Today@Sam Article

College Of Education Recognizes Distinguished Educators Of The Year

Feb. 11, 2021
SHSU Media Contact: Wes Hamilton

DEOY FlyerThe transformative power of a quality educator knows no bounds. An effective teacher has the potential to directly influence the lives and future career paths of their students daily. For this reason, Sam Houston State University’s College of Education (COE) recognizes educators who have made a significant contribution to the field in an awards ceremony each year with the Distinguished Educator of the Year award. This award is the highest honor the COE at SHSU can bestow upon its alumni.

This year, the Distinguished Educator of the Year recipients will be honored on March 5, at 6 p.m. in the Lowman Student Center White Ballroom for their demonstrated expertise and outstanding service in the classroom, school, district and community. 

“The Distinguished Educator of the Year ceremony offers a unique opportunity for the COE to honor several of its most accomplished alumni who have made a positive difference through careers in education,” Dean of the COE Stacey Edmonson said. “Our honorees represent urban, rural, and suburban communities and include all types of educators who have had distinguished careers as teachers, counselors, librarians, administrators and higher education professionals.” 

Due to the 2021 event being postponed, this year, the College of Education is honoring 10 educators. The 2021 Distinguished Educators of the Year recipients are, Mel Basham, Dominique Odom, Rhonda Mason, Kelsey Amaya, and Alton Smith. While the 2022 Distinguished Educators of the Year are, Clare Resilla, Leslie Gerberman, Kendra Wuest, Amy Schindewolf and Patricia K. Nash. 

“Celebrating our distinguished alumni reminds us of just how important, and how impactful, educators are. One of Isaac Newton's most well-known quotes said, ‘If I have seen farther, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.’ Our distinguished educators are giants, people who have given their careers and dedicated their lives to be the shoulders that shape, guide and influence our children,” Edmonson said. “The Distinguished Educator of the Year award allows us as a college and community of educators to celebrate and honor these dedicated educational professionals and their contributions.”

Tickets for the event are available for purchase through Feb. 21. For information contact or call 936.294.3304. 

2021 Honorees

mel-basham_51872317441_oMel Basham

Past President & Art Educator, Texas Art Education Association

Mel Basham has gone above and beyond in her dedication to art education. Even after her retirement, she continues to impact those in her field. Her teaching philosophy helped her be successful in the classroom and in the creation and development of programs. Basham was dedicated to teaching and ensured her students had everything to be successful. The College of Education is honored to name Ms. Mel Basham as Distinguished Educator of the Year.

Ms. Basham earned her B.F.A. in Studio Art and teaching certification from SHSU. Following Ms. Basham’s graduation, she taught at MacArthur High School in Aldine ISD and Shepard High School in Shepherd ISD. This is where she made a difference in the lives of her students. Her teaching methods focused on fostering self-identity and helping all students be successful in art and life. Ms. Basham describes her goal for teaching as watching “...young adults become creative, critical thinkers for the real world is a wonderful experience- just gives me goosebumps!”

Not only did Ms. Basham focus on her students, she is also an active member of Texas Art Education Association, TAEA; she served as President of the organization from 2017-2019. Along with being an active member of TAEA, she was very involved in school and extracurricular activities. Ms. Basham pioneered the Texas Art Education Outreach program, TAEO, within TAEA. With this program, Mentors assist Mentees with educational strategies; Presenters in the organization provide professional development to art educators across the state.

Basham lives by the philosophy of “In life as in art, the process is the point. If you take care of the process, the end product will take care of itself,” as said by Claudia Betti, Professor Emeritus of Art at North Texas. Ms. Basham’s colleagues describe her as kind, compassionate, and a giver. With this philosophy of teaching, Ms. Basham has made a significant impact on her students, her colleagues, and Texas art education. The College of Education at Sam Houston State University is honored to award Ms. Mel Basham as Distinguished Educator of the Year.

dominique odomDominique Odom

Teacher, Huntsville ISD 

Mrs. Dominique Odom started her teaching career in 2011 in Huntsville ISD as a third grade teacher at Houston Elementary and currently teaches third grade math and science at Stewart Elementary. Throughout her teaching career, Mrs. Odom has made an impact for her students, colleagues, and her district.

