Waco and Belton ISD Educators Named Region 12 Teachers of the Year

2018 Region 12 Teachers of the Year, Elementary Teacher of the Year Deborah DeGraff of Waco ISD and Secondary Teacher of the Year, Craig Sullivan of Belton ISD

Out of 76 school districts across the 12-county education service area of Region 12, two outstanding, community-oriented educators have been selected for the top regional teaching award — 2018 Region 12 Teacher of the Year. 

Deborah DeGraff of Bell’s Hill Elementary in Waco Independent School District is the Region 12 Elementary Teacher of the Year and Craig Sullivan of Belton High School in Belton Independent School District is the Region 12 Secondary Teacher of the Year.

Waco ISD's Deborah DeGraffDeborah DeGraff has taught for eight years and serves as the Science Lab Teacher for 800 Pre-K through 5th graders at Bell’s Hill Elementary in Waco ISD. She chose to enter the teaching field after her husband’s career in the United States Air Force took her around the world while raising her three children. Her teaching style focuses on innovative, hands-on lessons to make science relevant and meaningful to her students. 

“My focus is on providing authentic learning experiences for each Pre-K through 5th grader walking in my lab door,” said DeGraff. “Teaching all students at every grade level demands that every lab experience be adequately prepared, delivered and executed to create a lasting impression on each student.”

In addition to her lab classes, DeGraff oversees:

  • An award-winning garden club for 4th and 5th graders which grows and sells plants at the Downtown Waco Farmer’s Market
  • Large-scale recycling projects at her school which gained them recognition as 2017 Recycler of the Year in Waco from the Keep Waco Beautiful program
  • The Bell’s Hill Greenhouse, which provides a living laboratory for students to observe the natural environment, plant life adaptations and life cycles

She was named the Waco ISD Elementary Teacher of the Year and will go on to represent Region 12 as a semifinalist in the Texas Teacher of the Year awards program. 

Her principal, Bevil Cohn, said, “Mrs. DeGraff is the kind of teacher that every child needs. She is dedicated and committed to her job 24/7.”

Craig Sullivan of Belton ISDCraig Sullivan has taught for 31 years and serves as a Construction Science Teacher at Belton High School in Belton ISD. He graduated from Belton High School as the senior class president in 1982 and returned to teach there after pursuing his degree and teacher’s certification. His teaching focus is on training students to meet the labor skill gap by learning hands-on construction skills for projects in the school and around the community.

“It is very rewarding to teach a concept in the classroom setting, take students to the shop and have them apply that concept to build a structure,” Sullivan said. “I believe that hands-on learning and preparing students for work in the industry is vital to the construction trade, the community and our nation’s workforce.”

In addition to his construction technology classes, Sullivan oversees:

  • Five industry certification courses for students (OSHA, Craft, Construction Technology, CNC and Level 5 Forklift)
  • A nationally ranked SkillsUSA team of students who have placed number one in Texas four years running
  • Classes of students who work on projects at the school district, including a digital media studio for the school’s Jumbotron, a greenhouse for the Agriculture department, wood flooring for the Culinary Arts dining room and more
  • Students working as apprentices and interns for local businesses and contractors
  • A service project where students build playhouses for disadvantaged children to give back to the community

He was named the Belton ISD High School Teacher of the Year and will represent Region 12 as a semifinalist in the Texas Teacher of the Year awards program.

Belton ISD Career and Technical Education Director Amanda Necessary described Sullivan as a teacher who connects with his students.
“Craig inspires his students to perform at an exceptional level,” Necessary said. “Even kids who might struggle in other areas excel, in his class. Craig is never opposed to a challenge. He fosters relationships with his kids and with community partners. Those partnerships open doors for students when they’re ready to start their careers.”

The Texas Association of School Administrators facilitates the state-level selection process for the Texas Teacher of the Year finalists. A panel of judges will review the applications of the 40 regional semifinalists and select three finalists for Texas Elementary Teacher of the Year and Texas Secondary Teacher of the Year.

The final judging occurs in September. The six finalists will be invited to Austin to interview with a panel of judges, which is typically composed of representatives of educational administrator associations, a member of the State Board for Education Certification, a member of the State Board of Education, and the most recent Texas Teachers of the Year. 

The panel chooses the two state winners and designates one to represent Texas in the National Teacher of the Year program. The winners are announced at the Texas Teacher of the Year Awards Ceremony in September.

About Texas Teacher of the Year

Facilitated by the Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA), the Texas Teacher of the Year

Program annually recognizes and rewards teachers who have demonstrated outstanding leadership

and excellence in teaching. Every fall, the Texas State Teacher of the Year Program honors 40 regional teachers of the year, among which are two State Teachers of the Year - one in elementary education and one in secondary education- and four state finalists. These regional teachers represent each of the 20 Education Service Center regions in Texas.




Killeen ISD Board of Trustees Named Region 12 School Board of the Year

WACO, Texas – The Killeen Independent School District Board of Trustees has been chosen by a Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA) committee as the Region 12 School Board of the Year. As a regional honoree, the Killeen ISD (KISD) Board of Trustees, representing districts with more than 1,000 students, will compete for the Texas Honor School Boards.

“We commend the KISD school board for their outstanding leadership and dedication to improving the quality of education in their district,” said Dr. Jerry Maze, executive director of Education Service Center (ESC) Region 12. “We are proud to recognize them for their strong commitment to their schools, students and community.” 

