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Region 12 Award Winners 


ESC Region 12 is committed to recognizing winners in our region.

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  • George Kazanas, Superintendent of Year

    Dr. George Kazanas

    Midway ISD

    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.

    Read the Press Release »
  • Joseph Merlo, Secondary Teacher of the Year

    LTC Joseph Merlo

    Killeen ISD

    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.

    Read the Press Release »
  • Tanya Linex, Elementary Teacher of the Year

    Tanya Linex

    Corsicana ISD

    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!”

    Read the Press Release »
  • West ISD, School Board of Year

    West ISD Board of Trustees

    Dr. Larry Sparks, President

    Larry Hykel, Vice President

    Leigh Crawshaw, Secretary

    Dr. John Crowder

    Mike Gerik

    Ken Sykora

    Robin Waters

    Read the Press Release »
2017-18 Winners
  • China Spring ISD Superintendent Faulkner

    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.

  • Teacher of the Year Craig Sullivan

    Craig Sullivan

    Belton ISD

    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."

  • Teacher of the Year Deborah DeGraff

    Deborah DeGraff

    Waco ISD

    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.”

  • Killleen ISD Board

    Killeen Board of Trustees

    John Craft, Superintendent
    Terry Delano, President
    Corbett Lawler, Vice President
    Minerva Trujillo, Secretary
    Shelley Wells
    Susan Jones
    JoAnn Purser
    Marvin Rainwater

2016 Winners
  • Temple ISD Superintendent Battershell

    Dr. Robin Battershell

    Temple ISD

    Dr. Robin Battershell has served in Temple ISD since 2008. Under Battershell’s leadership, TISD established a unified vision of community support and credibility, and the district is on a path of focused and goal-oriented progress. She is an active member of various associations in her community including Texas Association of School Administrators, Texas Association of School Boards and Temple Chamber of Commerce. She has several degrees and certifications, including a Master of Science in Education Psychology from the University of Houston and a Ed.D. in Education Administration from Baylor University. She led Salado ISD as Superintendent from 1998 to 2008, and served in administrative positions in Killeen ISD.

  • Board member

    Mrs. LaGay Pittenger

    Belton ISD

    Mrs. LaGay Pittenger has been teaching at Lakewood Elementary in Belton ISD for 23 years and has more than 25 years of teaching experience. Ultimately, her goal is to instill a love of learning in her students. In her history classes, her students act out events, wear hats, sing songs, draw pictures and create maps to learn about the past. Pittenger is an active member of the Parent Teacher Association, a Belton Educational Enrichment Foundation donor and attends many district events, ranging from academics to fine arts and sports. For the last 10 years, her family has awarded a scholarship for a Belton High School graduate planning to attend Abilene Christian University.

  • Board member

    Mr. Michael Chirhart

    Hillsboro ISD

    Mr. Michael Chirhart has been teaching for four years at Hillsboro High School in Hillsboro ISD. He teaches biology, anatomy and physiology and environmental science, as well as advanced placement courses. Chirhart’s teaching philosophy is to inspire his students with real-world applications for science that stimulate critical thinking. He incorporates a variety of teaching methods including carrying out investigations, collecting data and presenting findings with creative projects such as posters and multimedia presentations. Chirhart is a member of the American Federation of Teachers, Science Teachers Association of Texas and serves as a Cub Master for the Cub Scouts of America in West, Texas.

  • Waco ISD Board members

    Waco ISD Board of Trustees

    More than 1,000 students

    Waco ISD Board of Trustees oversees education for nearly 15,000 students on 26 campuses in Central Texas.  Enrollment is 87 percent economically disadvantaged, and 77 percent of students are considered “at-risk.” The district now provides 15 elementaries and 11 secondary campuses, three of which are magnet schools. In addition, the district utilizes a “school within a school” concept for its Gifted and Talented academy, an International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme and a Career & Technology Academy. One strength of the WISD Board is its commitment to efficiently represent its constituencies and stand as a community-based Board. Through a number of formal feedback channels, the Board and administration are able to respond to urgent needs and the changing educational environments. One example is the creation of Community Transformation Committee meetings. The Board invited parents, partners, community members and other stakeholders to a series of public meetings to provide valuable input to help under-performing campuses.
    Aquilla School Board members

    Aquilla ISD Board of Trustees

    Less than 1,000 students

    Aquilla ISD Board of Trustees oversees education in a rural school district in north central Texas with nearly 300 students in its K-12 setting. The Board encourages effective instructional management within the school by maintaining an active role in the curriculum and instructional philosophies at the district. The Board and school staff are proud of their efforts to consistently pursue exemplary ratings from yearly STAAR testing through an increased focus on academics, via a rigorous and challenging curriculum. Most recently, the district received 100 percent passing rates in end of course algebra, biology and U.S. History.  As part of this focus, the district is expanding their fine arts, music and art programs and continuing to acquire current technology for use in classrooms. The Board and leadership are preparing students for a higher education. The trustees believe that a commitment to excellence and a focus on incorporating cutting-edge instructional methods into the classroom will allow a small school like Aquilla to continue to thrive.

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