Educator of the Year for 2017
This Westie will go 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.
Jenny King, Bridgepoint Elementary Kindergarten Teacher
Jenny has been a teacher for 22 years with this being her 12th year teaching kindergarten at Bridge Point Elementary. Prior to coming to Eanes, she taught first grade in Hays, Bastrop and Austin ISDs which provided an opportunity to teach students of multiple backgrounds and multiple abilities. As a kindergarten teacher, she is the first “big school” teacher a child will have and it is her responsibility to give students a positive first experience and foster a lifelong love for learning. She feels her greatest contribution is being an advocate for ALL of the children who enter her classroom, ensuring their individual needs are met, while challenging them to rise to their greatest potential, both as students and citizens.
During her time at Bridge Point she has served as team leader, a mentor teacher, a member of the Campus Leadership Team and the district language arts committee and was honored to be named Bridge Point Teacher of the Year in 2013. The 2017-18 school year has offered new challenges and horizons as she is part of the implementation of the district Futuro Spanish Immersion pilot program, which immerses young learners in a 50-50 split of English and Spanish learning. Last July, she attended the Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition Institute at the University of Minnesota for a week of professional learning. Teachers and administrators from around the world gathered together as a network of immersion educators learning about ongoing-research, sharing resources, and exchanging information.
Jessica Brown, Cedar Creek Elementary Principal
Jessica moved to the Westlake area in 2001 with her husband and two young boys. She has enjoyed being an active part of our community and participating in everything our community has to offer - our excellent schools, scouting, and various non-profit organizations. She had the great privilege of joining Eanes Independent School District (EISD) in 2003 as a third grade teacher at Bridge Point Elementary. During her tenure at Bridge Point, she also worked as a special education teacher and counselor. In 2012, she was honored to be selected as Bridge Point Elementary School’s teacher of the year. After working at Bridge Point Elementary, she was hired as the assistant principal at Forest Trail Elementary and currently serves as the principal at Cedar Creek Elementary. She is committed to working in education because she is passionate about helping students grow, both academically and socially. She believes there is nothing more joyful than having a former student share how a skill they learned in school has positively impacted their adult life.
As a member of the Westlake community and a parent of children with very different needs, she adds a unique perspective to her current role as administrator. Every decision she makes as an educator is focused on what is ultimately best for the student. Last year, she facilitated a group of parents and staff members through the process of evaluating a potential language immersion program for elementary students. After numerous hours of study and site visits, they presented recommendations to the EISD Board, who decided to move forward with a pilot Spanish Immersion program in our district. This is just one way we seek to continue to expand the amazing learning opportunities for our youngsters. She’s proud to be part of a district that models innovation for our students to enable them to become bilingual and encourage global awareness.
In addition to working in the EISD, she has volunteered with Texas Parent to Parent (TXP2P), a non-profit organization which supports parents who have children with special needs throughout the state of Texas. As a parent of a child with multiple disabilities, she’s passionate about connecting families to various support systems in our community. At times, parents of special needs children feel isolated and do not know where to seek support. She’s eager to share the knowledge that others have imparted on her with parents experiencing new, sometimes daunting, challenges. Previously she served as a TXP2P board member, and currently volunteers as a peer mentor for parents who request a match with someone who has a child with a similar disability.
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.
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