Five To Be Honored For 'Distinguished' Influence On Education Field
Feb. 23, 2017
SHSU Media Contact: Jennifer Gauntt
American historian and descendent of two presidents Henry Brooks Adams is quoted as saying, “Teachers affect eternity; no one can tell where their influence stops.”
Five educators whose influence has had a resounding effect on their students, their colleagues and the profession will be recognized on March 4 by the Sam Houston State University College of Education as the 2017 Distinguished Educators of the Year.
Recipients include Cypress-Fairbanks school district leadership coach Lillian Chastain, Crosby High School assistant principal Kellie Hall, Brazosport High School English and creative writing teacher Ronald Rozelle, Malakoff Elementary School principal Ronny Snow, and “Friend of Education” Barbara Cargill, Texas Board of Education member.
As one of nine children born to cotton farmers, Lillian Chastain developed a strong work ethic and an appreciation of a solid education as a child that would ultimately lead her into the teaching field and beyond.
Beginning her career in the Cypress-Fairbanks ISD as an elementary teacher, Chastain’s love of education has developed into a more than 40-year relationship with the district, spanning from assistant principal, to principal, to, now, following her 2010 retirement, a part-time leadership coach for newly assigned principals.
Chastain earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education, master’s degree in administration, and a mid-management certification from SHSU. She also earned a discipline management certification from the University of St. Thomas.
Early in her career, working with second and third graders in at-risk schools, Chastain developed an understanding of the importance of building relationships with everyone around her.
“I think my greatest contribution to education was being able to create a dream team of teachers by cultivating my philosophy about developing relationships, caring for students, and teaching from the heart,” she said. “I must admit, the most important part of creating this team was learning to ‘hire smart’ and being able to recognize the talents and needs of each applicant.”
Since then, she has served thousands of children and staff members as a servant leader, according to nominators, having played a part on the leadership team that opened two elementary schools in the district.
“Opening a new campus has many challenges, especially when you are bringing together families from different communities. Mrs. Chastain’s open, transparent leadership allowed her to do this with ease,” a nominator said. “She has integrity, and those of us who have been lucky enough to work with her feel elevated in her presence. She is willing to do whatever it takes to ensure success for the students she serves.”
Crosby High School assistant principal Kellie Hall still draws upon the SHSU motto of service in both her educational duties and in her life.
Even before she earned her bachelor’s degree from SHSU and began her career as an eighth-grade English teacher, Hall was giving back as an employee of the Harris County Precinct2gether Program, which focuses on developing youth academically, physically and socially, as well as guiding them to become productive citizens.
After noticing deficits in independent reading and writing in her classroom, she piloted the Precinct2gether Program’s after-school homework-assistance program, allowing her to offer third through eighth grade students educational support both in the school year and during the summer.
“I knew very early on that I was destined to serve as a positive influence in the lives of children,” Hall said. “My role as an educator is year-round.”
Wanting to be a positive female role model, she co-founded “Oooh Girl!,” a mentorship organization for economically unstable girls 6 years and older, which promotes education, scholarship, sisterly love, health awareness, and spiritual solidarity.
Within the organization, Hall has incorporated her own value of service by organizing trips to the Houston Food Bank and taking the girls into the homes of the elderly in their community to assist with day-to-day chores.
“Students she has taught and mentored have benefitted from the care and compassion she exhibits on a daily basis,” one nominator said.
Throughout her 12 years in education, Hall also has been an English department leader; coached volleyball, basketball and cheer; and has been active on committees. Her dedication has paid off as a two-time “Teacher of the Year” and Crosby ISD “Secondary Teacher of the Year” award recipient.
“She has a passion for education; it is more of a mission than a job,” another nominator said.
Hall’s love of education also extends to her own life, as an SHSU alumna of the College of Education’s Master of Education program.
Brazosport High School English and creative writing teacher Ronald Rozelle likes to quote Geoffrey Chaucer’s “The Canterbury Tales” when talking about his chosen field: “I’d be perfectly happy to ‘gladly learn and gladly teach.’”
A second-generation educator since earning his bachelor’s degree from SHSU in 1977, Rozelle credits his father, a World War II veteran who taught for 50 years, in helping him find his true calling.
Intending to pursue a doctorate, Rozelle fell in love with secondary teaching while seeking a teaching certificate as a backup plan, at his father’s suggestion; he ended up being offered the job of replacing the retiring teacher with whom he student taught.
