2017 Educator of the Year
This Westie goes to a Westlake area teacher or administrator in recognition of his or her outstanding contributions to the educational community and to the enrichment in the lives of children through academic achievement. He or she inspires students of all backgrounds and abilities to learn, has the respect and admiration of students, parents, and colleagues, and plays an active and useful role in the community as well as in the school.
2017 Winner: Melinda Darrow, WHS Art History Teacher
Melinda has worked at Westlake High School for 28 years, beginning by teaching all grade and ability levels in the English department. She taught Senior AP English for many years and served as a College Board Reader of Advanced Placement exams. She felt every one of those years to be an absolute joy, but became ecstatic when Mrs. Linda Rawlings asked her to take over teaching AP Art History, which had only six students enrolled that year.
Since that time, she has built up the program to include 300 current students, many of whom are taking second and third year Art History courses due to their newfound love of the subject. In fact, the third-year students write 80-page theses over topics of their choosing, which they present to family and administrators at the end of the year. We use resources from the University of Texas Fine Arts Library, and for the first time this year, we traveled to Washington, D.C. to conduct research at the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian Museum libraries! The students have been thrilled to perform real-world scholarly research, and they feel well prepared for college work. My greatest reward is when students tell me that my class has helped them learn to think more deeply in all of their subjects and to be able to make connections that they never knew existed before.
She feels like the luckiest person alive to have taught the many students she has at Westlake. Students describe her as passionate, caring, and inspiring, and she is deeply grateful from all she has learned from THEM. Recently, a group of students gifted her with an admission ticket to any museum in the world along with the opportunity to travel and see some of the magnificent art they study. This past summer, a WHS student and she wrote and taught an Arts in Action curriculum to teachers and students in K-12 schools in Chennai, India. She said it was such a privilege and delight to introduce the importance of arts education in schools in which the students focus almost entirely on STEM subjects. The students and educators said that they felt they discovered a whole new world and a new way of thinking about our world.
2017 Finalists: Jenny King, Bridgepoint Elementary Kindergarten Teacher, Jessica Brown, Cedar Creek Elementary Principal
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