Mrs. Odom cares for her students' academic success and ensures that they have a nurturing learning environment and supports them in their endeavors. For example, Ms. Odom created a fundraising opportunity with Donors Choice to give her students flexible seating options to be comfortable and learn.  Her colleague Ms. Crissie Fowler, M.Ed, describes her colleague as “...constantly moving under the surface to push her students and self forward, but on the surface she is patient and calm.” 

Outside of the classroom, Mrs. Odom serves as the Robotics Assistant Coach and UIL Storytelling coach for students. She also mentors new teachers and has significantly contributed to her district through advisory boards and committees.

Through hard work and dedication, Mrs. Odom is able to care for her students' success. She contributes to her students' lives in and out of the classroom; Mrs. Odom has done everything from making sure her students have a good learning experience to helping them become good citizens. It is with great honor that the College of Education awards Distinguished Educator of the Year to Mrs. Dominique Odom.

Rhonda Masonrhonda mason

Executive Director of Elementary Schools, Fort Bend ISD

Mrs. Rhonda Mason’s love for educational leadership and community service goes back to her father and grandmother. Mrs. Mason graduated with her Bachelor’s degree from Sam Houston State and is now pursuing her doctoral degree in Educational Leadership. It is with great honor that the College of Education awards Mrs. Rhonda Mason as Distinguished Educator of the Year.

In her career, Mrs. Mason has worked in many different school districts. Her current role is Executive Director of Elementary Schools for Fort Bend ISD. In this role, she supports and supervises 25 school principals. Mrs. Mason won many awards for her service to her school districts, including Principal of the Year and the Superintendent’s Award for Parent and Community Involvement. Her exceptional leadership, growth mindset, and warm personality have helped her succeed in her career.

Mrs. Mason has spent her career advocating for the education of the well being of all children and the local and state level. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Texas Education Policy Institute, chairs committees for the Texas Alliance of Black School Educators, TABSE, Conference, and serves on the Executive Board of TABSE as the South Texas Development Chair. Mrs. Mason provides professional development and develops strategic plans serving on these boards and committees. Her service work goes beyond school districts to the Salvation Army, Big Brother Big Sister, and Girl Scouts.

Mrs. Mason’s dedication to education is undeniable. She worked to give students in her district opportunities to succeed. She shares stories of her family’s struggle with education and explains how she “broke the cycle.” Her career has left a lasting impact on Houston area school districts and her family.

kelsey amayaKelsey Amaya

ELA Instructional Specialist, Klein ISD

Mrs. Kelsey Amaya started her teaching career in Klein ISD as a fifth grade ELA teacher after her graduation from the College of Education. Since that point, she has made a lasting impact on her students, colleagues, and Klein ISD. Her energy, kindness, and innovation enable her to make a difference in the lives of her students.

Mrs. Amaya invests in her students' success and making their learning experiences personalized to them; no two students are alike. In the updated world of virtual learning she delivers curriculum through Schoology, a learning management system. The Facebook group she created, “Teaching with Schoology,” has over 80,000 members; she also created a YouTube channel with these tips and tricks that were featured on KHOU 11 news. Her teaching methods in the real and virtual world boosted engagement in the classroom by paying attention to each student's progress in units and lessons. With Mrs. Amaya’s teaching methods, fifth grade STAAR test scores grew 22% in 2019.

She is successful because of her dedication and work ethic in the classroom. Many other teachers and principals go to her classroom to see exemplary teaching methods. Mrs. Amaya’s colleagues describe her as a “forever learner,” always wanting to strive for the best for her students and colleagues. She cultivates relationships with her colleagues within committees to provide the best opportunities for students.

When Mrs. Amaya is not in the classroom, she is leading the school’s Coding Club or supporting former students at sporting events. Her colleague, Dr. Alysa Cozart, says that Mrs. Amaya’s students describe her as “amazing,” and the students are true to their words. The College of Education is honored to give Mrs. Kelsey Amaya the Distinguished Educator of the Year award.

alton smithAlton Smith

Professor, Lone Star College

Not every teaching career starts right out of college. In Dr. Alton Smith’s case, it started when he left his job Human Resources at Shell Oil Company to become a Special Education teacher in Goose Creek ISD. He served as a teacher, principal, and adjunct professor and truly made an impact in each role. The College of Education is honored to give the Distinguished Educator of the Year award to Dr. Alton Smith.

