Park View Intermediate English teacher Lynette Palmer (top) receives the good news from Superintendent Dr. Kirk Lewis that she has been chosen as Teacher of the Year for the secondary level; Morales Elementary science teacher Ritu Gandhi fights back tears as she accepts a congratulatory cookie from Dr. Lewis and an assortment of royal gifts from her colleagues.
Lynette Palmer, an English teacher at Park View Intermediate for most of the past 40 years, and Ritu Gandhi, a science teacher at Morales Elementary for not quite a decade, have been selected as the Pasadena ISD's Teachers of the Year for 2011.
Palmer was named secondary Teacher of the Year. Gandhi was named Teacher of the Year for the elementary grades.
The winners were treated to surprise visits on Friday by Pasadena ISD Superintendent Dr. Kirk Lewis and other district officials.
Both will go to compete for Teacher of the Year honors in Region IV of the Texas Education Agency.
Profiles of the two winners follow:
SECONDARY TEACHER of the YEAR
LYNETTE PALMER / Park View Intermediate
Her sweet, Southern voice has been heard in the halls and classrooms at Park View for the better part of four decades. Long ago the phrase "let me tell you something, honey" became Lynette Palmer's calling card for her English students.
But along the way, Palmer had to tell herself something.
"Times have changed since I started and I had to change the way I teach for my students," she says. "This generation has more odds stacked against them than in years past. And it's my job to move those odds in a different direction."
Palmer has done just that through a variety of methods, including a generous daily dose of love and laughter. Her sixth-grade class is a flash of color, seasonal decorations, student work and illustrations. Students feel at home in her classroom, alert and motivated to absorb all that her magnolia voice has to say.
Palmer taught 17 years at Park View before taking a teaching hiatus to start a family. She returned to Park View in 2002, left for a year to teach at Pasadena Memorial and then bounced right back to the Home of the Cowboys.
She sports some of the highest scores and longest rates of success on TAKS writing exams of any teacher in the Pasadena ISD.
She is, she says, "an old-school teacher at heart."
An old-school teacher who has learned a few new tricks along the way.
ELEMENTARY TEACHER of the YEAR
RITU GANDHI / Morales Elementary
Ask students at Morales about their favorite subject and odds are you'll get the same answer: "Science!"
"Science!" is where Morales students build nature habitats, explore aerodynamics, study weather systems and develop an understanding of chemistry. "Science!" is where students learn why whales have blubber. A youngster's hand dipped in lard and plunged into ice quickly answers the question. "Science!" is the place to be.
And the science lab is where you'll find Ritu Gandhi, now her ninth year of transforming nearly every science-related aspect of education at Morales.
Brought aboard in 2002 to launch a science lab at the school, Gandhi has built a learning wonderland. Her mini-grant awards over the years have reaped $15,000 worth of equipment used to acquire and develop a WeatherBug facility and videoconference systems.
Gandhi has largely reshaped the concept of Science Fair within the district. She created a network of community volunteers as judges -- a panel that was quickly tapped by nearly a dozen other schools. Her Science Fair journeys begin with parent workshops and provide such amenities as baby-sitting for the young siblings of participating students.
Participation in Science Fair at Morales has grown five-fold since her arrival.
Yet, for all her diverse ideas, Gandhi maintains a single focus: to raise the achievement level of her students and broader opportunities for additional learning.
Lynette Palmer responds to words of praise from her colleagues as Dr. Kirk Lewis listens.
Palmer, flanked by Dr. Lewis, accepts congratulations from Park View assistant principals Neal Brownlee, Keely Coufal and Jamie Lusk.
Flanked by Dr. Lewis and Associate Superintendent for Campus Development Troy McCarley, Morales science teacher Ritu Gandhi receives hugs of congratulations from her principal, Kathy Connolly, and her assistant principal, Rhonda Killen.
Back in her science lab, Gandhi is swarmed by students happy to hear the news of her Teacher of the Year honor.
TEACHERS of the YEAR
Micah Strickland Beverly Hills Intermediate
Sonja Stephens Bondy Intermediate
Jeanie Brady Jackson Intermediate
Melissa Carpenter Miller Intermediate
Lynette Palmer Park View Intermediate
Veann Richards Thompson Intermediate
Shanen Campo Sam Rayburn High
Andrew Winterle Pasadena High
Steven Higginbotham J. Frank Dobie High
TEACHERS of the YEAR
Katie Belus Frazier Elementary
Mary Lopez Pomeroy Elementary
Esperanza Briones Kruse Elementary
Kathy Byrd Red Bluff Elementary
Chrystal Anchondo Genoa Elementary
Sharon Akers Gardens Elementary
Nilda Fuentes South Houston Elementary
Vera Kmeid Williams Elementary
Jami Lupold Pearl Hall Elementary
Hortensia Melchor Freeman Elementary
Rita Gandhi Morales Elementary
Linda Alfonso Jensen Elementary
Tom Durr Moore Elementary
Ester Flores Stuchbery Elementary
Marie Marler Bush Elementary
Irene Everette Jessup Elementary
Gloria Jaramillo Matthys Elementary
Connie Daumas Meador Elementary
Rebecca Barrios-Garcia Mae Smythe Elementary
Florimae Belvix Richey Elementary
Erminia Abowd DeZavala Middle School
Ursula Bryant Keller Middle School
Christy Farrell Lomax Middle School
Betty Haley Melillo Middle School
Oziel Chapa Milstead Middle School
Janet White Morris Middle School
Lori Muirhead Schneider Middle School
Bryan Williams Shaw Middle School
Lisa Jackson L F Smith Elementary