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 — the 2022 Region 12 Teachers of the Year. James Cook of Cedar Valley Elementary in Killeen ISD is the Elementary Teacher of the Year, and Krystle Moos of Midway High School in Midway ISD is the Secondary Teacher of the Year.
"We are extremely proud of these remarkable educators," said Jerry Maze, Ed.D., Executive Director of ESC Region 12. "The time and energy they dedicate to their students, their peers, and the profession is truly an inspiration for others to follow."
Elementary Teacher of the Year
James Cook has been teaching for six years—all in Killeen ISD, serving as a fifth-grade math teacher at Cedar Valley Elementary for the last five and previously as a Title I teaching aide. Before becoming a teacher, he served 22 years in the United States Army with his last position as Senior Instructor/Platoon SGT/Operations Sergeant.
Cook believes in building relationships that foster trust - allowing students to become free-thinking individuals capable of researching facts and making informed decisions while finding their purpose. He vows each day to make a positive impact on someone.
After teaching all core subjects, Cook saw a growing need for delivering math content that students can use outside the classroom. In addition to traditional lessons, he developed and uses a system that teaches financial literacy, budgeting, borrowing, and contract litigation. Knowing the lifelong value that financial literacy provides, Cook's program pays students for attendance, good citizenship, peer tutoring and leadership or volunteer tasks. The students pay rent for school supplies, internet access and hardware. His students can use their savings to purchase specialty items like supplies and healthy snacks; however, they have to pay fines for misbehavior, being late, or not returning items by deadlines. The students learn how to manage a balanced budget and consequences like bank fines for mismanaging money or unpaid bills. His students quickly learn how their earning potential goes far beyond a salary.
As an educator, Cook believes teachers can significantly impact students by engaging with them outside the classroom. The former military sergeant often attends his students' sporting events, performances, or church services. After agreeing to attend one such church service, a student surprised Cook by honoring him as the most influential person in her life, helping her trust and communicate with adults, despite former tumultuous experiences. Seeing her growth and the positive impact she has on her peers is just one example that Cook shares about the positive impact teachers can have on their students. He knows that every student needs to see that their teachers care about them beyond the classroom and that showing interest in them will engage them to be responsive and want to achieve more than normal expectations.
In addition to providing academic instruction that relates to the real world and building strong relationships with his students, Cook works to support his students' social-emotional health. The former army sergeant initiated "Free Hugs," part of a more extensive program to bring people back together. His students created signs offering free hugs to parents and grandparents from their teachers. Once the program took off, the kids lit up with excitement after witnessing the difference a small, simple action can have on others.
Cook works tirelessly to instill a love for learning in his students and model his passion for lifelong learning, sharing the challenges and rewards along his life's journey. Ultimately, the elementary teacher feels that while a student may one day forget what he taught them, they will never forget how he made them feel. The teacher enjoys hearing from former students eager to share and hear more about Cook's journey, but he mostly loves learning how students are embracing their journeys.
"We applaud the committee for recognizing the enthusiasm for education demonstrated by Mr. James Cook,” said Killeen ISD Superintendent John Craft. “Empowering and educating students while providing quality education and creating innovative learning experiences, Mr. Cook has played a critical role in the lives of his students. We are proud to have him represent Killeen ISD and teachers across the state of Texas during the most challenging year in education."
Cook has a Masters in Education from Louisiana University, a Bachelor of Arts from Troy University, and holds a 4-8 generalist teaching certification. He is married to Keina Cook, a Killeen High School teacher, who taught the first African American Studies course in Killeen ISD. Together they have three children, a fifth-grader at Cedar Valley Elementary, a sophomore at Harker Heights High School, and their oldest is a 2012 Ellison High School graduate.
Secondary Teacher of the Year
Krystle Moos has been teaching for 12 years, currently serving as a chemistry teacher at Midway High School. She also serves as a professional learning community leader and as a science fair & science UIL coach. Before joining the Midway Panthers in 2012, she was a teacher for Waco ISD.
The daughter of a science educator, Moos began her life with a passion for uncovering the science in the world around her. She brings this passion into the classroom through hands-on lab experiments and lessons while building students' confidence in working through complex concepts. Inspired by her growth mindset, Moos emphasizes learning as a life-long process to master the most difficult topics. The high school teacher encourages student growth through productive struggle and uses this principle to guide her chemistry lessons. She creates and uses a positive environment to build relationships with students, help them celebrate small successes, and feel the support necessary to work through assignments. Knowing that students have different learning styles, she provides multiple opportunities to demonstrate learning, emphasizing understanding processes rather than only having correct answers.
Through these instruction practices, she sees students gain a deeper understanding of the content, motivation increase to solve problems--driving an increase in assessment scores, student engagement, and excitement. Much to the credit of Moos, enrollment in AP Chemistry has tripled over four years, with ongoing student-to-student mentorship that extends after high school. AP chemistry is now more diverse than ever before while maintaining AP exam scores above the global and Texas average.
The impact she sees through her mentoring and student leadership in STEM and science activities encourages the Midway Panther to keep pushing the boundaries within each lesson to continue to inspire students in realizing their full potential.
Her classroom culture that encourages scientific inquiry builds scientific interest often transcends the classroom, crossing over to other subjects and programs. One example includes a program for students at the high school to mentor intermediate students to develop projects based on science-related issues. Another example of the high school teacher's efforts to expand effectiveness across classes and grades includes her integral role in the growth of the district's Advancement via Individual Determination (AVID) program for high achieving students underrepresented in college. She quickly learned that the program provides benefits for all students in every classroom and worked with the team to develop lesson formats for teachers to use in science classes that would benefit all students. This includes her coaching science teachers in strategies, such as developing program-solving journals and incorporating gallery walks of laboratory reports connecting, writing, collaboration, and reading in the laboratory investigations..
To communicate her belief that learning is a continual, life-long process, Moos shares her ongoing growth with her students, such as serving as a teacher leader for APTeach and working on the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards certification process. From leading worldwide professional development sessions to hosting pre-service teachers in the classroom, she hopes to inspire current and future education leaders and foster a classroom that embraces diversity in learning by celebrating the productive struggle for students.
“Mrs. Moos is unsurpassed in enthusiasm and motivation,” said Midway ISD Superintendent Dr. George Kazanas. “She is magnetic; the AP Chemistry program has tripled and flourished as students continue to flock to her classroom and excel in AP testing. Beyond academics, Mrs. Moos takes a sincere interest in connecting with each student. I could not ask for more from any educator. She is so deserving of this honor!”
Moos holds a Bachelor of Arts in Biology from Hartwick College and teacher certification in science. She is married to Scott Moos, an engineer at L3. Together they have three children - a kindergartener at Spring Valley Elementary, a 6th grader at Woodgate Intermediate, and an 8th grader at Midway Middle School.
As Region 12 Teachers of the Year, Cook and Moos will serve as nominees for Texas Teacher of the Year which TASA will announce in mid-August. Also, the Region 12 Superintendent of the Year is Dr. Brandon Hubbard, Superintendent of Chilton ISD.
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