Four of 12 finalists have been named 2015 Dallas ISD Teachers of the Year.
This year, one teacher from the elementary and secondary categories and an elementary and secondary teacher from the magnet/special schools category were selected to receive the top award at a special event honoring them on Thursday, Oct. 22.
Tara Broadus at Joseph J. Rhoads Learning Center received the award in the elementary category and Rachel Harrah, from Thomas Jefferson High School won for secondary.
Michael Ruiz at William B. Travis Vanguard/Academy for the Academically Talented and Gifted received the elementary magnet/special schools nod, while Dana Clark from Irma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership Academy won in the secondary category.
All 12 finalists for 2015 Dallas ISD Teacher of the Year were distinguished teachers as measured by the Teacher Excellence Initiative. There were four finalists in the elementary school category, four in the secondary category and four in the category for magnet and special schools.
About the winners
Tara Broadus has taught prekindergarten at Joseph J. Rhoads Learning Center for 11 years. A doctoral candidate and self-described lifelong learner, she sees ongoing learning as a powerful instructional tool.
“Lifelong learning is a staple in how I work to improve classroom effectiveness,” Broadus said. “I have remained in school since 1999 and continue to obtain professional development hours during the summer related to my grade level. I believe that there is always something to learn, some takeaway, that I have not tried that can be the difference maker in how I instruct my students.”
Colleague Lynsey Wade praises Broadus for her skill and generosity. “She sets the foundation for her students and nurtures their ability to better than they ever imagined,” Wade said. “Her work ethic and leadership skills are simply amazing. Not only does she care about her students, but she cares about her team and is always there to lend a helping hand no matter what the task may be.”
Rachel Harrah has 16 years of teaching experience, the last three as Theater Arts teacher at Thomas Jefferson High School, where she develops and presents seminars for colleagues and at instructional leadership conferences across Dallas ISD.
Thomas Jefferson Principal Sandi Massey credits Harrah with building one of the best theater programs in the district.
“In four years, she has built one of the best programs in Dallas, growing from a mere 70 students to a total enrollment of 530 students,” Massey said. “The students enrolled in theatre programming make up over 30 percent of the student population, and the theatre program is now one of the largest and most prominent programs in the Dallas ISD.”
In the last four years, she has received over 20 grants for her classroom from Dallas Theater Center, AT&T Performing Arts Center, Junior League of Dallas, Dallas Summer Musicals, Shakespeare Dallas, and New York University.
Dana Clark has taught science at Irma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School since 2004. During that time, she has fired the imaginations of her students and others around the country as she blogged from such far-flung locations as Mount Kilimanjaro as part of an international team studying climate change, and from Alaska as a member of a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientific delegation mapping the Alaskan seafloor.
Clark says such experiences are meant to excite her students about the study of science.
Student Josie Ibarra says being in Clark’s class is a life-changing experience.
“Through the course of our years in school we categorize our teachers based on how they teach, such as the boring teacher, the fun teacher, the strict teacher, the demanding teacher, etc.,” Ibarra said. “Ms. Clark has her own category that cannot be summed up into a few words, because she is a teacher that impacts more than your education, but she impacts your entire life. Science may not be your favorite subject or even the easiest, but Ms. Clark makes science one of the best parts about my day.”
Michael Ruiz is a fourth-grade science teacher at William B. Travis Academy/Vanguard for the Academically Talented and Gifted, where he mentors younger teachers, designs and presents professional development for teachers of gifted students, and coordinates the school’s coding club. Ruiz also blogs about education and technology and develops bilingual teaching curriculum for multiple subjects.
Regarding his teaching philosophy, Ruiz says he promotes student buy-in in his classroom by creating projects that require students to work as a team alongside their teacher.
“My advice to any teacher, new or veteran, would be that 23 people working towards the same goal will always be more effective than one,” Ruiz said. “The key to student success is to create student buy-in. My greatest successes have resulted from having students work with me, rather than for me. I achieve this by crafting lessons that motivate students to take charge of their learning.”
At the event, WFAA-Channel 8 news anchor Cynthia Izaguirre served as master of ceremonies. Student groups participating included the Elite Quintet from W.E. Greiner Exploratory Arts Academy; the JROTC from Townview Center; the Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy Jazz Band; and W.T. White High School’s Vocal Dimensions choir.
Dallas ISD also congratulates the eight other Teacher of the Year finalists:
- Evelyn Gallegos – W.A. Blair Elementary School
- Monica Battison – T.G. Terry Elementary School
- Rafael Mercado – Urban Park Elementary School
- Elizabeth Pittman – H. Grady Spruce High School
- Aparna Sankararaman – Woodrow Wilson High School
- Angela Adams – Sarah Zumwalt Middle School
- William Adkins – Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy
- Nancy Shotts – W.E. Greiner Exploratory Arts Academy
View additional photos from the event here.