Dr. Smith claims that his “...parents and teachers are responsible for instilling in [him] the importance of education.” His commitment to the classroom and education is lifelong. Dr. Smith cared for each student’s education and well being; he always went the extra mile to ensure each student performed well. His kindness, compassion, and charisma left a lasting impact on his colleagues and students. He always aimed to deliver relevant lessons to students to connect the real world to the academic world. Dr. Smith was an exemplary role model for his students and colleagues alike.

Outside of the classroom, Dr. Smith has served on the Aldine ISD Board of Trustees, National Association of Community College Board of Trustees, and is a former member of Texas Caucus of Black Board Members. With Dr. Smith’s expertise in the field, he advised these groups on how to move forward in the changing world. He also mentored students in Shell volunteer programs and worked events at the energy company.

Knowledgeable, authentic, and a man of integrity are just a few ways his colleagues use to describe Dr. Smith. He has significantly made a difference in the lives of those he has worked with in his Human Resources and Teaching careers. It is with great honor that the College of Education presents Dr. Alton Smith as Distinguished Educator of the Year.

2022 Honorees

clare resillaClare Resilla

Principal, Spring ISD

Clare Resilla is the true definition of a leader. She started her journey into Education as a teacher, earned her Ed.D. in Educational Leadership and is now the proud principal of Hirsch Elementary is Spring ISD. In the words of her colleagues, Dr. Resilla showed “...resilience, passion, and tenacity to advocate for her students and teachers at Hirsch Elementary,” at the start of the pandemic, two months after starting as the principal. Her passion for education has led her down a successful and fulfilling career path. The College of Education honors Resilla as Distinguished Educator of the Year.

She advocates for students at her school and in Spring ISD. Dr. Resilla served as the Multilingual Secondary Program Coordinator where she initiated programs such as the Rice University Tapia STEM Camp, National Hispanic Institute Great Debate, and many more. Dr. Resilla worked diligently in improvement plans for her school, Hirsch Elementary was one of five schools selected to join the Holdsworth Campus Leadership program.

Dr. Resilla goes past her schools’ walls and into the surrounding community. She provided parents of English Learners a 10-week seminar on The Family Leadership Institute. Dr. Resilla describes the seminar as, “a multifaceted educational curriculum that provides parents for first- and second-generation children the knowledge, tools, and inspiration to help their child succeed in school and life.” Dr. Resilla engages in camps for English learners, food drives and encourages parent volunteers.

Dr. Resilla attributes her accomplishments and contributions by sharing her journey in education. Her story began as an immigrant defying the odds of stereotypes. Dr. Resilla’s experience in our Educational Leadership program “...empowered [her] to rise above the challenges and break the glass ceilings imposed upon [her].” Her journey in education empowered her to become the leader she is today.

leslie gerbermanLeslie Gerberman

Librarian, Palacios ISD

Mrs. Lesie Gerberman has opened a whole new world to her students in Palacios ISD. After being an English teacher, Ms. Gerberman furthered her career with a master’s in library science from the College of Education. She’s supported students from all walks of life from her senior English students to elementary students in the library. With her innovation and compassion for students, Mrs. Gerberman has transformed libraries throughout Palacios ISD.

During the pandemic, Mrs. Gerberman transformed libraries in her district from antiquated into a modern and relaxing place for students. The renovations included a new café, games and more accessibility to students. The library hosts weekly book clubs to introduce students to new books and culture. Mrs. Gerberman envisions the library in the new school in her district as a “...welcoming, open, friendly, fun place where students can explore, play, learn, and socialize.”

Outside of the library, Mrs. Gerberman led the POWERSET (Powerful opportunities for Women Eager and Ready for Science, Engineering, and Technology) chapter in Palacios High School, empowering girls to pursue STEM careers. Some girls said that college wasn’t an option for them until they joined POWERSET. Mrs. Gerberman empowered and guided these young minds to pursue their goals, as she did.

