Superintendent Dr. Jesus Chavez and teachers and administrators from Round Rock ISD accept a $100,000 grant as the winner in the Large School District category of the H-E-B Excellence in Education awards.. Photo Courtesy of H-E-B.
Superintendent Dr. Jesus Chavez and teachers and administrators from Round Rock ISD accept a $100,000 grant as the winner in the Large School District category of the H-E-B Excellence in Education awards.. Photo Courtesy of H-E-B.
Bekah S. McNeel

Education is a labor of love, no doubt about it. Teachers are often paid below the going rate of babysitting, yet their job is to inspire life-long learning and shape young lives – a tall order.

Most successful adults can call to mind a teacher who made a difference in their journey, and many have found ways to thank them. Many wish they could do more for the teachers who made a difference. So we can all applaud together when we see good work finally rewarded. Handsomely.

Superintendent Dr. Jesus Chavez and teachers and administrators from Round Rock ISD accept a $100,000 grant as the winner in the Large School District category of the H-E-B Excellence in Education awards.. Photo Courtesy of H-E-B.
Superintendent Dr. Jesus Chavez, teachers and administrators from Round Rock ISD accept a $100,000 grant as the winner in the Large School District category of the H-E-B Excellence in Education awards. Photo Courtesy of H-E-B.

H-E-B’s Excellence in Education Awards are more than another plaque or trophy to hang on the classroom wall. The recognition, affirmation and, yes, substantial cash prizes are more than token, they’re all but unprecedented. This year, the San Antonio-based grocery chain, now one of the country’s largest privately held companies, is awarding $585,000 to outstanding schools, administrators and educators across the state. This year’s awards bring the total, over the past 12 years, to $6.5 million.

H-E-B, which advocates for wellness with the same passion it shows for quality public education, has expanded the scope of the awards to include “Healthy Campus Grants” for outstanding health and wellness programs, and most recently, an early childhood grant focusing on kindergarten readiness.

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 address the audience at the 2013 Excellence in Education Awards in Austin, May 3. Photo courtesy of H-E-B. Credit: Photo courtesy of H-E-B

This passion for education flows directly from chairman and CEO Charles Butt, the state’s highest profile business leader engaged in supporting public school excellence. Butt serves on the board of Raise Your Hand Texas, and knows his stuff when it comes to education reform issues and school funding.

The Excellence in Education Awards are hardly a winner-take-all endeavor. Nominees and finalists received cash prizes on the path to the bigger awards, which were announced tonight, May 3, at Austin’s Hilton Hotel. Butt was present to hand out the grand prizes, and television journalist Soledad O’Brien, author of “The Next Big Story: My Journey through the Land of Possibilities,” delivered the keynote address.

Local educator Charlotte Dolat of Woodridge Elementary in Alamo Heights won the Elementary award in the Leadership category, a $10,000 cash prize for herself, and a $10,000 grant for her school.  Tuscany Heights Elementary in North East ISD and Indian Springs Elementary in Comal ISD both won Healthy Campus Grants, worth $15,000 over the next three years.

Winners of the H-E-B Excellence in Education grants share and emotional hug during the award ceremony last night in Austin, May 3, 2013. Photo courtesy of H-E-B.
Winners of the H-E-B Excellence in Education grants share and emotional hug during the award ceremony last night in Austin, May 3, 2013. Photo courtesy of H-E-B.

Honoring our teachers is something we can all do, in large and small ways. H-E-B continues to go big and give Texas public educators a half-million dollar thumbs up.

Here is the complete list of tonight’s winners:

Rising Star

The Rising Star Category recognizes teachers with less than 10 years of experience. Winners received a $5,000 check for themselves and a $5,000 grant for their school.

Rising Star Elementary:Monica Perez, Thomas Esparza Elementary, Edinburg, Edinburg CISD

Rising Star Secondary:Jessica Janota, Rockport-Fulton Middle School, Rockport, Aransas County ISD

Leadership

The Leadership Category honors teachers with 10 to 20 years in the classroom. Winners received a $10,000 check for themselves and a $10,000 grant for their school.

Leadership Elementary:Charlotte Dolat, Woodridge Elementary, San Antonio, Alamo Heights ISD

Leadership Secondary:Lisa Windolph, McNeil High School, Austin, Round Rock ISD

Lifetime Achievement

The Lifetime Achievement Elementary Category salutes teachers with more than 20 years of experience. Winners received $25,000 in cash for themselves and a $25,000 grant for their school.

Lifetime Achievement Elementary: Martha McLeod, Fulton 4-5 Learning Center, Rockport, Aransas County ISD

Lifetime Achievement Secondary: Dr. Mary Velasquez, Luther Burbank Middle School, Houston, Houston ISD

School Principal

Winning principals received $10,000 in cash for themselves and a $25,000 grant for each of their schools.

Principal Elementary: Mike Walker, Walter W. Fondren Elementary, Houston, Houston ISD

Principal Secondary: Dr. Scott Allen, High School for the Performing & Visual Arts, Houston, Houston ISD

Large School District

The winning large school district received a $100,000 cash prize.

Round Rock Independent School District, Round Rock: Superintendent Dr. Jesus Chavez

Small School District

The winning small school district received a $50,000 cash prize.

Hillsboro Independent School District, Hillsboro: Superintendent Dr. James Gilcrease

Early Childhood

The winning early childhood facility received a $25,000 cash prize.

Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Independent School District: Principal Consuelo Casas

Healthy Campus

Each campus received a $15,000 grant to be paid over three years.

Hemphill Elementary — Hays Independent School District, Kyle
Allison Elementary — Austin Independent School District, Austin
Glover Elementary — Fort Bend Independent School District, Missouri City
Edgewood Elementary — Spring Branch Independent School District, Houston
Atkinson Elementary — Pasadena Independent School District, Houston
Robb Elementary — Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District, Uvalde
St. Mary’s Catholic School — Brownsville
Lyford High School — Lyford Consolidated Independent School District, Lyford
IDEA Quest — IDEA Public Schools, McAllen
Tuscany Heights Elementary — North East Independent School District, San Antonio
Indian Springs Elementary — Comal Independent School District, San Antonio
James and Margie Marion Elementary – Allen Independent School District, Allen

Bekah is a native San Antonian. She went away to Los Angeles for undergrad before earning her MSc in Media and Communication from the London School of Economics. She made it back home and now works for Ker and Downey. She is one of the founding members of Read the Change, a web-based philanthropy and frequent contributor to the Rivard Report. You can also find her at her blog, Free Bekah.

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Bekah McNeel

Bekah McNeel is a native San Antonian. You can also find her at her blog, FreeBekah.com, on Twitter @BekahMcneel, and on Instagram @wanderbekah.