“I decided to put the professor thing on hold for a year and take Palestine up on its $8,000 annual salary,” he said. “Forty years later I have no regrets.”
Forty years later, Rozelle also is still practicing what he teaches.
The author of nine books and editor of the Brazoria County publication Image Magazine, Rozelle has been widely recognized for his creative writing. His works have received a number of awards and places on national short lists and best works lists, while also leading to his being named an honorary professor of letters at Alvin College.
He travels to offer creative writing workshops and give talks at book festivals across the state. His current project is a narrative history titled “Up in Huntsville: Sam Houston’s Final Battle.”
In addition to his personal accomplishments, Rozelle has been active in Brazosport ISD in recommending curriculum modifications—including one that requires all subjects to assign content-related student writing on a regular basis—and offering mentorships with new teachers.
Now in his last year of teaching, Rozelle was praised for his ability to teach students to appreciate great literature and express in writing their experiences and thoughts.
“Students leave his class every year confident, knowledgeable, and forever changed,” one nominator said. “His approach to instruction is to have students teach and learn from each other as he facilitates the process and supplements their learning by infusing his deep knowledge of the content that can only come from years of being an expert in the field.”
When Ronny Snow became principal of Malakoff Elementary School in 2005, the campus had been destroyed by a fire and “all I knew about elementary education was that I was an elementary student at one time,” he said.
But Snow overcame those setbacks and more to help transform the school into an award-winning, nationally recognized place of learning.
In 2015, MES was named Blue Ribbon School of Excellence, a recognition based on five consecutive years of academic excellence at a school with an at least 40 percent economically disadvantaged rate. Nominations are made by the commissioner of education and schools must complete a rigorous application process to the U.S. Department of Education.
The achievement placed MES in the top 26 campuses in Texas, and because of the honor, Snow and his teachers were recognized at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. It was Snow’s second Blue Ribbon recognition, having led Scurry-Rosser Middle School to the designation in 2010.
“Ronny has systematically brought Malakoff Elementary from a school that was not respected to being one of the top schools in the state,” said one nominator.
The achievement may be remarkable because MES boasts a 73 percent economically disadvantaged student rate, and, yet, in the past 10 years, MES scores have been in the top 1 to 2 percent of the state.
“I am proud of the fact that in the analysis of these scores, there were no significant achievement gaps in ethnic groups or financial situations,” Snow said. “The students at MES do not just expect to pass the standardized test each year; they expect to perform at the commended or level 3 performance.”
As a semi-finalist for the Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association 2016 National Distinguished Principal Award, the 1990 SHSU graduate has been cited for creating a nurturing, positive learning environment for both students and staff.
“Each time I enter their building, I always feel an atmosphere of teamwork among the staff and teachers as they strive to achieve their goals,” another nominator said.
The College of Education’s “Friend of Education,” Barbara Cargill has had a career rooted in being someone who unites people for the good of Texas’s children.
A four-term Texas State Board of Education member, representing District 8, Cargill’s more than 30-year career began as a science educator in the Dallas and Houston areas.
In 2011, Gov. Rick Perry appointed Cargill chair of the board, a role she held until 2015. During her tenure, she has served as chair and vice chair of the Committee on Instruction, on which she still serves, as well as a member of the committees on planning and school initiatives.
“The board had been through a turbulent time in the years before Barbara was named chair. The two chairs prior to Barbara had failed to win Senate confirmation,” a nominator said. “The board’s reputation was pretty battered after divisive battles over curriculum standards and textbook adoptions.”
Using her “teacher voice” when necessary to keep members and meetings on track, Cargill quickly earned a reputation as a leader who could bring together strong personalities for a common good and worked to build bridges between the Texas Legislature and State Board of Education.
“This had the practical effect of stopping the steady erosion of the board’s power that had been occurring each legislative session,” the nominator said.
Now as a board member representing 1.7 million Texans in Brazos, Grimes, parts of Harris, Houston, Montgomery, Polk, San Jacinto, Trinity, and Walker counties, Cargill is still working for Texas’s kids.
In November, the board voted to provide $2.46 billion from the Permanent School Fund to Texas schools over the next two years, representing an estimated increase of $354 million and an 11 percent increase per student.
Cargill also has worked for children as the founder and director for Wonders of The Woodlands Science Camp, which provides creative, hands-on learning to more than 1,200 children each summer. A registered trainer, she currently offers professional development training and consulting and is an active community volunteer.
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