A group of administrators arrived at Harlingen High School with balloons and a floral arrangement for a surprise visit to Teresa Cuellar’s classroom on the morning of June 2.
Cuellar, a Career Technology Education teacher at Harlingen High School who teaches child development and educational courses was selected from among many middle school and high school nominees across the state as Secondary Teacher of the Year in the Texas PTA 2021 Outstanding Educators of the Year Awards.
“I won something,” Cuellar said excitedly addressing her students, including those who were connected via Zoom, as a team of administrators walked into her classroom.
Beatrice Cruz, Treasure Hills Elementary Instructional Coach and City Council PTA Vice President was the first to speak.
“You have been selected to represent our great state and to represent our awesome district with all the things you do,” Cruz said. “Seeing you work and seeing you mold our students into our future teachers and future educators, it’s just a great example of who you are. What you do embodies our mission at PTA. You are making every child’s potential a reality. Every day you help our students, and we thank you on behalf of Texas PTA.”
Superintendent Dr. Alicia Noyola recognized Cuellar for her hard work and dedication to her students and the school district.
“She embodies what we hope for every teacher in our district and what we want every student in our district to have as a teacher,” Dr. Noyola said. “The greatest part is that you continue to model for students that want to be teachers exactly what a great educator looks like every single day. You are one that doesn’t rest. I’ve watched you over the years. Every day you work hard –out of your own heart and your own commitment, but the great piece is that our students get to see that. So, we thank you, we congratulate you, and we are so very proud of everything that you do.”
As part of the nomination process, Cuellar answered a list of questions where she shared the impact PTA had on her and her family as she was growing up.
“I started to tell them stories about when I was a little girl and how important PTA was for me and my family. We came from a very little town, and all we had was PTA,” Cuellar said. “Now I am a grandparent, I was a mother, I was in PTA. PTA is just a fantastic organization, and I just don’t think enough people realize what it does for the kids.”
Superintendent Emeritus Dr. Art Cavazos congratulated Cuellar for her achievement.
“We are honored that you will be representing us now at the state level,” Dr. Cavazos said. “Thank you for being a great teacher, a great mentor, a great friend, but more importantly, thank you for representing that ‘Cardinal Spirit Never Dies.’”
Harlingen High School Associate Principal Nelda Alonzo thanked Cuellar for her never-ending energy.
“I met you briefly at South when you were picking up students for a competition,” Alonzo said. “The energy she exuded at that time was just amazing, and I thought maybe she was just really excited because they were going on a trip, but I will say that energy has never stopped. I have only seen it grow. Going through the pandemic and all the obstacles that we have had to endure; she has been at the pivotal point of our CTE department. With all the Zooming and all the craziness that happens on a day to day at any point in time, we call her, tell her, and she resolves it. She keeps this building going day after day, and always with a smile.”
Cuellar shared that when she started teaching at HCISD, she was very close to earning her principal certification. However, after she began to train students to become educators, she decided she wanted to stay in the classroom.
“That was my point when I knew I had to stay with my students, and that was the best decision I have ever made,” Cuellar said.
A grateful Cuellar thanked everyone for the surprise and credited her success to the support of administration, her students, and her team of CTE teachers.
“You have to love your work,” Cuellar said. I tell my students that every morning I wake up and I want to come to work and it’s because of you all. I love my students. I also tell my students that this is the best school district to work for. We have an administrative team that believes in their teachers, listens to their voices, and we are so fortunate. I couldn’t do my job without my team. I am so happy to be able to work with this great group of teachers.”