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 2023 Region 12 Teachers of the Year. Lorenz Villa of La Vega ISD is the Elementary Teacher of the Year and Anthony Meurer of West 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
Lorenz Villa has been teaching for 28 years, with the last seven in La Vega ISD, serving as a 4th-grade dual-language teacher and previously as a reading, English as a Second Language (ESL) and math teacher for the district. Villa has also served as a math, reading and social studies teacher in Waco and McAllen ISDs. Before becoming a teacher, Villa spent nine years working as a missionary in Mexico and is also a United States Air Force veteran.
Villa's military and work experiences have translated well to a successful teaching career, tying lessons to career experiences and using hands-on activities to demonstrate concepts and guide students to solve problems and explore topics more deeply. Through his experience teaching multiple subjects to English-speaking and English learners, he sees the impact active learning in topics like science has on reading and writing skills. He sees growth in students' skills when they work together in groups to investigate and solve problems, support and respect their peers, and be comfortable with taking risks and making mistakes. He has committed his career to working with students from a low socioeconomic background with a focus on mathematics since it is a key to a career in the growing fields of technology, engineering and science.
For Villa, building trust and connecting to parents and students is the first step to fostering learning. He sees each student as a microcosm of a community, often showing him opportunities to model what he teaches through learning and serving others in the community. His work in Mexico as a health and community development missionary helped him understand that families entrust their children to educators, which is no different from what he sees now. Villa is always ready to serve fellow teachers and leadership, which was evident at the onset of the pandemic. The elementary teacher provided additional support to Spanish-speaking families throughout his campus, translating teachers' lessons, communicating with parents, and making home visits to students who were falling behind with online assignments. He ensured parents knew what resources were available and how to access them, even providing his cell phone for additional support after-hours. Through his diligent efforts and commitment to building relationships, he serves as a link to guide students in school and everyday life–having an ongoing impact on their success.
Villa readily accepts any challenge he encounters and is passionate about helping students learn their native language and the English language. He has led several afterschool programs to create and maintain a culture of learning and cooperation. One example is his work through a Science of Flight grant, which allowed students to work together after school to learn the principles of flight through building, modifying, and testing flight creations. The program not only increased skills around the topics and improved listening and speaking skills but helped students from diverse populations develop friendships.
The elementary teacher also created a chess club through an education grant, creating opportunities for kids from differing backgrounds to find common interests and enjoy learning together. While the pandemic delayed the momentum of a districtwide chess program the teacher hoped to see, he continued providing time for chess tournaments during school. He also encouraged and saw the activities continue beyond the school day. This year, he hopes to see the program continue to grow and offer a districtwide tournament. After seeing an increase in the number of dyslexia students in English learners, Villa completed extensive studies in dyslexia and began supervising a daily afterschool program to serve a group of students, some of which were two years behind in reading. The results have been very encouraging for the students and their parents.
Villa remains committed to his personal growth through ongoing professional development, serving as a teacher leader, and advocating for his school and education. When asked what message he would deliver if chosen as a state or national teacher of the year, he said he would remind teachers to always focus on their blessings–and to be mindful of the factors that many students are dealing with, whether it be poverty, domestic violence, the pandemic or food insecurity. He credits his becoming a teacher to his Bible studies and his success to modeling the love he sees fellow teachers show their students and each other every day. He urges teachers to be open to challenges, stay encouraged, be involved, and be blessed.
Education & Family
Villa has a master's in education administration from Grand Canyon University, a bachelor of science from Columbia International University and certifications in elementary and bilingual/ESL, as well as a principal's certification. He has also studied Spanish in Costa Rica and Mexico. The La Vega Pirate is married to Diane, his high school sweetheart. They have four adult children and nine grandchildren.
Secondary Teacher of the Year
Anthony Meurer has spent most of his 40-year career teaching agriculture science right where he graduated from–West High School. Before West, he taught agricultural science in Hillsboro ISD.
Meurer's teaching style combines behaviorism and constructivism while helping students make connections to everyday life. This approach not only engages students but allows them to retain the information. Whether it involves building projects or selecting and feeding animals, the West Trojan immensely enjoys guiding his students through the learning process, often resulting in financial wins, recognition, and experiences they use past graduation.
This teacher, who works with students in ninth through 12th grades, incorporates safety into every lesson to provide a solid understanding of how things work and how to fix problems and maintain systems, such as electricity. Through his teaching, Meurer also shares data about how the classroom study applies to future jobs and which ones are in high demand. One of his favorite classes to teach is Power Systems in Agriculture Facilities. A class that starts with terminology and safety protocols quickly moves to students designing circuits and working in groups to wire a system. Students test for success, troubleshoot issues and lean on one another to move to the next project phase. He helps them realize that their individual and group contributions achieve positive outcomes, often involving the groups competing (and winning) at their projects' local, district, area, and/or state levels. Meurer sees students grow in their knowledge and skills and take pride in their completed work.
As an ag teacher, he oversees the construction of many projects. A favorite was the students' design for a barbeque smoker on wheels. The work involved researching, drawing plans, visiting cook-off competitions and preparing a budget. Students worked on different pieces before completing the project as a whole and then building a trailer to hold the pit. Following this work, the students built and added a grill and fish cooker and finished with lighting, paint, safety chains, and everything in between. Testing and their hard work proved successful as the students competed in an FFA banquet, cooking briskets that served 260 people.
This smoker ensemble is used for various activities, even cooking for board members during Board Appreciation Month and other activities.
Student Involvement & Community Connections
Meurer prioritizes community involvement in his teaching and connects students of different abilities to community initiatives. He asks students to support service projects where they can apply their skills to projects that benefit others. The FFA veteran connects students to speaking opportunities at community meetings, such as the Kiwanis Club, to showcase their work (projects, showing animals, etc.) in exhibits at shows, fairs, etc. Ultimately, he provides experiences in his classroom and through groups like the FFA and 4-H, so students learn how to be productive citizens of society. Meurer is a role model, staying active in community groups and ag associations as a leader, coordinator and volunteer.
If chosen as a state or national teacher of the year, Meurer would share his belief that as a society, we must prioritize helping kids develop communication skills and place more accountability on both students and adults–– society as a whole. He advocates for healthy boundaries to support emotional development and awareness, clear and high expectations, rules for the safety and welfare of all individuals, respect and understanding of others' abilities and limitations and rewards for efforts and consequences, positive or negative––since both lead to actions.
Meurer feels blessed by the opportunity to be a part of the lives of young people and continues to look forward to a new year, both the challenges and the opportunities to positively change students' lives.
Education & Family
Meurer has a master's in science and a bachelor’s in science agriculture from Tarleton State University. He has teaching certifications in Vocational Ag (6-12), Farm & Ranch Mechanical Repair (Ag Mechanics) & Career Preparation. The West Trojan is married to Debbie and they have two grown children and three grandchildren.
2101 West Loop 340
Waco, TX 76712
Phone: (254) 297-1212
Main Fax: (254) 297-2960
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