The Region One Education Service Center held its annual Teacher of the Year recognition dinner on Thursday, August 3, 2017, to honor the region’s District Teachers of the Year and to announce the names of the two teachers that will represent the region at the Texas Teacher of the Year competition.

Julia Otken, a fourth grade teacher at Mims Elementary School (Mission CISD) was named Regional Elementary Teacher of the Year. Andrea Joy Garza, a World History teacher at United South High School (United ISD) was named Secondary Teacher of the Year. Both were selected from an esteemed group of educators, nominated by their own school districts, to represent the region in the statewide Teacher of the Year program. In all, 46 District Teachers of the Year, representing 24 school districts/charter schools were honored for their excellence in the classroom.

Nominees submitted an application consisting of essay questions asking nominees to describe a lesson or unit that defines them as a teacher, describe a project or initiative that has contributed to the improvement of overall school culture, an explanation of how they ensure that education transcends the classroom, what they consider to be a major public education issue, and finally, as a spokesperson for teachers and students what is their message to t profession and to the public.  A committee comprised of representatives from various teacher and administrator groups evaluated the essay applications.

Julia Otken has spent her 12-year career at Mission CISD where she has served as a second grade teacher, as well as a testing and academic strategist. She feels the experiences from her previous positions have equipped her to identify student opportunities, utilize detailed analysis to meet student academic needs, develop varied instructional delivery methods, and build her capacity to address all students’ needs.  In her current position as a teacher in a gifted and talented classroom, Otken strives to challenge her students, and through various techniques aims to enrich student learning and student engagement as she teaches such concepts as equations, coding, teamwork, engineering, and problem solving. To ensure that her students grasp a concept, Otken utilizes all her learned teaching tools, including what she calls “her Vanna White method” to involve her kinesthetic learners, to engage her students in learning.

In the same way that she uses various teaching strategies to reach all students, Otken realizes the value of the “vast network of software, products, and websites” as resources for learning. “We are privileged to be educators during a period of flourishing applications because of the broad range of avenues available that lend themselves to the application of proven, effective approaches in instruction utilizing technological resources.”