SBOE recognizes 2022 Heroes for Children award recipients

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(Top row, left to right): District 14 Elizabeth Chase-Copperas Cove ISD; District 8 Tonia Jaeggi-Cypress-Fairbanks ISD; District 13 Elsa Munoz-Irving ISD (represented by Liesl Payne); District 12 Jill Beitel-Prosper ISD; District 11 Ken Kuhl-Fort Worth ISD; District 10 Carolyn Holubec-Thrall ISD; District 9 Thomas (Tab) Beall-Tyler ISD
(Bottom row, left to right): District 15 Betty Lyon-Morton ISD; District 7 Barbara Franklin-Brazosport ISD; District 6 Lauren Dougherty-Klein ISD; District 5 Melinda Cox-North East ISD; District 4 Rosalinda Ortiz-Galena Park ISD; District 3 Jason Mims-San Antonio ISD; District 2 Esmeralda Guerrero-Mission CISD (not in picture); District 1 Deborah McReynolds-Ector County ISD

Fifteen school volunteers, who collectively have devoted 233 years of service to the Texas public schools and communities, were honored as Heroes for Children award recipients by the State Board of Education on September 2, 2022 in Austin, Texas.

The volunteers provided a wide range of  services, including starting a high school Smart Driving Club that promotes the message, “Eyes on the road, not on your phone”, restoring what appeared to be a storeroom into a functional science laboratory, founding a safety program for an annual event for incoming first graders, establishing a scholarship endowment for deserving graduates, and securing grants to build an outdoor classroom. 

Each school volunteer received a plaque recognizing their service, a copy of a board resolution, a certificate of recognition from Gov. Greg Abbott, and photographs commemorating the ceremony. Each hero’s name has also been engraved on a perpetual plaque that is permanently displayed at the Texas Education Agency. 

With this year’s Heroes for Children recipients, the SBOE has now recognized 510 Texans with this prestigious award since its inception in 1994.

“Each and every one of the 15 recipients of the State Board of Education Heroes for Children award are awe inspiring.  I am always so impressed with the level of commitment they show to brighten the lives of Texas students.  I know they will continue to inspire not only our students but to also inspire others to volunteer in our schools.  I am sure that through their work, students’ lives are changed for the better.” Said SBOE Chair Dr. Keven Ellis.  

Below is a brief description of the volunteer work performed by each recipient.

Deborah McReynolds (Ector County ISD - SBOE District 1) nominated by Debbie Lieb
Deborah McReynolds has volunteered for eight years with the Hays Science Technology Engineering, Art, and Math (STEAM) Academy in Ector County Independent School District (ISD). As a volunteer, she restored a storeroom into a fully functioning science laboratory. She has also set-up a rock exploration laboratory where students get hands-on experience learning about different types of rocks. Currently, she is responsible for operating the science laboratory where students and teachers take turns enjoying her fun and engaging lessons through the program, Sharkfinder. Her wealth of knowledge in setting-up science laboratories and her passion to share her love of science has made a tremendous impact on Ector County students.

Esmeralda Guerrero (Mission Consolidated ISD - SBOE District 2) nominated by Miguel Moreno
Esmeralda Guerrero has been a volunteer with Mission Consolidated ISD for seven years. She currently serves as the president of the District Advisory Committee where she leads all parent meetings, and she serves as a member of the Bilingual Parent Committee where she assists in providing information about the school and district policies to parents. Her other volunteer activities include making copies, laminating posters, helping students and teachers in the classroom, decorating the school for special occasions, and working a booth during health fairs. Esmeralda has been an example to other parents by showing them how being a volunteer has an incredible impact on students and the entire community.

Jason Mims (San Antonio ISD - SBOE District 3) nominated by Christina Martinez & Alicia Sebastian
Jason Mims has been an advocate for public education for the past 20 years.  He helps students in San Antonio ISD, and surrounding areas find internship opportunities, takes them on college tours, mentors them until they graduate, and assists them with their college applications process. It is not unusual to see a photo of Jason and his mentees witnessing and celebrating his most notable and recognizable endeavor, “Kindness Matters”. He shares his Kindness gifts with students and their families in urban areas to increase their awareness of exceptional college opportunities available to students excelling in urban public schools. As a recognized champion of public education for the past 20 years, giving back to his community is his passion. Jason’s volunteerism is thoughtful, meaningful, and encourages future leaders to dream big, to explore, and to make a big difference in the lives of others.

Rosalinda Ortiz (Galena Park ISD - SBOE District 4) nominated by Sandra Garcia
Rosalinda Ortiz has been a volunteer at Pyburn Elementary School in Galena Park ISD for the past eight years. She has been awarded the volunteer of the month recognition every year for her passion in supporting her school community and their activities. She has been president of the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) for many years. Rosalinda is always eager to participate in schoolwide events and her dedication is a blessing to both students and staff. She is selfless, kind, and always thinks of others.  The staff at Pyburn have always been able to count on her to be there to lead parent meetings for fundraisers, help with decorations for school events, or assist teachers on the campus by watching the students. By giving her time to benefit the students and staff of Pyburn Elementary, Rosalinda is a great example to other parents and grandparents.

