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Today@Sam Article

College Names 2011 Distinguished Educators

March 2, 2010
SHSU Media Contact: Jennifer Gauntt

The 2011 Distinguished Educator of the Year award recipients were recognized during a ceremony on March 5. They include (from left) Fernando Martinez, Sheryl Burlison, Rachel Bullen,Maggie Selman and Thomas Mayo, with College of Education Dean Genevieve Brown. —Submitted photo.

The Sam Houston State University College of Education has recognized five individuals for their expertise and outstanding service in the classroom, school, district and community, as well as their contributions to the field and society, for the 2011 Distinguished Educator of the Year award.

The honorees include Distinguished Administrator, Sheryl Lynn Smith Burlison, principal, Willis ISD; Distinguished Elementary Teacher, Fernando Martinez, Aldine ISD; Distinguished Secondary Teacher, Thomas Mayo, Houston ISD; Distinguished Support Professional, Rachel Bullen, Klein ISD librarian; and Friend of Education, Maggie Selman, Sealy ISD retired teacher.

The Distinguished Educator of the Year award is the highest honor the college bestows upon its alumni.

Distinguished Administrator

Sheryl Burlison’s tenure as principal of Brabham Middle School, part of the Willis school district, has been marked with her emphasis on education being a “collaborative effort of the entire school community that focuses on high expectations and success for all students.”

An educator for 25 years, Burlison has served an administrative role, as either assistant principal or principal, since 1996.

“Nine years ago I was promoted to principal of the one junior high school in WISD (Lynn Lucas Middle School). The scores were low, the morale was low, and the student confidence and community support were low,” Burlison said. “My goal was to create an atmosphere of openness and mutual respect and support for innovative ideas, while celebrating accomplishments, acknowledging excellence and modeling responsible risk-taking.”

That philosophy carried over when she was asked to open WISD’s second junior high school, Brabham Middle School, which today has a 96 percent teacher retention rate.

“We continue to increase our AEIS (Academic Excellence Indicator System) ratings each year; we celebrate student and staff success every chance we get; we have an extremely active PTO; we have very few discipline issues and most importantly we have fun and enjoy coming to work each day,” she said.

“Mrs. Burlison was the consummate professional at all times, creating a caring, supportive ‘family’ atmosphere at Brabham,” said the parents of some of her former students. “She ‘manages’ a very diverse population of students which on most days presented numerous challenges.

“Sheryl made sure Brabham Middle School would be an adequate challenge and kept the standards high for students and teachers alike.”

Distinguished Elementary Teacher

Respect and resourcefulness are two qualities Fernando Martinez, a second grade bilingual teacher at Aldine school district’s Carroll Elementary, brings with him in his job.

The former marine has been a classroom teacher for 11 years, working in Black and Odom elementary schools and as a paraprofessional or aide at Gray and Sammons elementary schools, as well as MacArthur High School.

“Because he is from a military background, he passes some of those beliefs and qualities to his team as well as his students,” one nominator said. “He brings a sense of responsibility, honor and discipline.”

Martinez is known for both his work inside and outside of the classroom.

“He searches out grants to cover costs and when the grants aren’t available he usually spends his own money on it,” another nominator said.

A grant he received from Toshiba allowed him to teach about solar energy.

“At one school he organized chess lessons knowing that learning chess has proven to help with critical thinking skills and good sportsmanship. At another school he helped start a ROTC program for its troubled youth.

His actions helped earn him recognition as the 2010 bilingual teacher of the year.

“For several years he taught English to parents of his students on Saturdays,” a nominator said. “He single-handedly set into motion the refurbishing of the school’s playground when the funds for it were lacking…The playground had been off limits for years to the students for which it was built.”

Distinguished Secondary Teacher

Thomas Mayo, the speech and debate teacher at Ross Shaw Sterling High School, in Houston school district, strives to impact “the lives of young people by guiding them one step closer to their own dreams.”

“The greatest compensation I could ever receive is seeing young people achieve success at various levels with my contributions, so matter how small,” he said.

Mayo has taught at Cy-Fair, Mayde Creek, Humble and Westfield high schools. At Sterling High School, he is also the fine arts department chair and UIL academic coordinator.

