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Twelve Teachers Honored as Campus Educators of the Year Announced

                Twelve Cleburne ISD educators have been honored by their teammates as 2022-2023 Campus Teachers of the Year.

                Honorees from the district’s elementary schools are Thomas Inabinet-Adams; Amy Thomas-Coleman; Adriene Herring-C.C. Cooke; Staci Hobby-Gerard; Mindi Bentley-Irving; Mollie Ford-Marti and Robyn Elmore-Santa Fe.

                Receiving recognition at the secondary level are Trish Moore-Smith Middle School; Amanda Montgomery-Wheat Middle School; Keli Price-Cleburne High School; Marisol Alvarez Lira-TEAM School and Rachel Bays-Phoenix.

                The campus educators will be recognized by Trustees at the May 15 school board meeting, and the CISD Elementary Teacher of the Year and Secondary Teacher of the Year will be announced.

                Inabinet is being honored by his campus peers in his first year at Adams—and CISD. He is the science and social studies teacher for the fifth grade Gators. A 21-year teaching veteran, he says choosing education as a career remains one of the best decisions he has ever made.

                “I chose to be an educator because I wanted to make more of a difference in what I did for a living,” Inabinet said. “I was content, but not always happy, working in the corporate world. After my father’s death, I reassessed what I was doing and realized I wanted to do more. I felt as a teacher, I could directly ‘create our future’ through educating young minds. As a teacher and role model I could help lead children to a path of success, achievement and ultimately, happiness as young adults. I think it was one of the best decisions of my life.”

                Thomas is being honored for the second time as a Coleman Teacher of the Year. After 12 years working with kindergarteners, she is experiencing her first year—teaching first graders.

                “I think this recognition should go to all the staff at Coleman Elementary who have helped me, guided me and loved me,” Thomas said. “I am so grateful for my first-grade team for answering all my questions and teaching me the ropes in working with these amazing first graders. All the teachers, staff and administrators who walk the halls of Coleman Elementary are the real MVPs.  I am honored to be a part of this campus, this school district and this community.”

                Thoughts of a career inspiring young minds, as an educator, began while Herring was still a student. She has spent 16 years engaging young minds in kindergarten through grade 2. This is her first year at Cooke, and she works with second graders.

                “Throughout school I had so many amazing educators that truly helped me strengthen my desire to teach,” she said. “As I sat in their classes, I remember thinking, ‘one day I want students to feel as excited about learning as I do.’ I wanted to be the same kind of teacher as they were to me.”

                Hobby serves as a behavior specialist at Gerard, where she has taught for four years. This is her first year outside the classroom, working with Grizzlies across grade levels--and with her fellow teachers in a new way.

                “Being nominated for campus teacher of the year by my peers is an honor and an accomplishment,” Hobby said. “I went out of my comfort zone this year by taking the position of behavior specialist. I have had the opportunity to work closely with many teachers on my campus to help with classroom management and have enjoyed getting to know so many of the students. My days are never the same--and the experience has been wonderful.”

                Bentley has spent her entire teaching career—27 years—at Irving Elementary. She worked with first graders for 24 of those years, spending the last three with second grade learners. A product of Cleburne ISD and a member of the CHS Class of 1990, she credits her teachers as the inspiration in her decision to become an educator. Bentley’s daughter, Lauren, will soon experience her first year of teaching as a new member of the CISD instructional staff for 2023-2024.

                “Throughout my educational journey as a student in Cleburne ISD I was introduced to wonderful teachers that I looked up to,” Bentley said. “Priscilla Talley, who was my second-grade teacher at Coleman, had high expectations for me. Ruby Lee Head, my third-grade teacher, wanted me to be successful and cared enough to keep my parents informed of my progress. You could see Eddie Sewell, my World History teacher in my sophomore year, loved teaching. It showed through his engaging and animated lectures. Sherri Bell, my English teacher, introduced me to Shakespeare and a love of reading. Golden Pride Band Director Dick Helmcamp taught me that hard work pays off, and that you can be strict while loving your students at the same time.”

                “These are the people that inspired me to become a teacher because they made learning fun and engaging,” she said. “They invested in me and made a difference in my life. I firmly believe that I was called to be a teacher. I love what I do and can’t imagine doing anything else.”

                Ford teaches fifth-grade math at Marti. Growing up, her teachers provided both a learning and a secure environment when her home could not.

                “School was a place that I could go to feel safe,” she said. “My teachers never knew the home life I was hiding, but they made all the difference for me. I want to be that person for my students because I know what a difference a teacher can be in a child’s life. It is important to me to know every student I have and that includes knowing what motivates them, helps them learn, makes them smile and piques their interest. Knowing each student helps me to individualize their care or provide extra attention when they are having a rough day, so they can remain focused on learning.”

                “In addition to equipping them with knowledge, as an educator I believe every student deserves a voice, deserves to be heard, deserves to feel safe—and know that they matter.”

