The Sam Houston State University College of Education has bestowed upon five individuals the highest honor it can give to its alumni for their expertise and outstanding service in the classroom, school, district and community, as well as their contributions to the field and society, for the 2012 Distinguished Educator of the Year award.
This year’s honorees include Susan Borg, Distinguished Administrator; Cheryl Conley, Distinguished Elementary Teacher; James Watson, Distinguished Secondary Teacher; Darla Fagan, Distinguished Support Professional; and Bertie Simmons, Distinguished Friend of Education.
The five will be recognized during the eighth annual Distinguished Educator of the Year ceremony on March 3.
Susan Borg credits the influence of outstanding teachers to directing her on the path to becoming an educator and an administrator.
At SHSU she earned a Master of Education degree in 1990 and her doctorate in education in 2010.
Currently assistant superintendent in Klein ISD, Borg began her career teaching in Michigan and Florida beforemoving to Texas to teach in the Spring school district.
As she leads, she always thinks first about the students, followed by how teachers can provide what children need to succeed, according to Borg’s assistant Sandra Vann.
“She builds capacity so that others can be successful; she knows how to facilitate change to bring about positive results; she listens; she has a calming influence; and she is well organized,” Vann said.
Distinguished Elementary Teacher
As one of the four national finalists for the 2011 National Teacher of the Year, Cheryl Conley, a 1994 graduate, has traveled across the country speaking to educators on current educational issues and topics, as well as promoting the importance of lifelong learning.
In addition to Conley’s strong commitment to education, she is equally as dedicated to creating strong bonds and partnerships with families and the community.
“I believe in children. I believe in their ingenuity, imaginations and curiosity,” she said. “Children have the limitless power to become whatever they wish to become.”
Currently teaching at OsceolaMagnet Elementary School in Vero Beach, Fla., Conley previously taught for seven years in the Cypress-Fairbanks school district.
Distinguished Secondary Teacher
James Watson has earned a reputation as a teacher who goes “above and beyond” to help his students truly understand history.
For Watson, reading about the past is not enough; making the classroom an interactive learning environment andmaking learning fun and exciting are priorities, he said.
For example, Watson provides opportunities for students to take part in weekend-long reenactments of Civil War times.
The 1993 SHSU graduate has been encouraging a love of history and leaving a lasting impression on his students for 18 years.
As a result of his efforts, he was awarded the Daughters of the American Revolution “Outstanding Teacher of American History” for the State of Texas in 2006 and the Major Jarrell Beasley Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution’s “Outstanding American History Teacher” in 2005.
Distinguished Support Professional
Darla Fagan, who began her journey as an educator after graduating from SHSU in 1980, has provided 30 years ofservice in middle schools, 12 of those years teaching language arts and theremaining 18 as a counselor.
Currently the counselor for Rasco Middle School, she serves a campus of 850 fifth and sixth graders.
Explaining that her goal is to “spread peace, faith, hope and love” as an educator, she strives to make a difference.
Whether addressing the needs of students, being a presenter at multiple conferences or providing hours of community service, Fagan puts her heart into all that she does, she said.
Distinguished Friend of Education
During her 56 years in education, Bertie Simmons has earned a reputation as a visionary, a creative problem solver, and a successful change agent.
As principal of Furr High School in Houston ISD, Simmons has turned the school and its student body around fromhopelessness, violence, and fear, to belief, opportunities, and academic achievement, according to those with whom she worked.
“It was described as a throwaway school,” Simmons said. “Almost the entire school was involved in riots with a total of 14 identified gangs.”
After being threatened and harassed to leave, she accepted the challenge and took 32 of her students to Ground Zero in New York City and said that as a result of that trip, the students learned to make peace with one another and this gave the school a chance to move forward.
“We have shown respect to the students and I get to know them, as well as find out what needs they have,” the 1977 graduate said. “I meet their parents and we all work together as a team.”