2016 Reaud Excellence in Education Award

2016 Reaud Excellence in Education Award winners

Effective teachers not only educate, but also create memories that remain with their students for a lifetime. They don’t just know the content they teach; they know how to explain it in a way that grabs students’ attention.

It’s the algebra teacher who takes extra time to go over the Pythagorean theorem for those who don’t understand, the English teacher that acts out “Macbeth” instead of just reading it aloud, the history teacher that doesn’t just serve up reading assignments on the Revolutionary War but also lectures with such enthusiasm that students feel like they are there.

These educators are good at what they do because they love doing it, and recognition of their efforts only serves to affirm what they already know: They are making a difference.

As part of the Beaumont Foundation of America’s ongoing commitment to support education, the Reaud Excellence in Education Award was created to celebrate and recognize superior contributions of teachers whose leadership and dedication inspire a spirit of learning in students of all backgrounds and abilities.

Chairman of the Beaumont Foundation Wayne A. Reaud is, himself, a product of local schools and said he remembers fondly those teachers who inspired and guided him at crucial times in his development. He asked that the award recognize teachers who educate the whole student, providing growth in mental power and in strength of character. Recipients must excel in instruction of science, math, literature, history and the arts and also excel in instilling the transcendent and unchanging moral order, which occupies a central place in a balanced education.

“I believe that education is the way to create opportunity and the road to a better future,” said Reaud. “At the heart of the Excellence in Education Awards program is a vision of the teacher as our society’s most valuable asset.”

Teachers are selected annually to receive the prestigious award and $10,000 each in recognition of their outstanding contributions to the education system of Southeast Texas.

Each participating school selects a nominating committee composed of students and teachers. Each school committee reviews all nominations and selects one nomination per school. These nominees are then considered for selection from one of five geographic regions encompassing Jefferson, Orange, Hardin, Tyler Jasper and Newton counties.

This year, 15 recipients were selected from an impressive collection of nominations submitted by schools throughout Southeast Texas. Their awards were presented at the Reaud Excellence in Education Award Gala on Tuesday, May 3.

“Great teachers are the key to education,” Reaud said. “Our winners are outstanding representatives of excellence in education.”

Recipients for 2016 are Rochelle Len Celeste, Sallie Curtis Elementary, Beaumont; Cindy Durden, Highland Park Elementary School, Nederland; Robyn Glosson, Warren Elementary School; Brenda Jones, Little Cypress Intermediate School; Rachel Maclean, John H. Kirby Elementary School, Silsbee; Lynnette Causey, Kirbyville Junior High School; Heggie Coulter, Orangefield Junior High School; Barbara Henry, Willie Ray Smith Sr. Middle School, Beaumont; Kathy Hollier, Groves Middle School; Leslie Snider, Henderson Middle School, Hardin-Jefferson; Kathie Dorman, Bridge City High School; Stacey Hansard, West Brook High School, Beaumont; Shirlene Cruse Hryhorchuk, Deweyville High School; Michael Perryman, Nederland High School; and Holly Bertrand Woollen, Lumberton High School.

The award recipients all share passion for their craft and their students.

“Mrs. Snider currently teaches Math, Junior Engineering/robotics, and Project Based Learning. She spends countless hours researching ways to bring these new innovative class subjects to our campus. She is an extremely intelligent, talented, well-rounded and creative teacher,” said Darrell Westfall, principal at Henderson Middle School where Leslie Snider teaches.

James Arnett, principal of Groves Middle School said choir director Kathy Hollier is the type of teacher he wishes all students could have during their school careers.

“She cares tremendously about her choir program and her students, which is evident by the increase in the number of students in her classes each year. She is a teacher that strives for excellence in her program and her students,” he said.

A recent tragedy in the area made the award extra special to Shirlene Cruse Hryhorchuk, 74, of Deweyville.

Hryhorchuk, who has been a teacher at Deweyville for 50 years and has lived in the city for just as long, lost her home in the Sabine River flooding in March. She’s a family consumer science teacher at Deweyville High and food services director for the entire school district.

Hryhorchuk starts her day at 5:30 a.m. in the cafeteria and then begins teaching classes at 8 a.m.