Melinda Cox (North East ISD - SBOE District 5) nominated by Shannon Grona
Melinda Cox has been a volunteer and advocate for North East ISD for more than 13 years. At the district level, she has served on the North East Council of PTAs board as the Advocacy Chair and Healthy Lifestyles Chair. She has served on the School Health Advisory Council's nutrition and safety committees. Melinda is best known within the community for starting the Johnson High School Parent-Teacher-Student Association’s Smart Driving Club in 2012. The club members work with their peers, community members, local leaders, school administration, and state leaders to promote the message "Eyes on the Road, Not on Your Phone". Through the Smart Driving Club, Melinda has educated thousands of students and their families about being smart and safe drivers. She has been instrumental in contributing to the development and implementation of local ordinances that ban cell phone use while driving and a state law prohibiting texting while driving. There is no doubt that lives have been saved through her education and advocacy efforts.

Lauren Dougherty (Klein ISD - SBOE District 6) nominated by Dayna Hernandez
Lauren Dougherty has been a passionate volunteer in Klein ISD for the past five years. As vice president of the Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO) at Brill Elementary, she organizes a monthly dual language family night event that encourages parents to come together as a community to share cultural food and recipes along with playing games and craft activities. This monthly event has empowered parents to get involved with their children’s education and the event has been replicated across other elementary campuses in the district. Lauren has also become a fierce advocate for public education with a focus on school funding at the state and local levels. The Klein ISD community is privileged to have a remarkable, brilliant, and a natural leader who leads others by her example of selfless giving.

Barbara Franklin (Brazosport ISD - SBOE District 7) nominated by Danny Massey
Barbara Franklin put into motion a child-focused safety program that has been woven into the fabric of the Brazosport ISD community and has left a legacy that continues today after 34 years. The program is known as Brazosport Safetytown; a miniature town situated on a 100-foot campus gym floor. The town comes complete with streets, sidewalks, stoplights, buildings, other traffic devices, and plastic tiny riding trikes that allows children to practice basic safety lessons in order to learn how to prevent accidents. Each year, Safetytown brings incoming first graders to the Brazosport Safetytown campus for nine days of comprehensive safety education classes. The course covers diverse topics including fire safety, pedestrian and car safety, stranger danger, home emergencies, poison control, dangers of unfriendly dogs, beach safety, gun safety, and gang hazards. The success and sustainability of the program is attributed to Barbara’s leadership and unwavering support.

Tonia Jaeggi (Cypress-Fairbanks ISD - SBOE District 8) nominated by Bevin Gordon
Tonia Jaeggi has been avid volunteer for Robison Elementary in Cypress-Fairbanks ISD for the last seven years. During her time as a volunteer, she became a certified presenter for the Science Resource Center and has supported student learning by volunteering at Nature Trails outdoor learning center. One of her favorite activities is to use snakes, guinea pigs, ferrets, worms, and other interesting critters to deliver hands-on science learning to students. She served as a PTO officer for five years and raised funds to enrich the student and staff experience for all Robison Rockets. She has sponsored teacher and staff appreciation meals and gifts, Veteran’s Day programs, and gifts for a neighboring school with limited resources. Her volunteer service has uplifted students and staff, enriched learning environments, influenced public policy, heightened community engagement, and positively impacted the lives of others in her community.

Thomas (Tab) Beall (Tyler ISD - SBOE District 9) nominated by Marty Crawford
Thomas (Tab) Beall Jr. has advocated for Tyler ISD for over 21 years. He has served as a member of the Tyler ISD Foundation Board since 2001 and continues to actively volunteer his time, talent, and resources. In 2011, Tab and his wife, Bonnie, announced a $550,000 donation, which included a scholarship endowment. So far, the Tab and Bonnie Beall Scholarship has impacted the lives of 21 Tyler ISD graduates. Tab is a smiling fixture at various district and foundation board events that support teachers and students across the district, including Caldwell Arts Academy’s annual elementary musical, which is the district convocation event for all employees, and the annual District Teachers of the Year banquet. In 2019 Tab was named a member of the district’s Distinguished Alumni; which is an award given annually to a Tyler ISD graduate whose achievements, strengths of character, and citizenship serve as a model to inspire and challenge current students. The school community is grateful for his unwavering support, dedication, and endless accomplishments for the thousands of students served by Tyler ISD.

