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West Teaching Excellence Awards Delivered

West Teaching Excellence Awards Delivered

Twenty winners celebrate with tears, cheers



On Rider High School’s “Mum Day,” Mike Kuhrt is forced to silently write out his happy announcement to Rider science teacher and West winner Bryce Henderson (right, holding balloons). Associate Superintendent Peter Griffiths pantomimes congratulations as Principal Dee Palmore looks on.



Superintendent Mike Kuhrt and Associate Superintendent Peter Griffiths visited 16 schools on Sept. 30, balloons in hand, to greet 20 teachers who were named the 2016 West Teaching Excellence Award winners.


The coveted West Teaching Excellence Awards have been a district tradition since 1983. The honor is provided by the West Foundation. The 20 teachers selected this year are considered tops in the field of WFISD’s 1,200 teachers.


Mr. Kuhrt and Mr. Griffiths announced each win by striding into the winner’s classroom, interrupting the teaching, and telling the students that their teacher had won one of the district’s most prestigious awards.


It meant their teacher was one of the district’s best, he said.


“That’s not surprising,” said one Wichita Falls High School student in Kevin Nguyen’s orchestra class.



West orchestra

Superintendent Mr. Mike Kuhrt surprises Wichita Falls High School orchestra/piano/AP music theory teacher Kevin Nguyen in his classroom and tells him that he is a West Teaching Excellence Award winner.


“I thought I was in trouble,” confessed West Award winner Katie Flippin, a three-year teacher, after the group burst into her room.



McNiel Principal Tania Rushing joined Mr. Kuhrt in congratulating McNiel teacher Katie Flippin on Friday in her classroom.



Rider High School was in the middle of “Mum Day,” a longtime tradition of silence on the day of the school’s hottest football game rivalry with Wichita Falls High School, when the administrators breezed into Bryce Henderson’s classroom.


Without speaking, Mr. Kuhrt wrote, “2016 West Foundation Award” on a white board for all to see. Mr. Henderson smiled and silently typed a “thank you” response into his computer, which projected his message onto the overhead screen.


In 1983, the West Foundation established its tradition of honoring the 20 best WFISD teachers each year. From the beginning, they have selected recipients of high moral character and talent without limiting themselves to specific schools, grades, subjects or career lengths.


They look for candidates who exhibit a positive attitude, classroom enthusiasm, poise, and dedication to their teaching craft. They also look for teachers who value continued learning. Teachers are nominated by their principals.


Winners have received checks up to $5,000 apiece from the West Foundation, making this a $100,000 gift from the Foundation directly to WFISD teachers.



When Mike Kuhrt learned that McNiel technology teacher Courtney Reames was out of the building that day, he called her up on the phone to announce her prestigious win of the West Teaching Excellence Award. Here, he congratulates her via smart phone.



The 2016 West Teaching Excellence Award winners are:

  • Veronica Hunt, kindergarten, Booker T. Washington Elementary
  • Gary Cunningham, welding, Carrigan Career Center
  • Adrian Cargal, 5th grade science, Crockett Elementary
  • Samatha Campbell, first grade, Fowler Elementary
  • Kristi Donica, 5th grade math, Franklin Elementary
  • Lexi Law, 5th grade science, Franklin Elementary
  • Jeff Pirkle, 10th/11thS. History, Hirschi High School
  • Amy Simmons, instructional math coach, Jefferson Elementary
  • Elena Martinez, 2nd grade bilingual, Lamar Elementary
  • Katie Flippin, 7th/8th special education math, McNiel Middle School
  • Courtney Reames, 6th-8th grade technology, McNiel Middle School (formerly Kirby)
  • Mindy Duncan, 1st grade, Milam Elementary
  • Bryce Henderson, science, Rider High School
  • Danielle Michaud, 4th grade math, Scotland Park Elementary
  • Teresa Zellner, 5th/6th grade reading, Sheppard Elementary
  • Michelle Boone, instructional math coach, Southern Hills Elementary
  • Charisse Humphreys, 3rd grade science/social studies, West Foundation Elementary
  • Katie Wilson, kindergarten, West Foundation Elementary
  • Patrick McCauley 12th grade, government/AP government, Wichita Falls High School
  • Kevin Nguyen, orchestra, piano and AP Music Theory, Wichita Falls High School




Mike Kuhrt presents balloons to Gary Cunningham in honor of his West Award win. Mr. Cunningham is the district’s current 2016 Secondary Teacher of the Year.


Kristi West

Balloons, smiles and cheers fill Kristi Donica’s Franklin Elementary classroom when Mike Kuhrt announces Kristi’s West Award win.




Lexi West

Franklin teacher Lexi Law cheers her own West Award win but explodes in excitement when she learns that her partner teacher across the hall, Kristi Donica, has also won.




West parents

Lamar Elementary bilingual teacher Elena Martinez was surprised in her classroom Friday. Her parents were also present for the announcement that she won the West Award.



The 20 winners will be honored with a special banquet on October 25.