ESC Region 12 Award Winners
ESC Region 12 is committed to recognizing winners in our region.
Dr. Bobby Ott
The Central Texas native has served as superintendent of Temple ISD since 2018 and as an educator for 24 years, demonstrating leadership in military, rural, urban, suburban and fast-growth districts. His previous positions include assistant and deputy superintendent in Temple, Copperas Cove and Killeen ISDs. He also served as an executive leader for both the Texas Education Agency and University of Texas.
Under Ott's leadership and support, the district has seen gains in closing student achievement gaps. The performance gap for kindergarten to 1st-grade Hispanic and 1st- to 2nd-grade African American students has decreased by 50% due to a continued focus on screening and intervention. The latest data also shows academic growth in reading in several student groups, including those receiving special education services and English-learning students.
Ott is well known for being intentional about connecting with all groups and being collaborative. He works closely with the school's board of directors, named the 2019-2020 Region 12 and Honor Board of the Year (a top five state finalist). Board members say the energetic leader is candid and timely with communications and committed to working cohesively as a team. In addition to regular board work and relations, Ott often provides an in-depth analysis of district functions, such as school finance, enrollment growth and state accountability. The board credits his leadership style and interactive communications with helping them to work as a high-functioning team making decisions in the best interest of those they serve.
Read the Press Release >>
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.
La Vega ISD
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.
Dr. Brandon Hubbard
Dr. Brandon Hubbard has served as superintendent of Chilton ISD since 2016 and as an educator for 17 years. His previous positions include principal, assistant principal and teacher in Chilton and Waco ISD.
Under Hubbard's leadership, Chilton ISD has a culture of continuous improvement, creativity and innovation. He challenges every staff member to "Go Beyond" demographic and statistical limits in pursuit of excellence. The CISD leader uses student data to develop staff and student support. During the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 academic years, psychometric analyses predicted that Chilton ISD would perform at the 'D' level based upon student demographics. Hubbard used this prediction as a rallying cry for the staff and students. In each of those academic years, the school reached a 'B' rating. Hubbard and his team are confident that they will achieve an 'A' rating through systematic instructional practices.
Hubbard leads with the philosophy that "Challenge + Support = Growth." He believes that challenging students and faculty without relational support is futile and leads to irreparable frustration. Likewise, too much support without meaningful challenge leads to stifled growth and prevents organizational accountability. Therefore, he strives for a balance between a culture of high expectations and support structures for all to be successful.
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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.
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.
Dr. David Edison
Aquilla ISD Superintendent Dr. David Edison has served as superintendent of Aquilla ISD since 2010 and as an educator for 20 years. Previous positions include principal, assistant principal, administrative intern/teacher, and teacher/coach.
During his time serving as superintendent at Aquilla ISD, Edison led the district in a successful bond election. Edison also completed a 3-phase building project, which included a new gymnasium, building and safety renovations, and an Agricultural Complex.
Edison is also known for his successful management of district finances.
Copperas Cove ISD
Misty Thomas, Ph.D. has been teaching for 12 years, with the last eight as a chemistry teacher at Copperas Cove High School. Before joining Copperas Cove ISD, Thomas taught U.S. History, Texas History, World History, and Language Arts in Killeen ISD. Previous to her teaching career, Thomas served in the U.S. Army as Captain of the Signal Corps at Fort Hood, Texas; Baghdad, Iraq; Camp Red Cloud, and South Korea as well as Lieutenant of the Chemical Corps at Fort Drum, New York.
Thomas utilizes her love of learning, leadership abilities, and innovation both inside and outside of the classroom to provide a safe and inclusive learning environment for all students.
Laurie Sims has been teaching for 44 years. She began her teaching career at Temple ISD in 1975 and after teaching at St. Francis Episcopal School from 1983-2002, Sims has been with Temple ISD ever since. Sims has served as a first-grade teacher at Kennedy-Powell Elementary for the past nine years and previously as a kindergarten teacher at Kennedy-Powell Elementary, first-grade and second-grade teacher at Carter Elementary, kindergarten teacher at St. Francis Episcopal School, a first-grade teacher at Scott Elementary, and migrant teacher at Meredith-Dunbar Elementary.
Sims values creating lessons that allow her students to take ownership and make connections outside of the classroom walls. Sims embraced the challenge brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, giving her students the opportunity to write thank-you notes to essential workers, teaching them to make connections and express gratitude within their community--a concept that is often difficult for first-grade students to grasp.