Working with large minority populations and at a school where one-quarter of the student body is considered “at risk,” there have been times throughout his career where he’s been “out of my comfort zone” and “truly put to the test.”

“Though Sterling High School is not as culturally diverse as the schools I had taught at previously, the students come from a much lower socio-economic background than I had ever been exposed to,” Mayo said. “If I could have an impact on the students here, many of which only dream of attending college, I felt this would be my most significant contribution to education.”

His contributions have not gone unnoticed. He has received multiple teaching awards at his previous high schools and was named 2009 Ross Shaw Sterling High School Teacher of the Year, as well as a nominee for Houston Independent School District’s Teacher of the Year.

“I have seen Mr. Mayo go above and beyond the call and nature of his assignment to help the students he serves,” one nominator said. “I have seen him work many long hours with students that others may have labeled hopeless, preparing for debate tournaments. I have seen some astounding results because of his refusal to quit working for the good of his students.”

“When I reflect on my thirteen years as a Speech and Debate teacher, I lose count on the number of accomplishments that I have seen my students experience and achieve,” Mayo said. “I would not be the teacher I am today if it were not for my students. I am only a reflection of them, as I continue to grow through them.”

Distinguished Support Professional

As Mittlestädt Elementary librarian, Rachel Bullen’s place is at the “heart of our school,” according to Mittlestädt principal Cindy Levy.

The library should be a “fun place, a place that supports our mission of making sure each child attains academic achievement, and a place where adults help students become good citizens,” Levy said. “Ms. Bullen surpasses my expectations.”

Bullen has also taught at Francone Elementary in the Cypress-Fairbanks school district and directed the weekday education program at Champion Forest Baptist Church.

She earned her Master of Library Science degree from SHSU while on leave with her second child.

“Because she did not love to read when she was a child, Ms. Bullen knows the mind of a reluctant reader,” Levy said.

Bullen draws students into books by decorating the library seasonally and thematically, hosting kickoff festivities in celebration of summer reading, and began a reading club to lead “a group of fifth grade girls to develop social skills.”

“Because the club is so much fun, the girls do not have a clue that they are involved in this very special group,” Levy said. “I like the way the club opens dialogue so that Ms. Bullen can mentor the girls in a fairly informal setting.”

Her work with students does not stop outside of the library. An “ideal mentor,” she works with one to two students per semester, setting goals with the students; following up on their assignments, progress and report cards; and even “sends notes, birthday cards, and encouragement messages to make sure the students know they are important to her.”

In addition, she tutors at-risk students in preparation for state assessments.

For her work, Bullen has been recognized as Mittlestädt’s 2007-2008 Employee of the Year for Professional Support.

Friend of Education

The namesake of two schools in the Sealy school district, Maggie Selman worked in education for 63 years, until her retirement in 2000.

During her career, she taught first through eighth grades and served as elementary school principal, as well as an assistant superintendent.

With more than 50 years of service to Sealy school district, Selman’s contributions included creating a centralized elementary school library, helping consolidate all of the rural schools in the area into the Sealy school system, establishing an annual early-morning Christmas Coffee for the public to facilitate better relations with parents and other members of the public, establishing an annual appreciation/holiday lunch for all retired employees and participating in the desegregation of the district.

“Under her leadership, Sealy ISD has benefited, and, in fact, Maggie has always been especially diligent with meeting the needs of all children,” said Dale Lechler, past superintendent of the Sealy school district and current president of the Sealy board of trustees.

“Many of the advancements that were made in our district are because of her forward thinking,” he said. “For example, when computers were just beginning to be considered as a teaching tool in the classroom, she bought as many as she could for students to have access to this wonderful, new, innovative teaching tool.”

“There are so many rewards to a lifetime of teaching. It is a time of on-going learning. I always learned more than the students that I taught,” Selman said. “Every place that I go I am met by former students. For them, I will always be their teacher, and they will always be my little boys and girls.”

For her service, Sealy’s Maggie B. Selman Elementary School and Maggie B. Selman Intermediate School were named in her honor.

“There is no doubt in my mind that our district and our community would not be where we are today, if not for Maggie Selman,” Lechler said. There is not one single person I can think of that has made a greater impact regarding the education of children than she has made in Sealy.”



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