She has supported her student’s success throughout her career, whether it was helping with college applications or organizing a weekly book club. Mrs. Gerberman’s dedication to her students has made a difference across her district. The College of Education honors Mrs. Leslie Gerberman as Distinguished Educator of the Year.

kendra wuestKendra Wuest

Principal, Pawnee ISD

Mrs. Kendra Wuest has impacted her school district and community in many ways. She has done it all, from being an educator, principal and now Director of Special Programs and Innovation in Pawnee ISD. Her work with her students and her community have created a better tomorrow for the students in her district.

Mrs Wuest graduated with her Education degree from Sam Houston State University. Mrs. Wuest’s career has fulfilled the College’s mission of preparing leaders to impact a diverse and evolving world. Mrs. Wuest as principal empowered her staff with words of encouragement and tools they needed to make Pawnee Elementary and Jr. High School became a campus of distinction with her leadership. Her guidance led Pawnee ISD as one of 11 school districts in Texas to receive a grant for full year redesign.

Her program development has gone outside of the classroom and into the community. Mrs. Wuest's time as principal gave her the opportunity to implement programs that help students in life decisions. She also started the monthly community food bank program, serving over 100 families per month. Mrs. Wuest and her superintendent fostered a partnership with the local community college to help parents achieve their higher education goals.

Mrs. Wuest’s colleagues describe her as a “rockstar, “empathetic,” and “epitomizes leadership.” Her continual dedication to students and the community help create a better world for students in her district. It is the College of Education's honor to recognize Mrs. Kendra Wuest as Distinguished Educator of the Year.

amy schindewolfAmy Schindewolf

Chief of Staff and School Leadership, Tomball ISD

Mentor, friend and leader are just a few words to describe Dr. Amy Schindewolf. She serves as the Chief Academic Officer for Tomball ISD. She earned both her Ed.D. and Superintendent’s certificate from the College of Education and is a lifelong learner who inspires others.

Dr. Schindewolf started her career as a 6th grade English teacher in Klein ISD at the same school she attended. Dr. Schindewolf mentored young and first-year teachers in balancing work, life and earning an advanced degree. She has led teachers, principals and campus leaders throughout her career. She partnered with these individuals to empower them to lead their campuses and students. Her position as Chief Academic Officer led the district to open the first early college high school and made Tomball ISD the only district in Harris County to receive a straight A rating from the Texas Education Agency. She continues to empower and lead her colleagues to make a difference.

Dr. Schindewolf states “schools are the heart of the community.” She works diligently to foster relationships with higher education institutions and local industries. Dr. Schindewolf is an active member of Leadership North Houston; Leadership North Houston unites leaders from different government backgrounds to help make progress in societal issues. She is also a founding member of the Tomball Education Foundation. The Foundation unites the community with Tomball ISD to seek innovation and instruction improvements. Dr. Schiendewolf’s community involvement has led Tomball ISD to high achievements.

Dr. Schiendewolf’s colleagues describe her as “...driven, focused, and determined to serve and support our teachers and students.” From the classroom to the community Dr. Shindewolf has made a difference in the lives of students. The College of Education honors Dr. Amy Schindewolf as Distinguished Educator of the Year.

pat nashPat Nash

Teacher, Huntsville ISD

Ms. Patricia Nash has taught over 6,000 students in her career as a math teacher. That’s not something you hear every day. Ms. Nash is currently an 8th grade algebra teacher at Mance Park Middle School in Huntsville, TX. Her dedication to students, math and learning helps students succeed in and out of the classroom.

Ms. Nash does not attribute her success to statistics or awards, but to the example she sets for her students. She instills enthusiasm and learning math in her classroom. Her former students often email or visit her classroom to express their gratitude for her influencing their career path. As department chair and team leader, Ms. Nash now teaches alongside her son and former student. Nash says, “The best measure of a successful career is that you are doing what you love and you love what you’re doing.”

Ms. Nash says, “The responsibility for raising a well-educated, civic minded generation cannot rest solely on the schools.” She is very involved with her community church as a Sunday School teacher and church pianist. She is equally as passionate about education in the community as she is in the classroom. Building a strong community outside the classroom ensures that students are well-prepared to impact a diverse and evolving world.

Ms. Nash has shown the utmost dedication to her students by helping them before and after school and crafting lesson plans to meet their needs. She has a “whatever it takes” attitude and a true passion for learning; she is a lifelong learner who always brings new ideas and techniques into the classroom. It is an honor to award Ms. Patricia Nash Distinguished Educator of the Year.

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