Walking through the halls of Jefferson Elementary School and the Dr. Abraham P. Cano Freshman Academy, two unsuspecting teachers were in for the surprise of their lives as administrators and students celebrated one of the highest honors for an educator at the Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District.
On May 5, Jefferson music teacher Donna Fee and Dr. Cano Academy Social Studies teacher Linda Salinas were named the 2014 – 2015 elementary and secondary HCISD Teachers of the Year, respectively. With their title, they will also be the district’s two selections for the Region One Teacher of the Year competition.
“Donna Fee and Linda Salinas represent the caliber of excellent teachers our district possesses,” said Superintendent Dr. Art Cavazos. “Their selection is a result of the amazing work they do in their classrooms each day. They inspire creativity in their students and strive to ensure success for all of them. We thank them for their efforts and look forward to seeing them represent our district as the elementary and secondary Teachers of the Year at the regional level.”
As an added surprise, the teachers were both awarded a $500 Teacher Innovation Grant from the Harlingen Area Educational Foundation (HAEF). The grants were given for the first time this year to encourage these outstanding teachers to further innovation in their classroom and promote student engagement, said HAEF President Janine Campbell.
“Never in a million years did I expect this,” said Fee. “I am so excited and humbled. I want to say thank you to all my colleagues and Mr. Olivo [Jefferson principal]. I couldn’t have done any of this without the support of my colleagues and of course, it’s all about you guys. It’s all about the students.”
“I am very honored and blessed to be named our district’s secondary Teacher of the Year,” said Salinas. “It was such a surprise, and I’m so excited to have the opportunity to represent our district. Teaching for me is very exciting; because I’m able to see my students really grow from one day to the next. Because I love what I do, I am able to pass on that passion to my students and really see them grow a love for not only the subject but a life long learning.”
Fee has been an educator for 19 years and has always had a passion for music education. She was inspired to pursue teaching music after seeing the positive impact that a creative musical lesson can have on student’s excitement to come in and learn each day. One of the highlights in her classroom is that she considers the music room to be a safety-learning zone that is free from destructive criticism.
She aims to build trust in her classroom and encourage her students to create art through songs, stories and music.
“I strive to make learning exciting and relevant to my students,” said Fee. “To see the joy in students’’ faces while they sing, dance and make music together is a great reward.”
Salinas has been teaching students for five years. Coming from a family of educators, she attributes her inspiration to teach to growing up in the classroom, she said. Taking her mother’s dedication as the groundwork to her own teaching style, it’s her mission to create a supportive climate and culture with all stakeholders involved.
Along with her unique approach to classroom engagement, she also gets some assist from technology in her classroom. She is a first year Digital Classroom teacher, which allows her to incorporate digital devices into the learning that takes place.
“In my classroom, I expect excellence from all, and I hold everyone to the highest standards,” said Salinas. “My students know that I am always looking out for their best interests because I care about their future.”
Fee and Salinas will compete with teachers from across Cameron, Hidalgo, Jim Hogg, Starr, Webb, Willacy and Zapata counties for the Region One Teacher of the Year award. The regional winners then go on to compete at the state level for the Texas Teacher of the Year award.