A Rogers Elementary School student works on a painting. Photo courtesy of SAISD.
A Rogers Elementary School student works on a painting. Photo courtesy of SAISD.

The San Antonio Independent School District (SAISD) Foundation’s Inspire Awards recognize teachers and alumni who have inspired change in at least one of SAISD’s 93 schools or 54,000 students.

In its fifth year, the award ceremony will be held at the Pearl Stable on Wednesday night from 6-9 p.m. Proceeds from the event will primarily fund $500 mini-grants to teachers throughout the district. In previous years, those grants have been used to fund programs like Girls in Engineering Math and Science (GEMS), chess, robotics, running and coding clubs, new classroom libraries, reading spaces, iPad learning stations and more.

Judy Geelhoed, the executive director of the SAISD Foundation, said the grants serve as a tool for “leveling the playing field for low-income schools” across the district.

“If you don’t know how much you can do with $500, you’re not a teacher,” she said.

The SAISD Foundation funded 56 mini-grants during the 2013-14 school year, and last year that number rose to 162 mini-grants because of the support of the Inspire Awards. Along with the mini-grants, the award ceremony partially funds larger grants of up to $5,000 to teachers, teams of teachers, grade levels, and schools.

The alumni award recipients receive a mounted plaque at their former school, and teacher recipients receive additional grant money.

“It’s been a growing event over the last five years,” Geelhoed said. “Last year was the first time we raised more than 100,000 for the event, and this year we have already brought that in before the event begins tomorrow.”

But more than the grant money, the ceremony recognizes “all of the great people who have been educated in SAISD,” Geelhoed said.

“I think we have a really powerful lineup, she said. “We have some great honorees.”

SAISD’s new Superintendent, Pedro Martinez, will be present to share some of his future plans for the district. KSAT 12 anchors Ursula Pari and Greg Simmons will co-emcee the event.


Leadership Award

Alumna of Burbank High School, Alma L. López-Cavazos, served as an immigration and family law attorney for 25 years. In 1993, she became the first Hispanic woman to be appointed to the Fourth Court of Appeals and in 2002, the first to serve as Chief Justice until her retirement in 2008. She is an active volunteer for state and national organizations that encourage women to fight domestic abuse.

Excellence Award

Alumni of Highlands High School, the Millers of the Bill Miller Bar-B-Q Family, have made a series of generous donations to SAISD. The family donated $1 million for the purchase of Fiesta Plaza at the University of Texas at San Antonio and $300,000 to the City of San Antonio for the placement of Mama Patrols at school crossing areas.

Service Award

Alumnus of Brackenridge High School, John Quiñones, did not know English when he started school at the age of six, but went on to graduate from St. Mary’s University and the Columbia School of Journalism. He became an ABC News correspondent in 1982, and is now the host of “What Would You Do?” on ABC. Quiñones is a seven-time Emmy award winner.

Innovation (Educator Winners)

Jason Jones, a music teacher at Highland Hills Elementary School, is a Teach For America member and co-teaches the only elementary strings music program in SAISD.

Jennifer DeWaelsche, a librarian at Rogers Middle School, started a lunch time Scrabble club at her school and has helped other SAISD teachers start Scrabble programs in their schools. Three of her students placed in this year’s Texas State Scrabble Tournament.

*Top image: A Rogers Elementary School student works on a painting. Photo courtesy of SAISD.

Related Stories:

‘Inspire Awards’ Celebrate SAISD Success

Inspire Awards Highlight SAISD Excellence

Pedro Martinez: Why I’m Coming to San Antonio

Inner-City School Success: San Antonio’s Best-Kept Secret

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Joan Vinson

Former Rivard Report Assistant Editor Joan Vinson is a San Antonio native who graduated from The University of Texas with a bachelor's degree in journalism. She's a yoga fanatic and an adventurer at heart....