Carolyn Holubec (Thrall ISD - SBOE District 10) nominated by Tommy Hooker
Carolyn Holubec has been a devoted Thrall ISD volunteer for more than 21 years where she has served as a member and officer of the elementary and secondary campus PTO, band boosters club member, and most recently as president of the Thrall Community Education Foundation. In her duties as a volunteer, she recruited members of the community to become active participants of the foundation and helped raise over $250,000 in funds for student scholarships and teacher grants. So far, the foundation has awarded over $100,000 in student scholarships and $40,000 in teacher grants. It is not unusual to see Carolyn at sporting events. She assisted in making sure the district sports fields were painted for athletic events. Her constant presence and positive engagement with district activities has impacted the culture of the district. The entire Thrall Tiger family is thankful to have a humble volunteer like Carolyn.

Ken Kuhl (Fort Worth ISD - SBOE District 11) nominated by Alma Pohler
Ken Kuhl has been a PTO member and officer of the Fort Worth ISD for the past five years. Ken is dedicated to making every child’s positive potential become a reality. He has planned and executed the annual carnival at his daughter’s elementary school and has led the district’s Council of PTAs as president. As a volunteer, he worked with parents, the community, and the district to secure the funds to build three new elementary schools in under-resourced Fort Worth communities. He also galvanized parent and public support for the renovation of aging middle schools in order to make a positive impact on how students learn in their physical learning environment. During the pandemic, Ken and his PTA colleagues were a source of support, encouragement, and strength to all of the district families. During that time, he organized, led, and moderated virtual town hall meetings to share school information provided by the district leadership team and answered parent questions. He also secured a grant from National PTA to build outdoor classrooms which proved to be useful for both students and teachers. Ken’s leadership ability to build coalitions and partnerships among local and state elected officials, community stakeholders, and parents makes him an exemplary citizen and real hero for the children of Fort Worth ISD. 

Jill Beitel (Prosper ISD - SBOE District 12) nominated by Holly Ferguson
Jill Beitel has been a volunteer for Prosper ISD for the past 11 years. In her roles at the district, she has been involved in activities that assist teachers and provide opportunities for students. Her roles include, serving as a lead room mom, a club and organization chairperson, PTO officer, and a member of the planning committee to help with the development of the district’s Strategic Plan. Her commitment to the district led her to get involved with the Prosper Education Foundation where she actively serves on the grants and scholarship committee and in several other capacities. In addition, she serves on one of the Legacy Scholarship committees. She also spends her time volunteering for the Young Men’s Service League, several food pantries and assistance charities, Prosper Ladies Association, and Lovepacs Prosper. There are very few areas of the district and the greater Prosper community that Jill is not involved in serving as a model of grace, compassion, service, and integrity. Jill is a selfless servant leader committed to serve everyone with whom she crosses paths and deserves to be recognized as Prosper community’s Hero for Children.

Elsa Muñoz (Irving ISD - SBOE District 13) nominated by Deyanira Valdez
Elsa Muñoz has been a volunteer at Townsell Elementary in Irving ISD for the past eight years. Elsa sees the value in helping teachers because she knows it gives them much needed time to prepare for quality instruction for their students. She values the relationships she has with campus staff and the opportunity to learn more about the school setting. Elsa does not hesitate to change her schedule when she’s asked to volunteer for school events, so that she can help in any way she can. She has become an advocate for parent engagement with school activities. If she is not in the classroom volunteering, you will see Elsa helping with craft activities or working on event decorations for the school. She attends parent classes and encourages other parents to attend because she believes that the parent classes offered at Irving ISD have helped her better support her children and her personal growth. Her positive and helpful spirit help make Townsell Elementary a better place to be for its students.

Elizabeth Chase (Copperas Cove ISD - SBOE District 14) nominated by Wendy Sledd
Elizabeth Chase has a servant's heart. She has been volunteering for Copperas Cove ISD for the past 15 years. Elizabeth had taken on what is known as two of the most difficult volunteer leadership roles in the district; chair for Project Graduation and president for the cheer booster club. Her Project Graduation 2022 was a great success with a large number of graduating students happily attending the celebration.  She has also served in the challenging role as the cheer booster club president for the last two years.  Under her leadership, Elizabeth and other committee members supported the squad with fundraisers for camp, an end-of-the-year banquet, and a trip to the University Interscholastic League (UIL) state championship. The Copperas Cove community is very fortunate to have a true Hero for Children like Elizabeth.

Betty Lyon (Morton ISD - SBOE District 15) nominated by Rina Ramos
Betty Lyon is everyone’s Nana in Morton ISD where she has been volunteering since 1972.Over the course of five decades, Betty has made outstanding contributions to student learning, demonstrated lasting involvement and support for public education, and has done that with consistency and with much love. Everyone's Nana has set the bar high when it comes to volunteerism. Betty is a valued and permanent part of the Morton landscape and spends her time substitute teaching, making homemade baked goods for fundraisers, supporting kids at livestock shows, and cheering kids on in the stands. She gives selflessly of herself by often spending the entire school day through the end of sporting events to make sure that the students feel supported and loved. She also provides a scholarship every year to a graduating senior. Morton ISD is beyond blessed to have an amazing Hero for Children for more than 50 years and hopes for many more years to come.