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Keller and Parker Named 2017 Teachers of the Year

 
 
Keller and Parker
Pictured above: From left, Jennifer Parker, Superintendent Mike Kuhrt, and Michelle Keller celebrate Teacher of the Year wins at the annual Teacher of the Year banquet.
 
Two of the Wichita Falls ISD's top teachers won special acclaim April 13 when they were named the 2017 Elementary and Secondary Teachers of the Year, the most coveted titles in the District.
 
Ben Milam second-grade teacher Michelle Keller was named 2017 Elementary Teacher of the Year; Barwise Middle School eighth-grade science teacher Jennifer Parker was named the 2017 Secondary Teacher of the Year.
 
Ms. Keller and Mrs. Parker competed with 26 of the District's best-of-the-best, who were all honored April 13 at a special banquet.
 
Finalists for the elementary title were Kristi Donica, a fifth-grade math teacher at Franklin Elementary, and Megan Scroggins, a fourth-grade reading teacher at Southern Hills Elementary.
 
Finalists for the secondary title were Hirschi High School art teacher Thomas Evans and Rider High School biology teacher Bryce Henderson.
 
Nominees were selected for the honor by their peers. Winners were chosen through a point system.

The 26 nominees represent 416 years of teaching experience and commitment to education.
 
The two winners each received a monetary award provided by sponsors Jim and Vickie McCoy through Echometer and the WFISD Foundation, Inc. The finalists received a monetary award provided by the University Kiwanis Club.
 
Michelle Keller
Michelle Keller, 2017 Elementary Teacher of the Year, has taught for 23 years.
 
Her fascination with teaching began in kindergarten with the first of many remarkable teachers. Even her parents taught her Sunday School classes with such enthusiasm that it made her want to teach others, too, she said.
 
At Ben Milam, she has taught first and second grades since 2001. 
 
She specializes in using technology in her classroom and eagerly shares her discoveries with other teachers. She created a special website that has drawn comments like "I just stumbled on your website. It's awesome!" and "Thank you for putting so many wonderful things on your site!"
 
Ms. Keller was a pilot teacher for WFISD's Digital Learning Program and has won two IDEA Grants to enhance activities in her classroom. In the community, she directs the religious education at her church and distributes food through Heartland Share.

 

 
She likes to use technology along with interactive and cooperative learning activities to battle students' tendencies to shut down when lessons require critical thinking and problem-solving. "More students are wanting answers to come easily and quickly with minimal thinking," she said. "As educators of the future, we need to find ways to help them become more interested. As we say in my class, 'We are building myelin at Milam.'"
 
Ben Milam Principal Ana Griffiths called Ms. Keller a risk-taker who likes new opportunities and challenges and loves to share what she learns with other teachers. "The kids love her, and we love her," said Mrs. Griffiths.
 
Jennifer Parker
Jennifer Parker has taught for 11 years. The Barwise Middle School teacher watched her mother work as a paraprofessional and decided she would never have the patience or drive to work such long hours in a teaching position.
 
But then a teacher presented her with a list of the Top 10 Reasons she should become a teacher. She began considering the profession more seriously and envisioned what it would be like to help struggling students. She decided if she could build relationships with students the way her teachers built relationships with her, it would be worth it.
 
She became a science teacher who is also adept at giving students tools to be successful outside the classroom. She has co-sponsored the Texas Alliance for Minorities in Engineering (TAME) Club, trying to interest more young women in science careers. For 10 years, she has sponsored the colorguard program at Wichita Falls High School. She built the program from 7 girls to 25 and uses it to mentor them through their high school years.
 
For 12 years, she has also been active in the Junior League of Wichita Falls. She volunteers in activities that focus on young people.
 
In the classroom, she looks for new and exciting techniques to engage students. She participated in the District's Pilot Technology Program and is adept at using technology to deepen comprehension of her science content. She says: "The expectation I have for myself is to never stop striving for improvement and to challenge myself to instill this ambition in my students."
 
At her win, Principal Cody Blair called Mrs. Parker an outstanding educator. He joked that usually you find that the best teachers make the job of being a principal easier. "She doesn't," he said. "She insists that everyone get better, and she has raised the bar" in a variety of ways throughout the school. 
 
"She is always thinking outside the box and likes to be 'in the know,'" he said. "It's all because she loves kids. We are very, very proud of her."
 
 
Teacher of the Year Nominees
 
Teacher of the Year Nominees
Here are the 26 nominees for the 2017 Teacher of the Year honor:
Ashley Burross, Farris Head Start, pre-k 3 year-olds
Jamie Newberry, Booker T. Washington, 2nd grade
Deanne Holcomb, Brook Village Early Childhood Center, pre-k
Karen Evans, Burgess Elementary, 3rd grade
Sarah Chisum, Crockett Elementary, special education 
Kirk Shaffer, Cunningham Elementary, 4th grade math
Connie Parnell, Fain Elementary, K-6th reading instructional coach
Kay Hitt, Fowler Elementary, 1st grade
Kristi Donica, Franklin Elementary, 5th grade math
Katherine Miller, Haynes Northwest Academy, 4th, 5th grade ELAR
Jennifer Shaver, Jefferson Elementary, 1st grade
Gloria Ornelas, Lamar Elementary, EC-6th grade bilingual
Michelle Keller, Milam Elementary, 2nd grade
Christina Scruggs, Scotland Park Elementary, K-5th grade art
Della Pool, Sheppard AFB Elementary, 3rd and 4th grade reading
Megan Scroggins, Southern Hills Elementary, 4th grade reading
Denise Bilyeu, West Foundation Elementary, 1st -5th grade math
Monica Trevino, Zundy Elementary, 2nd grade
Jennifer Parker, Barwise Middle School, 8th grade science
Gwenna Gallenberger, Kirby Middle School, 7th and 8th grade biology
Jessica Borton, McNiel Middle School, 7th and 8th grade ELAR
Thomas Evans, Hirschi High School, 9th-12th grade art
Bryce Henderson, Rider High School, biology
Deborah Pepper, Wichita Falls High School, 9th-12th grade English & ESL
David Boller, Carrigan Career Center, 10th-12th grade collision repair
Melinda Krajca, Denver AEP, 1st-6th grade