                Elmore serves as an academic interventionist at Santa Fe. As the child of a teacher, Elmore vowed she would never choose that as a profession.

                “Growing up, I witnessed the tireless hours my mom committed to work when she was at home,” Elmore said. “Quite frankly, it was hard to share my mom with all those other kids.”

                But Elmore loved working with children, which inspired her to pursue a degree in sociology, with plans for social work. In her senior year of college, she interned at a non-profit in Houston, working with kids in coordinating an afterschool tutoring program.

                “Seeing illiterate 16-year-old boys coming to tutoring—mostly for snacks and hanging out rather than homework help and reading books together—broke my heart,” Elmore said. “I soon realized the homework they were bringing wasn’t getting done because we first had to help them read the book that went with their homework assignment. We made some changes, and we began seeing progress in our work with students. One of the kids’ high school teachers asked what I was doing in my tutoring program because her students had started coming to class with more confidence and a desire to learn. After our conversation, I knew my purpose was to be in schools, giving students access to opportunities to learn as much as possible.”

                A U.S. Marine Corps veteran, Moore began what would be a second major deployment in her life when she decided in 2016 to “enlist” as a substitute teacher in Cleburne ISD. She is now a certified Reading/Language Arts teacher for grades 6-8.

                “I saw the opportunity to work as a substitute and decided to try it,” Moore said. “I had been a sub at Smith for about a month when I was offered the position of paraprofessional in the In-School Suspension classroom. I had no idea that would be a stepping-stone to my journey in becoming an educator.”

                “It didn’t take me long to realize the enormous love the Smith administrators and teachers had for students,” she said. “Seeing the devotion and beaming pride the faculty had for teaching, guiding and inspiring young minds made me realize that I also wanted to play a role in shaping the future of children through education.”

                While working with students, Moore was also working on her own education, achieving a Bachelor’s Degree followed by a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction. She became a member of the Smith teaching staff in 2020. The same day she was named Smith’s teacher of the year, her mother, Carol Everitt, cafeteria manager at Santa Fe Elementary, received the CISD Heart of Gold Award.

                Crediting a teacher who threw out a lifeline during her struggles as a student, Montgomery chose to become an educator to provide the same care, help and encouragement she received. “Coach Mo” to many of her students and student athletes, the Wheat seventh grade math teacher believes her calling extends beyond curriculum, as she strives to help her learners grow academically and socially/emotionally.

                “My role as a teacher is to meet every student where they are and at their point of need,” Montgomery said. “My aim is to help them generate a sense of hope and determination, in addition to gaining math skills. I strive to help students discover their potential—that will drive them to set goals and achieve their dreams. They also deserve a place where they feel they belong, and don’t have to worry about the stresses they may have outside of school.”

                Price has 26 years in education—the majority spent in CISD as an elementary language arts and gifted/talented teacher. She moved into secondary education in 2017 when she was named the theater arts teacher at Cleburne High School. With a strong background in theater as an actress, director and choreographer, Price was encouraged to apply for the “part.” She added the required credentials necessary to teach theater at the secondary level—and directed her first high school musical production that fall.

                “I chose to become an educator because of my 8th grade English teacher,” Price said. “I knew in my freshman year of high school that I would be a teacher. Finding theater as a passion years later has been the icing on the cake. I love teaching—and theater—so what I get to do every day at Cleburne High School is pure joy.”

                Lira is completing her first year as a science teacher at TEAM School, which was preceded by more than 20 years as a teacher and coach at Wheat Middle School. One of her biggest points of pride as an educator is creating the CISD College, Career and Military Readiness program, which she designed and implemented at both Smith and Wheat as a required course for 8th graders.

                “In my second year of coordinating the CCMR program at Wheat, I took my eighth graders one step farther in having them design their four-year graduation plan, as incoming freshmen,” Lira said. “I wanted my students to take advantage of everything CISD had to offer—and I wanted them to know all they could accomplish in their time at Cleburne High School.”

                “Once their eyes were open to the many classes, programs and opportunities offered at CHS, including Career and Technical Education, they were excited about high school and I no longer heard any comments about dropping out,” Lira said. “They were ready to move forward in learning more. The toughest choice for them was narrowing down their options and deciding what courses to take—because they wanted to take them all. What I cherish the most from those experiences was the trust I felt my students had in me, to help plan their future. I loved pointing out their strengths—especially to those who didn’t realize they had them. It was very rewarding to see them create their personal road maps for those final four years in public education, with graduation as their destination.”

                Bays teaches secondary language arts at the district’s Phoenix campus. She began her teaching career in 1999, joining the Phoenix staff in 2018.

                “I chose to become an educator because I believe it was my destiny,” she said. “Teaching is the hardest job I have ever had, but it has been the most rewarding. The greatest reward is seeing students, present and past, go on to accomplish their goals and dreams.”