COLLEGE STATION, Dec. 9, 2013 – Denise M. Captain, a pre-advanced placement chemistry teacher at Skyline High School in Dallas, has been selected to receive the Texas A&M University Inspiration Award for Exceptional Education. Her award will be presented during the university’s commencement ceremonies Friday (Dec. 13).
Teachers selected to receive this unusual award — believed to be the first of its type sponsored by any public university in Texas — are nominated by one of their former students who is classified as a senior at Texas A&M.
The recipient of the award is recognized during commencement ceremonies at the university, where he or she is presented a check for $2,000. The teacher’s high school receives $1,000.
As a university known for valuing excellence, leadership and service, Texas A&M sponsors the award as a way of recognizing those values in the teachers who have inspired and challenged their students to excel, officials note.
Captain was nominated for the award by a former student, Carla Beltran, who will be on hand to see her teacher honored by the university. Beltran will receive her degree in technology management from the College of Education and Human Development at the 7 p.m. commencement ceremonies Friday.
Beltran says she remembers the first day in Ms. Captain’s class when the teacher made it clear her course would be intense and she would challenge her students because she knew that they had the potential of going above and beyond.
“After that day, I was really worried about being able to push myself enough to the demanding course. Tough as the course was, Ms. Captain never stopped motivating us and encouraging us to push ourselves,” Beltran recalls. “This was truly the first course where I knew I had to study and she always spoke to us about the importance of getting a college education and preparing for the work force.”
Beltran says Captain became not just a teacher to her students but a friend who encouraged them to work hard to achieve their goals. “She would always go above and beyond with the aim of helping her students succeed,” Beltran says adding it was an important factor in helping Dallas-area students attend the Advancing Hispanic Excellence in Technology, Engineering, Math and Science (AHETEMS) Pre-college Symposia in Florida and Colorado.
“The symposium is one of the largest conferences for Hispanic high school and middle schools students interested in science, technology, engineering and math. By taking more than 30 students from Skyline High School, Ms. Captain allowed them to visit with representatives for colleges and universities and be informed about scholarship opportunities.”
Upon receiving a Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) award for Educator of the Year in 2007, Captain commented, "As a teacher you don't see rewards and success, but in due time, you see how students improve and challenge themselves to go above and beyond."
Beltran says her experience as Captain's student has let her see the teacher’s sincere and noble desire to want to inspire her students to achieve their academic goals.
“I believe that I am the person that I am now because of her guidance and advice. I have grown to be a responsible, self-motivated, respectful and confident person,” Beltran adds. “Nothing kept me from reaching my goal of earning my degree from Texas A&M University. I believe that the drive and confidence I have gained is because of the lessons learned through that challenging chemistry course and all the guidance given by Ms. Captain.”
She has stayed in touch with Captain and the teacher has proven to be a good mentor throughout the years.
“She is an instructor that truly loves her profession and truly cares about her student's success,” Beltran adds. “With the great impact that Ms. Captain has had in my life, it will be such a pleasure to see her receive this award. She has guided me to take the steps toward higher education and I will love seeing her take steps toward the stage at Reed Arena to receive this award, an award that that she truly has earned and deserves.”