H-E-B Chairman and CEO Charles Butt address the audience at the 2013 Excellence in Education Awards in Austin, May 3. Photo courtesy of H-E-B.
H-E-B Chairman and CEO Charles Butt addresses the audience at the 2013 Excellence in Education Awards in Austin. Credit: Photo courtesy of H-E-B

H-E-B announced the first flight of finalists for the grocery chain’s 2015 Excellence in Education Awards on Tuesday, marking the beginning of three months of anticipation for the award ceremony on May 2 that will result in cash prizes from $2,500 to $100,000 to teachers, principals, school boards, early childhood centers, and school districts.

This year the winners will be announced during a formal – and likely an emotional – ceremony at the J.W. Marriott hotel in Austin. The 2014 ceremony was held in Houston and featured legendary broadcast journalist Tom Brokaw as the keynote speaker. H-E-B Chairman and CEO Charles Butt also made a rare public appearance to pass out checks to thankful educators – who are classically underpaid and often underappreciated. The ceremonies are run much like they are in Hollywood; instead of little gold statues, educators get peer affirmation and big checks.

The H-E-B Excellence in Education Awards, now in its 14th year, is the largest monetary award program for educators in the state.

5/3/14 - Rising Star Secondary category winner Mary Lagletter of Earl Warren High School in San Antonio, Texas with HEB chairman and CEO Charles Butt at the HEB Excellence in Education Awards at the Grand Sonesta Hotel in Houston, Texas Saturday May 3, 2014..
H-E-B Vice President of Public Affairs Winell Herron (left) looks on as Rising Star Secondary category winner Mary Lagletter (right) of Earl Warren High School in San Antonio receives her gift from H-E-B Chairman and CEO Charles Butt at the H-E-B Excellence in Education Awards at the Grand Sonesta Hotel in Houston, Texas Saturday May 3, 2014. Photo courtesy of H-E-B.

“This is incredibly beneficial for putting a spotlight on public schools and what’s going right in public schools,” said local Warren High School history teacher Mary Lagleder while accepting her award last year for Rising Star. “You often see in news reports all the terrible things that are happening within our public schools. It’s so nice to see a spotlight put on the great things happening in public education and what it is doing for our young people.”

The finalists for small and large school districts, early childhood education facilities, and public school boards were announced this week. San Antonio’s Brighton Center and Northside Independent School District made the list for top school boards, but no local district was among the finalists for the top district award. Finalists will receive $85,000 just for making the first cut, and then will go on to compete at a statewide level for even more recognition and cash. More than $400,ooo will be handed out this year at the statewide ceremony.

Winners are determined by a panel of judges that visits the finalists’ jurisdiction or facility where panelists meet with administrators, faculty, parents, and community members.  They’re looking to highlight best practices in the state and to “celebrate the passion and creativity of Texas educators,” a press release stated.

H-E-B will announce 40 teacher and principal finalists in late February and March with surprise campus and classroom visits. Often times a decoy “routine” assembly is called to honor the teacher/principal.

The 2015 school district and early childhood finalists, as well as recognized school boards, are as follows:

LARGE SCHOOL DISTRICTS  – Winner Prize: $100,000

  • Arlington ISD — Arlington, Texas
  • Dripping Springs ISD — Dripping Springs, Texas
  • Valley View ISD — Pharr, Texas
  • Harlingen CISD — Harlingen, Texas
  • Katy ISD — Katy, Texas
  • Humble ISD – Humble, Texas

 SMALL SCHOOL DISTRICTS  – Winner Prize: $50,000

  • Port Aransas ISD —  Port Aransas, Texas
  • Burnet CISD — Burnet, Texas

 EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION FACILITIES – Winner Prize: $25,000

  • Central Texas 4C, Inc.— Temple, Texas
  • Trinity Child Development Center — Austin, Texas
  • Aldine ISD — Houston, Texas
  • Odem-Edroy ISD Early Childhood Center — Odem, Texas
  • Brighton Center — San Antonio, Texas

 PUBLIC SCHOOL BOARDS – Winner Prize: $25,000 (one or more)

  • Harlingen  CISD— Harlingen, Texas
  • Pasadena ISD — Pasadena, Texas
  • Humble ISD — Humble, Texas
  • Arlington ISD — Arlington, Texas
  • Northside ISD — San Antonio, Texas

Teacher and Principal Awards:

Two winning principals – one from an elementary school and another from a high school – will each take home $10,000 in cash while their respective schools will receive a $25,000 grant.

Six wining teachers – three from an elementary and three from a secondary school – will be selected in each of the following categories:
  • The Rising Star Award — honors exceptionally promising teachers with less than 10 years of experience. These winners will each receive a $5,000 check for themselves and a $5,000 grant for their schools.
  • The Leadership Award — honors teachers with 10 to 20 years in the classroom. These winners will each receive a $10,000 check for themselves and a $10,000 grant for their schools.
  • The Lifetime Achievement Award — salutes teachers with more than 20 years of experience. These teachers will each receive $25,000 in cash for themselves and a $25,000 grant for their schools.
*Featured/top image: H-E-B Chairman and CEO Charles Butt address the audience at the 2013 Excellence in Education Awards in Austin, May 3, 2013. Photo courtesy of H-E-B.

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Iris Dimmick

Senior Reporter Iris Dimmick covers public policy pertaining to social issues, ranging from affordable housing and economic disparity to policing reform and workforce development. Contact her at iris@sareport.org