Beaumont A&M Club honors 2016’s ‘Outstanding Teachers’

Beaumont A&M Club honors 2016’s ‘Outstanding Teachers’

Texas A&M alumni, friends and guests celebrated the Beaumont A&M Club’s 57th annual Classroom Teacher Awards Program and Dinner on Sept. 27, recognizing “Outstanding Teachers” for their service to the children they educate as well as the many contributions made by the panel of honorees to the community as a whole.

Beaumont A&M Club program Chairman Michael Wolf said the seven honorees selected by their peers were Yvette Drake of Charlton-Pollard Elementary School, Becky Simmons of Odom Academy Middle School, Melissa Fontenot of Central Medical Magnet High School, Jerrilynn Miller of Monsignor Kelly High School, Shonté Leonard of Clifton J. Ozen Magnet High School, Vicki McCown of West Brook High School and Jola Kay Waggener of the Paul Brown Center.

Each honoree received a check for $200 from the John K. Mattingly Memorial Fund, a Certificate of Recognition, and an engraved silver tray from the Beaumont A&M Club. Wolf said it was a privilege to honor such a worthy group of educators, and he was just as impressed with guest speaker Vernice Monroe, a veteran educator in the area of social work at Lamar University and a member of the BISD Board of Managers.

Among the many distinguished honors and endeavors attributed to Monroe over the years, she was honored by Phi Kappa Phi with its Teaching Effectiveness Award, by Leadership Beaumont with its Distinguished Graduate Award, by Lamar University as Regents Merit Professor Award for Outstanding Teaching, and by Regina Rogers with the Julie & Ben Rogers Community Service Award.

“Therefore,” Wolf explained when announcing the guest speaker at the group’s award banquet, “the Beaumont A&M Club welcomes Vernice Monroe … and thanks her for all that she is doing at Lamar and Southeast Texas in the area of multicultural diversity and for the children of BISD.

“In the proudest of Aggie traditions, to Vernice Monroe, distinguished role model in Southeast Texas, we say welcome and Gig ‘em!”

Yvette Drake

Drake, a 25-year veteran teacher honored by her peers at Charlton-Pollard Elementary School, is a dyslexia specialist who has taught reading and served as reading coach, reading coordinator, and library media specialist. Only at Charlton-Pollard for one year, among her campus assignments in Beaumont were French Elementary, Pietzsch-MacArthur Elementary, and the BISD Administration Building; and in Port Arthur, DeQueen Elementary and Booker T. Washington Elementary. Drake is a 1980 graduate of George Washington Senior High School in Guam. As a Navy brat, she attended many schools before returning to Beaumont, where her father had graduated from Charlton-Pollard High School in 1955. She received an Automation Secretary Diploma from Chenier Business College, a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies from Lamar University in 1992 and a Masters of Education Administration in 1998, Reading Specialist EC-12 certification in 2013, and in 2016 from Texas A&M Commerce, a Master’s of Education in Educational Technology Library Science. Her most inspiring moment, she says, came this year when she applied for and won a Beaumont Public School Foundation grant that benefitted dyslexic students.

Becky Diane Simmons

Becky Diane Simmons has been a teacher for 12 years, all of which have been at Odom Academy Middle School. While teaching health, she also serves as head coach for girls basketball and coach for 7th grade volleyball. She has also taught physical education and high school health to grades 6-8. Under her leadership, Odom 8th grade girls have won several championships and Simmons was named the 2014-15 Champion of Wellness.

A 2000 graduate of Central High School who participated in band and basketball, Simmons attended Lamar University, graduating in 2004 with a Bachelor of Kinesiology. She spent three summers writing health curriculum for BISD and served as activities director both for the Exxon Mobil Summer Science Camp from 2008-10 and Go West as part of Women for Engineering and Technology during 2008. Under her leadership, the volleyball team helps raise breast cancer awareness at its games in cooperation with Julie Rogers Gift of Life, and students and teachers participate as a team in the Julie Richardson Procter 5K Ribbon Run Color Rush. She has memberships in Texas Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance. She is Health Division Chair for Health Instructional Program Section and involved in Leadership Conference 2016 for Health Division. Simmons received a grant from the Beaumont Public Schools Foundation, adding the necessary equipment to learn CPR and to share this lifesaving skill with students, parents and fellow teachers.

Simmons was one of 28 BISD teachers honored in May 2016 as BISD Teacher of the Year.

Melissa Fontenot

Melissa Fontenot has been a teacher for 7.5 years, all of which have been at Central Medical Magnet High School. She is currently teaching math and serves as Algebra 2 lead teacher, and performs additional assignments as Academic Decathlon coach at Central and mathematics curriculum writer for BISD.

