1st Place:  Melina Johnson / North East ISD

One of my most significant contributions to the field of education has been my time spent serving low-socioeconomic communities. I started my teaching career at Head Start in Las Vegas, Nevada. Head Start has a mission to prepare children and families for school readiness and life-long success. I take pride in knowing that I was able to serve children and families in the Head Start program. My time spent at Head Start was invaluable and rewarding, as it taught me how to excel in a diverse environment. I conducted home visits, educational support for parents, and served as a leader on my educational team.

In 2016, I was awarded the Professionalism Early Childhood Education Award from The Southern Nevada Association for the Education of Young Children. In 2022, I received the Trinity Prize for Excellence in Teaching for my service to Tuscany Heights Elementary. I started teaching at Tuscany Heights in 2020, during the peak of the Covid-19 Pandemic. I currently co-teach 5th grade inclusion with a certified special education teacher. Teaching in a special education inclusion classroom has been one of my greatest contributions and accomplishments as a teacher. I am proud of the positive classroom climate we have created where everyone is thriving at their own pace. I accepted the role as the grade level chair for the 2021-2022 school year.

My contributions include guiding my team through Professional Learning Committees, advocating support for our math specialists, scheduling, and resources. I am passionate about my work and strive to build meaningful relationships with my students and colleagues.

Melina Johnson

2nd Place:  Erica Warner / Judson ISD

Education, I believe has always been my true calling in life. Prior to becoming a classroom teacher, where I have shaped and molded many young minds, I worked as a trainer for new hires in corporate America. However, I have always had a soft spot for kids and an undeniable passion to teach others and learn.

One of my most significant contributions in education has been instilling lifelong skills in the many students I have the privilege of teaching. To be a witness to students not only learning the content of the material rather to apply it to their lived experiences has been one of my greatest joys in education.  Another significant contribution to education would be my work ethic. I am a role model for my colleagues, and I take that very seriously. I have never asked anyone to do anything that I would not be ready and willing to do myself, which is why I feel I've been able to execute my current position as Academic Trainer with complete confidence. I truly understand the dynamics of a student-centered classroom and the necessity of building relationships with students. I enjoy helping students and teachers accomplish objectives and encouraging them to reach their full intended potential. Sharing the knowledge that I've gained over my years in education is my greatest satisfaction. I am always seeking opportunities to enhance my knowledge so that I may stay current in my craft because of the forever rapidly changing education institution.

Additionally, I would have to say that my most significant accomplishment is that I believe I inspire others to seek excellence. I motivate fellow teachers and implement administrative directives without compromising my professional relationship with them. I believe that I have left a legacy with colleagues I've met in educational settings and everywhere that I have worked. I am a strong content expert which is virtually important when preparing students for high school and their post-secondary lives. My innovative ideas, techniques, and strategies have assisted with increased student engagement and growth within my classroom and beyond. Finally, just having former students return to inform me of what they learned in my classes extending beyond the classroom and having a profound effect not only on them and their families but the community at large is also my greatest.

Erica Warner


1st Place:  Kevin Williams / Marion ISD

At this point in my teaching career, I would say one of my most significant contributions and accomplishments in education has been my ability connect.  I focus on creating an environment that will make learning fun, challenging, and engaging.  I ensure that my students know what is expected to accomplish any project or task.  It helps for students to know what they are learning and how it connects to world.  With these two ingredients it makes it simple to bring fun and a purpose to learning, developing a student-centered learning environment.  This year I give a chance to host a Science Fair for all the 6th graders at my school to display their knowledge and understanding of science.  This was a great way for my students display to the community and their peers what they can accomplish.   This was the first time my school has every had a Science Fair and I am happy that I was able to do it.  I believe that I bring a sense of belonging to my campus, the community, and will continue to make that connection. I have done all this while still working on my Master’s degree in Teacher Leadership.

Kevin Williams

2nd Place:  Nia-Real Pina / Judson ISD

I had the opportunity to work as a tutor at a Boys and Girls Club as a staff and a tutor for seven years. As well as a student teacher I was an intern at a Title 1 school. I was privileged to be hired as an educator. As an educator I provide students with skills daily to be successful in society. I try to instill positive attitude and provide students with a great educational basis. A big part of my mission as a teacher is to build long lasting connections with my students. Having the opportunity to teach the future generation is the up most rewarding achievement of mine.

Nia-Real Pina

Special Education

1st Place:  Emily Hannemann / North East ISD

This year I was honored to be the recipient of both the Churchill Teacher of the Year and Trinity Teacher of the Year awards. The Churchill Teacher of the Year held a special place as it was voted on by my colleagues, so that acknowledgement resonates. As most teachers could attest my most significant contributions and accomplishments in education could go on forever. They are, of course, my students and the success they have after leaving my class. As a Special Education teacher, my group is always diverse and throughout my ten years of education I have noticed that what makes the biggest impact are the small things. Simply showing my students that I am happy to be at school, smiling, and saying hello is what builds the foundation for a successful relationship with my students. Common core values are my main skills I thrive on and could bring to your organization. I work in a co-teach setting, with my classes ranging from behavior plans, 504s, English Language Learners, to special education students. This is how I meet so many wonderful students in class and around school.

Emily Hannemann