“I am usually the first one here and probably about the last one to leave,” she says. Her services to the children of Deweyville don’t end there, however.

“One of the things I’ve done through the years is prepare football uniforms,” Hryhorchuk said. “This year, the school bought new baseball uniforms, and I had to hem every uniform for those kids. I do a lot of things like that. … I am probably one of the few people that knows how to sew in the school district.”

She also goes out of her way to help those less fortunate, according to Deweyville High School Principal Brad Haeggquist.

“For decades Mrs. Hryhorchuck has quietly and anonymously gathered funds and resources to buy children shoes, clothes, glasses, school supplies and doctors visits while contributing to an unknown amount of trips, proms and other activities,” Haeggquist said. “When in her presence, you can feel the love she has for her students and her school.”

The night Hryhorchuk realized her house was going to flood, she had to go to the hospital in Beaumont because she was feeling dehydrated. Her doctor discovered that she had diabetes and wanted to check her in to the hospital. A double whammy for Hryhorchuk.

“The doctor said I needed to stay in the hospital because I was a diabetic. I said I’ve got to go home and save my house,” she said. “Then I thought … if I die, I’m not going to be any good to anybody. I decided to stay in the hospital, and my house went under.”

Hryhorchuk called Principal Haeggquist and asked him to make sure the food was taken out of the elementary school before it flooded, and the National Guard came in to salvage the frozen food and canned goods.

The loss to the elementary school, inundated by about 5 feet of water in the flooding, was devastating, as was the loss to Hryhorchuk and her husband of more than 50 years, Darrell, 75. The couple didn’t have flood insurance.

“I lost my house,” Hryhorchuk said. “I had five feet of water in it. … I lost all my furniture. I did save pictures and some things like that, but the furniture just disintegrated. It just broke apart.”

Hryhorchuk said it isn’t just the experience of losing her own house that pains her and her family.

“I lost my community. I lost the grocery store and everything like that,” she said. “We have so many families here. I’ll talk to grandmothers who lost their houses, daughters who lost their houses. It’s hard to see your kids — your students — lose theirs.”

But Hryhorchuk and her husband, who are currently living in Colmesneil and commuting to work, have plans to rebuild.

“My house is down to the studs and we’re going to be sure that it dries because you don’t want to have that smell,” she said. “We’ll start going back up with a house this summer.”

Receiving the Reaud Excellence in Education Award was an emotional experience for Hryhorchuk, she said.

“I never cried over losing my house, but I did cry when he told me I won the award,” she said. “It was overwhelming. … It probably means a lot more to me now than had I won it when I was younger because I have been able to live long enough to see what happened to my students, how successful they have been.”

Hryhorchuk said she and other Dewevyille families will persevere, and as she rebuilds her house, she will continue to build students at Deweyville High. And even though she needs the money from the award to pay for repairs, she plans to share some of it with her students.

“I look for a way every year to see how I can help my students,” she said. “Since I know their backgrounds, where they live, and their families, I know a lot of times the needs that they have. I am going to use some of that money to help them.”

To date, grants awarded through the Excellence in Education initiative have totaled $2 million to 200 teachers.

“Beyond the family, teachers are students’ windows to the world,” said Frank Newton, president and CEO of the Beaumont Foundation of America.

The Beaumont Foundation, created in 2001, is a non-profit grant making institution dedicated to enriching the lives and enhancing the futures of less fortunate children and youth, families and the elderly.

The foundation’s grants are not limited to educational initiatives, however, as it provides grants for shelter in times of crisis, health care, food for those in need, support of children in foster care and families of service members killed in combat. Scholarship grants to students are awarded across the United States. Substantial grants to help feed the hungry are given to Texas food banks, the Meals on Wheels program and area soup kitchens. Grants for new clothing are made to numerous foster care agencies throughout the state of Texas. In partnership with the Huntsman Cancer Hospital in Utah, the foundation funded treatment of hundreds of Native Americans in need of vital health care. Without this outreach program, other threatening diseases in patients would not have been discovered. The foundation continues to support its Children of Fallen Heroes program, which provides laptop computers to families who have lost loved ones in Iraq and Afghanistan.

For more information about the Beaumont Foundation of America, visit bmtfoundation.com.