Temple ISD Board of Trustees:
Dr. Sandhya Sanghi, Linell Davis, Shannon Gowan, Temple ISD Superintendent Bobby Ott , Board President Dan Posey, Board Vice-President Ronnie Gaines, Shannon Myers and Board Secretary Virginia Suarez
Morgan Castillo has been teaching for 15 years, with the last three as a fifth-grade science teacher at Woodgate Intermediate. Before joining Midway ISD, Castillo served as a Spanish teacher in several school districts and as an International Baccalaureate program coordinator in Waco ISD. During her early twenties, Castillo's eyes were opened to the impacts of systemic poverty and the lack of quality education through poverty exposure trips to developing countries and volunteering in under-resourced communities. Through connecting with people on a personal level and seeing the universality of struggle, Castillo chose to serve in public education, realizing the impact of quality education on a child's success. She began her teaching career in inner-city schools to better understand the challenges faced by students in urban areas.
Castillo believes creating a desire for lifelong learning empowers others and gives them the confidence to pursue their dreams and make a difference in the world.
Read the Press Release>>
Greg Oubre has been teaching for 11 years—all in Waco ISD, serving as a third-grade teacher at Dean Highland Elementary for the last six and previously as a teacher at Doris Miller Elementary.
Oubre uses a combination of the Whole Brain Teaching method, processing skill exercises, balance beams and unique gameplay to produce fast-paced, engaging lessons for his students. He also provides professional development in classroom technology, classroom management and Whole Brain teaching. Oubre believes educators must be mindful of the ever-changing environment that inner-city students are growing up in and create lessons that are engaging, rigorous and entertaining.
The Copperas Cove Independent School District Board of Trustees:
Back Row, from left: Bob Weiss, Mike Wilburn, Jim Copeland and Superintendent Joe Burns; Front Row: Vice-President Inez Faison, President Joan Manning, S. Ann Davis and Secretary Karen Harrison.
Dr. George Kazanas
Dr. George Kazanas has served as superintendent in Midway ISD since 2012. He has overseen a number of innovative instructional programs and impactful student support services, including the district’s 1-to-1 technology program, flexible learning environments and collaborative research partnerships with Baylor University. Under his guidance, the district has seen growth in the number of distinctions based on STAAR scores, an increase in the number of students taking college entrance exams, and a reduction in expulsions.
He holds a doctorate in educational leadership and policy studies from Tarleton State University, and a Master of Science, among others.
LTC Joseph Merlo
LTC Joseph Merlo has taught in Killeen for 14 years and leads the Killeen ISD Army JROTC program. He 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 and they, “want to learn things they can apply in real life whenever possible.”
His focus is motivating young people to become better citizens through leadership development.
Tanya Linex has taught at Navarro Elementary in Corsicana for two years. She 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.
Linex is a role model for this type of learning and believes confident teachers, “pass their learning and confidence to their own students!”
West ISD Board of Trustees
Dr. Larry Sparks, President
Larry Hykel, Vice President
Leigh Crawshaw, Secretary
Dr. John Crowder
Dr. Marc Faulkner
China Spring ISD
Dr. Marc Faulkner has served as superintendent in China Spring ISD since 2012. His actions and attitude focus on implementing systems, policies and practices that encourage his students, his faculty and his community to strive for excellence.
Faulkner is an active member of various associations in his community including the Texas Association of School Administrators, the China Spring-Bosqueville Area Lions Club, and Friends of Texas Public Schools.
He has multiple degrees and certifications, including a Master of Education from Tarleton State University and a Ed.D. in Educational Leadership from Stephen F. Austin State University. He served in many roles at CSISD and the surrounding districts prior to his tenure as superintendent, including assistant superintendent for CSISD and principal of China Spring High School.
Craig Sullivan has taught for 31 years and serves as a Construction Science Teacher at Belton High School in Belton ISD. He graduated from Belton High School and returned to teach there after pursuing his degree and teacher’s certification. His teaching focuses on training students to meet the labor skill gap by learning hands-on construction skills for projects in the school and around the community.
Sullivan believes “that hands-on learning and preparing students for work in the industry is vital to the construction trade, the community and our nation’s workforce."
Deborah DeGraff has taught for eight years and serves as the Science Lab Teacher at Bell’s Hill Elementary in Waco ISD. She chose to enter the teaching field after her husband’s career in the United States Air Force took her around the world while raising her three children. Her teaching style focuses on innovative, hands-on lessons to make science relevant and meaningful to her students.
She believes that “teaching all students at every grade level demands that every lab experience be adequately prepared, delivered and executed to create a lasting impression on each student.”
Killeen Board of Trustees
John Craft, Superintendent
Terry Delano, President
Corbett Lawler, Vice President
Minerva Trujillo, Secretary
2101 West Loop 340
Waco, TX 76712
Phone: (254) 297-1212
Main Fax: (254) 297-2960
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