Association of Texas Professional Educators
Association of Texas Professional Educators

Round of Applause

Round of Applause

Let’s give a round of applause to our ATPE members all around the state who go above and beyond.


Gretchen Bell-Young, an art teacher at Hairgrove Elementary School, was named the 2023 Texas Art Educator of the Year by the Texas Art Education Association (TAEA) during its conference in November. Bell-Young was also Hairgrove’s Teacher of the Year for the 2012-13 school year.


The following ATPE members were named 2023-24 Teachers of the Year for their respective campuses:

  • Choice Magnet Category Campus Teachers of the Year:
    • Julian Beltran, School for the Talented and Gifted in Pleasant Grove
    • Jennefer Ramirez, Townview Health Professions
    • LaKeysha Specks, Mark Twain School for the Talented and Gifted
  • Elementary Category Campus Teachers of the Year:
    • Maria Cortez, Julius Dorsey Leadership Academy
    • Trifari Crawford, J.N. Ervin Elementary School
    • Leslie Davis, Seagoville North Elementary School
    • Carolyn Donnell, Paul L. Dunbar Learning Center
    • Yolanda Gomez, William M. Anderson Elementary School
    • Gabriela Sosa-Land, Bishop Arts STEAM Academy
    • Brian Young, T.G. Terry Elementary School
    • Rosalinda Zubia, John Neely Bryan Elementary School
  • Secondary Category Campus Teacher of the Year:
    • Nicole Stovall, L.G. Pinkston High School

Ector County

Dr. Robert Brescia, a history and social studies teacher at Permian High School and an appointed teacher member of the State Board for Educator Certification, attained National Board for Professional Teaching Standards certification and received a $3,000 check from Ector County ISD.


Jared Kitchens, a gifted-and-talented teacher at Crestview Elementary School in Frenship ISD, signed his books at the Lubbock Book Festival in November. Kitchens has written five books: Seasons of the Wither, The Temporal Trinity, Quondam et Futurus, Spiral Sisterhood, and States of Matter: Up and Atom.

Liberty Hill

Caitlin Workman, a Liberty Hill ISD graduate and Texas A&M University ATPE member, received the Always Expect More of Aggie Teachers Award from Texas A&M’s Department of Teaching, Learning and Culture (TLAC). The award recognizes outstanding TLAC Clinical Teachers that demonstrate exceptional work ethic and commitment to the teaching profession.

Medina Valley

Joy Hudspeth, the choir director at Castroville Elementary School, received the Above and Beyond Award at Medina Valley ISD’s November board meeting. Seven of her choir students also received Star Student Awards at the meeting.


CBS News Texas presented the Crystal Apple Award to Traci Gandara, a fourth grade teacher at Henrie Elementary School. Gandara was most recently recognized for lending a helping hand to a student and her family. After the family’s refrigerator broke down, Gandara made sure they had food to replace what was lost. The family also credits Gandara for their child’s passion in art after Gandara paid for her to attend an educational camp for gifted and talented students.

Midway (12)

Stacy Spink, a second grade teacher at Castleman Creek Elementary School, received the Morlin Medal from the School of Education at Abilene Christian University in October. Spink was also a teacher finalist in the 2023 H-E-B Excellence in Education awards.


KENS 5 in San Antonio presented the EXCEL Award to Mary Frances Nino, a prekindergarten teacher at Elm Creek Elementary. Nino has taught at Elm Creek Elementary since the campus opened in 1997, and she has also taught kindergarten and first grade in her 27-year tenure.

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