Fontenot is a 2002 graduate of Ozen High School where she participated in Marching Band and UIL Speech. She went to Prairie View A&M where in 2006 she earned a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and in 2008 a Masters in Counseling. While at Prairie View, she was a member of Beta Kappa Chi Honor Society, vice president of the Math Club, and she worked as teacher’s assistant. Fontenot’s approach to teaching math is to make it relevant for her students. One way that she does that is by way of a project that she calls Real Life. Each student randomly selects a career with a given salary or hourly wage and then has to assess his/her income situation to see how to cover all monthly bills and expenses.

Fontenot is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. and attends Antioch Missionary Baptist Church where she dedicates her time to giving back. She has received numerous Outstanding Teacher Awards from Central and in 2016 was nominated for the Reaud Excellence in Education Award.

Jerrilynn Miller

Jerrilynn Miller, a teacher for 15 years, currently teaches English I College Prep, Pre-AP, and Holocaust Literature, and she is advisor for Anchor Club, Mural Club and Gnip Gnop (Ping Pong) Club.

Prior to joining the Monsignor Kelly High School faculty, Miller taught for Port Arthur ISD at various campuses; over the years, she has taught English I, English II Pre-AP, English III, English IV, Journalism, Photo Journalism, Advanced Journalism, English 8 Regular and Honors. In addition, she was also the Vietnamese Culture Club Sponsor, UIL Academic Coach, UIL Campus Coordinator, Yearbook Advisor, Student Council Advisor, Key Club Sponsor, and Senior Class Sponsor. Somehow she also found the time to begin the student newspaper in 2007.

A graduate of Port Arthur Adult School in 1984, she went on to graduate from Lamar State College-Orange with an AAS Communication and AAS Liberal Arts degrees in 2000, from Lamar University with a Bachelor of Science in Communication in 2002, and an AAS in Sociology from LSC-O in 2002. Also in 2002, she graduated from Gratz College with a Masters in Holocaust and Genocide Studies. She 2002 and served on the homecoming court as representative for the Professional Communication Association.

Shonté Leonard

Shonté Leonard has been a teacher for eight years, all of which have been at Clifton J. Ozen Magnet High School, where she is currently teaching Journalism and performing a host of side project assignments that include newspaper sponsor, yearbook advisor, senior class sponsor, and UIL campus coordinator. She is a 2001 graduate of Ozen, so she is back at her alma mater where she used to be involved as a student in NJROTC, as co-captain one year and then lieutenant the next of the Sparkling Spinners, played softball and soccer, and was part of Ozen Dance Team.

Leonard graduated from Lamar University in 2006 with a Bachelor of Science in Corporate Communication and a Bachelor of Science in Family Studies and in 2010 with a Master of Education in Educational Leadership. While in college, Leonard was involved in Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated, NAACP, and Black Student Association. Her professional memberships include NEA and TSTA, and her community involvements include the Life Share Blood Bank as a regular donor, Southeast Texas Food Bank as a donor of food for care packages, and the World Wear Project of giving shoes to third world countries.

Leonard was also honored in May 2016 as BISD Teacher of the Year from Ozen. 

Vicki McCown

Vicki McCown has been a teacher for 20 years, one year at West Brook Ninth Grade Campus (1996-97) and 19 at the senior high campus. As an English teacher, her current teaching assignment is AP Literature and Composition, but she has also taught English I and English IV. She is a 1971 cum laude graduate of South Park High School and participated in UIL for her school.

She is a 1975 graduate of Lamar University with a Bachelor of Science in Education and holds certifications in Special Education, History, AP College Board, Gifted and Talented, and Secondary English.

At West Brook, McCown’s leadership roles include Response to Intervention (RtI) Bruin Connect Coordinator, English Department Head, Dyslexia Interventionist, West Brook Who’s Who Committee, West Brook Senior Class Sponsor, Running Start Committee, and UIL Ready Writing Coach.

McCown is a member of National Council of Teachers of English, International Dyslexia Association, Association of Texas Professional Educators; and she is involved with Alzheimer’s Association and American Cancer Society. McCown was also one of 28 BISD teachers honored in May 2016 as BISD Teacher of the Year from West Brook and received a PTA Good Apple sward in 2013.

Jola Kay Waggener

Jola Kay Waggener, honored by her peers at Paul Brown Center, has been a teacher for 11.5 years, currently teaching AEC Reading, Professional Communication, and English as a Second Language; she also serves as Teacher Leader and ARISE mentor. Prior to joining the faculty at Paul Brown, she was a teacher at Rowe Elementary in Jasper, where she taught 5th and 6th grade at-risk students. At the Brown Center, she has created a mentor group and leads her peers and students in the creation of Christmas Wreaths for the Brown Center neighbors.

After graduating from Silsbee High School in 1980, she attended Lamar University and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in General Studies and minored in Political Science and Education. At Lamar, she was a member of Pi Sigma Alpha, Zeta Lambda and also of National Political Science Honor Society. Her professional memberships include TSTA, and she is the Brown Center representative to TSTA. She is also on the Positive Interventions and Supports Committee.

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