ESC Region 12
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Corsicana, Killeen Educators Named Region 12 Teachers of the Year

Waco, Texas –  Out of 77 school districts across the 12-county education service area of Region 12, two outstanding educators have been selected for the top teaching award — 2019 Region 12 Teacher of the Year.  While their paths to teaching are very different, it is apparent that both teachers are deeply committed to student success and providing learning experiences that apply to the real world and inspire lifelong learners.

Tanya Linex of Jose Antonio Navarro Elementary in Corsicana Independent School District is the Elementary Teacher of the Year and Joseph Merlo of C.E. Ellison High School in Killeen Independent School District is the Secondary Teacher of the Year.


Elementary Teacher of the Year

Tanya Linex has been teaching for 13 years, the last two in Corsicana ISD at Navarro Elementary.  She began her teaching career as an instructional aide in Mildred ISD where a principal recognized her talents and encouraged her to return to college and earn a teaching certificate.  After attending evening classes while working full-time in education, she graduated at the top of her class from Texas A&M University in Commerce. She has teaching certificates for early childhood through fourth grade as well as English as a Second Language. She taught first grade for nine years and then taught fourth-grade science and social studies.

Linex now teaches second grade and focuses on making lessons challenging, but also individualized to help all students feel successful and empowered.  She involves her students in adopting weekly learning goals and moves them through station rotations, based on their needs and weekly content. The station rotations encourage peer-to-peer collaboration, which Linex feels is important for students to build those skills as well as communication skills.  As a role model for this type of collaboration, Linex serves on a professional learning committee where she and teachers share experiences, research and discuss how to incorporate best practices to meet the needs of students.

“When you work with other teachers, it helps them feel confident in all aspects of content-based expectations and it contributes to a positive school culture,” said Linex. “Teachers then pass their learning and confidence to their own students!”

Linex works to instill a strong work ethic and desire to achieve success in her students. With a diverse group of students, she knows it is important for them to learn from industry experts and experience the world around them.  She provides these opportunities by inviting successful community/business leaders to the classroom to discuss their personal education and life journeys. Virtual field trips and videos allow her to take students outside the classroom, which leads to student interest, dialogue and research opportunities.


  •  Distinguished Teacher of the Year - Jose Antonio Elementary 2017-18
  •  Second Grade Team Lead, 2017-18
  •  Professional development presenter at district and campus level
  •  Serves on Professional Learning Committee for Writing
  •  Instructional Aide of the Year, 2005, Mildred ISD


Linex and her husband Raymond have three boys, who have learned from their mom that while life is not always perfect, nothing is impossible.


Secondary Teacher of the Year

Before Col. Joseph Merlo began teaching and leading the Army Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (JROTC) in KISD 14 years ago, he served 20+ years in the United States Army as an Army officer.  Merlo is described as a teacher and a leader who works with students to ensure they grow emotionally as well as intellectually. Merlo’s teaching philosophy focuses on three pillars: be approachable, be consistent and be respectful. He believes that students respond to teachers they can connect with.

“I engage students by building lessons so that they are relevant and apply to each student, whether he or she will attend a top-tier university, a skills/certificate-based program or something in between,” said Merlo. “I believe students want to learn things they can apply in real life whenever possible.

Merlo also focuses on motivating young people to become better citizens through leadership and followership development. Instruction activities range from academic challenge and physical readiness to social etiquette to college enrollment.  He also involves students at all levels of the program so they experience real-world challenges.


  •  Selected as Killeen ISD 2018 Secondary Teacher and C.E. Ellison High School Teacher of the Year 2018.
  •  Oversees one of the top-rated Junior ROTC programs of the 360 in the region and has held the highest possible rating for a JROTC unit, Honor Unit with Distinction as its leader for the past 14 years.
  • Rated as a JROTC Subject Matter Expert and leads best practices training through JROTC Instructor Seminars.
  •  Selected from more than 800 instructors in the brigade as one of 12 Subject Matter Experts to assist with curriculum development for JROTC program.
  •  Led students through a problem-solving process to increase student interest in extracurricular clubs and activities.
  •  Led the Ellison JROTC unit through its Program for Accreditation in 2017-18, earning the highest possible rating and Honor Unit with Distinction.
  •  Has served as a mentor to new JROTC Instructors.


Merlo holds a Bachelor’s and Master’s of Science in Business Administration. He also completed advanced military studies at the US Army Command and General Staff College.

ESC Region 12 will recognize both honorees and the Region 12 Superintendent of the Year, Dr. George Kazanas (Midway ISD) at a luncheon later this summer.