to reveal the pair Tuesday evening.
Both expressed shock when they heard their names announced during the virtual ceremony, then found guests outside their houses bearing gifts.
The school district’s 52 campus Teachers of the Year watched from their homes through Zoom conferenceing as KISD’s annual Teacher of the Year unfolded in a very different format.
After finding out the identities of six elementary teacher of the year finalists and then four secondary teacher of the year finalists, the session went live to each of the two winning teachers’ front doors.
Both teachers delivered acceptance speeches as their principals and three KISD representatives delivered their awards and personal congratulations, streamed their in-the-moment responses and took photos.
The two KISD Teachers of the Year each received $5,000. The 10 finalists received $1,000. The remaining campus representatives received $500.
“I was definitely surprised,” Stewart said. Her husband and daughter escorted gift-bearing guests into the house as she watched the live production on her computer.
“The biggest honor is to be selected by my peers,” she said, referring to the process of selecting the campus Teachers of the Year. “KISD is full of amazing teachers. This district pours into their teachers.”
Now in her 21st year teaching, Stewart said she took a job as a substitute teacher in her native South Texas while waiting for “my real job to come along.” As a Spanish speaker, her substitute job quickly became more than that and eventually a career.
“Most important to me is making connections, with students and families and fellow educators,” she said, explaining that she recognizes she can always learn more.
Part of her love for learning includes a connection to NASA where she attends regular trainings and becoming a “TV teacher” for KISD during the school closure a year ago.
“Total shock” is how Kea explained her reaction to finding out she was KISD’s secondary teacher of the year. “It is so unexpected. I wasn’t even listening for my name. A big wow went through my mind.”
The seven-year teacher is a 2007 graduate of Killeen High School. She began her career teaching at East Ward Elementary School before moving to Palo Alto where she coaches basketball and volleyball. She also coaches sub-varsity teams at Shoemaker High School.
“To inspire” is her goal as a teacher. “So many have inspired me — in ways they don’t even understand. I remember the impactful things they said to me. It has molded me.”
She named the high school teacher who celebrated her C in calculus, a college English teacher who taught her a new love of that subject, her current principal Kernisha Hill and a highly influential high school basketball coach, Latisha Williams, now principal at Patterson Middle School.
She also mentioned her mother, Rosa Kea, a longtime teacher who retired and returned to the profession, now teaching at Bellaire Elementary School.
“I want to inspire and motivate,” she said. “I want kids to believe. I just want to push them forward.”
The virtual event and live reveals culminated an award process for the interrupted 2019-2020 school year.
The teacher of the year candidates for each school in the district first met back in February 2020, where they received instructions on the award process and posed for official portraits.
The event that culminates the process and identifies KISD’s candidates for the Region 12 teacher of the year contest, was initially scheduled last May, but was cancelled during the initial COVID-19 outbreak, stretching the usual suspense to 15 months.
Elementary finalists for the 2019-2020 school year include Christina Srock (Douse), Rebecca Widmer (Clifton Park), Michelle Kaaloa (Iduma), Milagros Vazquez (Peebles), Tasha Rogers (Maxdale) and Julia Sellers (West Ward).
Secondary teacher finalists for 2019-2020 include Jeff Smith (Ellison), Kathy Hrometz (Gateway High), Jeremy Terry (Career Center) and Suzanne Andal-Book (Pathways).
The full slate of campus teachers of the year for 2019-2020 include:
KISD Elementary Teachers of the Year:
Christina Srock — Douse
Jossie Marino-Vega — Bellaire
Regina Beard — Brookhaven
Christina Pearson — Cedar Valley
Nathaniel Ladson — Clarke
Melody Jackson — Clear Creek
Rebecca Widmer — Clifton Park
Mashawn Sticca — Fowler
Lavette Hale — Harker Heights
April Calvert — Hay Branch
Nina Flick — Haynes
Michelle Kaaloa — Iduma
Anna Harms — Ira Cross
Kerri Bridegroom — Maude Moore Wood
Tasha Rogers — Maxdale
Carly Ross — Meadows
Patricia Chastain — Montague Village
Korin Lopez — Mountain View
Molli Odum — Nolanville
Melissa Thomas — Hobby
Milagros Vazquez — Peebles
Catherine Luna — Pershing Park
Angela Ellis — Reeces Creek
Megan Gordon — Cavazos
Patricia Austin — Saegert
Lisa Stewart — Skipcha
Jacqualyn Dingle — Sugar Loaf
Chong Chanthraboutda — Timber Ridge
Sonia Douglas — Trimmier
Dana Easter — Venable Village
Julia Sellers — West Ward
Lisa Deas — Willow Springs
KISD Secondary Teachers of the Year:
Morgan Fayerweather — Audie Murphy
Gerald Nicholas — Patterson
Ashley Haight — Eastern Hills
Graciela Pedroza — Gateway MS
Karen Lanxon — Liberty Hill
Roxanne Amador — Live Oak Ridge
Takia Dill — Manor
Justine Morales — Nolan
Elise Kea — Palo Alto
Andrea Howard — Rancier
Angela Michler — Smith
Elizabeth Magee — Union Grove
Jeff Smith — Ellison
Julia Cochran — Early College
Kathy Hrometz — Gateway HS
Peter Emerson — Harker Heights HS
Keina Cook — Killeen
Jeremy Terry — Career Center
Suzanne Andal-Book — Pathways
Deborah Moore — Shoemaker