Sam Houston State University’s College of Education has announced the recipients of its 2013 Distinguished Educator of the Year Awards.
Among those being honored for their excellence both in and out of the classroom are LaTonya Goffney, “Distinguished Administrator” from Coldspring-Oakhurst Consolidated school district; Romaira Rodriguez, “Distinguished Elementary Teacher” from Houston ISD; DeAnna Murrell, “Distinguished Secondary Teacher” from Willis ISD; Pamela Voyles, “Distinguished Support Professional” from Port Aransas ISD; and Education Service Center Region VI, “Distinguished Friend of Education.”
The four professionals and the local entity will honored with “the highest honor the college bestows upon its alumni” during the annual awards ceremony and dinner on March 2.
LaTonya Goffney, Distinguished Administrator
Serving Coldspring-Oakhurst Consolidated Independent School District, LaTonya Goffney is being honored for her work in overcoming administrative difficulties and low-TAKS scores as the College of Education’s “Distinguished Administrator of the Year.”
The superintendent of Coldspring-Oakhurst CISD, earned her doctorate in educational leadership and counseling from SHSU in 2011.
Goffney is known for putting into full force the motto “Those who believe can achieve,” forming programs such as “Whatever it takes” to recognize teachers and a Teacher Professional Academy to assist and providing new and struggling teachers with a support system.
“It is her extraordinary poise and style in contributing her best to all of her undertaking that creates an environment that draws the best from her colleagues, faculty, and staff in the district,” a colleague said.
Goffney said she fuels her desire for all students to graduate with choices and opportunities with vigor and determination.
Romaira Rodriguez, Distinguished Elementary Teacher
Romaira Rodriguez is honored with the “Distinguished Elementary Teacher of the Year” award for her gracious work with bilingual education.
The 2009 SHSU graduate, who earned her master’s degree in administration, has worked diligently with children from low- to no-income families whose second language is English, providing constant guidance, creativity and understanding of the diverse classroom that has made school fun for the children of Helms Elementary School in Houston.
Her colleagues commended her for her proactive efforts to make both her classroom and other programs she is a part of a success, her constant willingness to lend a hand, and her sharing new ideas and technology with others.
This can be seen in Rodriguez’s dedication of much of her youth to building a foundation of community service and in her fervent activivity in her community.
“Her discipline is impeccable and she uses love and logic,” a colleague said, adding her calm and gentle, yet firm, guidance has opened up many opportunities for the children in her class to learn and be well prepared for real-life situations while alsoproviding them with a safe, nurturing environment.
Her work with the second graders at Helms Elementary has earned her recognition and appreciation by parents who are in awe of her phenomenal and approachable demeanor, affirmed by her belief “that education takes place not only in schools but also within families, communities, and society.”
She strives to serve as a positive model, a guide, and an inspiration to students to do their best.
DeAnna Murrell, Distinguished Secondary Teacher
To one child she is more than just an English teacher, she is the “mother that [he] never had.” “For others she is a companion, a friend, a peer and these descriptors carry on to describe her character as “dedicated, trustworthy, loyal, honest and sincere.”
DeAnna Murrell, a 1990 SHSU graduate, believes that “students’ success in the classroom has everything to do with relationships,” and this truth is lived out in her classroom design.
For this philosophy, she has been named “Distinguished Secondary Teacher of the Year.”
Murrell has been noted for the amount of time she spends time getting to know her students and letting them come to know her.
It is this common ground and her clearly laid expectations of their academic performance thatenables her students to overcome difficulties and challenges that they facethroughout the school year, colleagues believe.
She passionately serves the community around her by reaching out to both local and national causes, such as Relay for Life, and soon she hopes to start a program that breaks down bullying at its core.
Murrell is said to put her heart and soul into teaching while focusing on working with those around her to make Willis ISD “the district of choice.”
Pamela Voyles, Distinguished Support Professional
Pamela Voyles’s role in the Port Aransas Independent School District for the past 10 years has taken the idea of “librarian” to an entirely new level, earning her the distinction of “Distinguished Support Professional.”
Voyles, who received her master’s degree in library science in 2011, focuses on the idea that “libraries must adapt and not remain stagnant,” and she works to live up to these expectations.
Her transformation projects range from a complete revamping of one of the three district libraries she oversees, to securing additional Kindles and iPads, creating a state-of-the-art district web page, and adjusting to the demands of new literature.
Her contributions do not end at the library doors; rather, they overflow into the classroom and community.
Voyles teaches a sewing course in the mornings, and the projects extend into the community from quilts, to costumes, to teddy bears for elementary school children who get sick at school.
She has created a three-year plan to steadily increase comfortable seating in the libraries, as well as continually adding new technological advances.
Her colleagues,faculty and staff recognize her as a “new-age librarian.”
Education Service Center Region VI, Distinguished Friend of Education
The Education Service Center Region VI is being honored as the “Friend of Education” for its employees’ outstanding commitment to the districts they serve.
The center works diligently to improve student achievement, boost effectiveness and efficiency of the districts those students are a part of, while also implementing laws and regulations passed by both the Texas Legislature and the State Board of Education.
Region VI is in Sam Houston State’s own backyard, serving more than 160,000 students and 16,900 teachers and administrators spanning 15 counties.
Employees consistently live up to their motto, serving their districts with their very best efforts and commitment.