Killeen ISD Board of Trustees oversees education for nearly 44,000 students on more than 50 campuses in Central Texas. Approximately 37 percent of all KISD students are militarily connected (with one or both parents listed as “active duty”) and represent a diverse student population. The district has 32 elementary, 10 middle and five high school campuses, including the KISD Early College High School, two alternative schools, one career and technology center and several specialized campuses. 

It continues to grow in student population and the district will open an additional elementary and middle school for the 2017-18 school year. With nearly 6,500 employees, KISD is the second largest employer in the area next to Fort Hood and is the 26th largest school district in Texas. 

KISD recognized a need to improve student performance in math based on student achievement in mathematics, as measured by STAAR and EOC. With the support of the Board, KISD has implemented the following five programs to support students in math: 

The KISD Math Center provides tutoring and support to struggling math students in grades 5-12. The Math Center was established to address the identified areas of weakness in student expectations revealed in STAAR and EOC. 
Elementary ST Math is a supplemental mathematics curriculum for elementary students. Based on the success of the program, the Board approved the expansion of ST Math to all elementary campuses. 
Middle School Double Block Mathematics - KISD uses “double-blocking” in middle school math. All middle school students are scheduled for 100 minutes of math a day, which allows them to build strong conceptual understandings.
From 2013 to 2016, KISD middle schools were supported in math through the ASCD Coaching Initiative program that provides a coach to work at each middle school on a monthly basis over a three-year period. 
The Texas A&M Central Texas Curriculum Collaborative supports the development of math content knowledge and curriculum designed for teachers. Teachers work with a professor from the University and the District Instructional Specialist over a period of Saturdays to ensure deep content knowledge and best teaching practices. 

The Board consistently supports programs that contribute to higher performance at both district and campus levels, including the KISD Mathematics Initiative. The percentage of KISD students performing at the Level III Advanced standard has grown significantly from 2013 to 2016. 
2013 - STAAR math results show lower percentages of students passing compared to the state for five out of seven measures
2016 - STAAR math results show lower percentages of students passing compared to the state in only one out of seven measures

Although student performance improves each year, the Board continues to focus on addressing the needs and deficiencies of struggling learners. This focus has resulted in their support for the implementation of a PreK-12 Response to Intervention (RtI) model. The model is a structured system for proactively addressing the needs of struggling learners. 

The Board approved the purchase of universal screening tools for all grade levels in both math and reading and provides continuous support for the implementation of research-based interventions. This support has paved the way for a well-developed RtI System that ensures the needs of all KISD students are being addressed in a timely manner. According to KISD leadership, the implementation of effective professional development for teachers and an effective RtI process have significantly contributed to student academic achievement.

The Board recognizes the importance of college and career readiness and provides constant support to help KISD students become ready for life after graduation. During the 2014-15 school year, the Board approved the submission of an application for an Early College High School designation. Designation from TEA was received and the new campus opened in the fall of 2015  with 150 students. The program allows students to earn an associate’s degree while in high school. Based on extensive parent and community interest, the class size increased to 350 students in the 2016-17 school year. 

In addition to the college credit programs, KISD offers a variety of student opportunities through its Career and Technology Education (CTE) program. The KISD Career Center is a state-of-the-art facility where high school students may select courses consistent with their program of study. Coursework consists of business partnerships, student internships, certifications, licensures, college credit and hands-on educational experiences. 

A major strength of the KISD Board is its commitment to provide the best educational environment for every student, placing the educational needs of students above all else. The Board has faced major and difficult decisions regarding the need for additional buildings and rezoning. While rezoning students has been a politically unpopular action, the Board has considered and taken action on rezoning to relieve significant overcrowding at certain campuses. Since 2013, the Board has approved rezoning associated with two high schools, eight middle schools and 15 elementary schools. 

The Board also provides and welcomes opportunities to engage the community in making decisions for the district, stating: “It is only through the power of partnerships and collaborative efforts with parents and the community that we are able to provide students with the best educational opportunities possible.” During monthly board meetings, the Board schedules a Public Forum as a regular agenda item. The forum grants residents of the district, parents, employees and others the opportunity to participate openly in board meetings and provide valuable input for the Board to consider. The Board understands and appreciates that parental and community involvement is key to helping foster positive learning environments. 

“The Killeen Independent School District Board of Trustees consistently demonstrates their selfless service, dedication and work ethic while ensuring decisions are made with the best interests of students, staff and the community at the forefront,” said Dr. John Craft, Superintendent at KISD. “The School Board of the Year Recognition is a testament to these efforts, from which the District will continue to benefit. Congratulations to the KISD Board of Trustees!”

As the Region 12 School Board of the Year, the Killeen ISD Board of Trustees will be in the running to be named a 2017 Texas Honor Board, one of which is chosen as Texas’ Outstanding School Board. All regional and honor Boards will be recognized at the TASA/TASB Convention in October.


About Texas School Board of the Year
The Texas Association of School Administrators created the School Board Awards Program in 1971 to recognize school boards whose dedication and ethical service have made a positive impact on the school children of Texas. The awards program allows each regional selection committee to submit up to two nominations for state competition, one from districts with less than 1,000 students and one from districts with more than 1,000 students. The criteria emphasize evidence of support for educational performance improvement and school transformation initiatives.