Sam Rayburn High's Delel Serda (top) accepts congratulations from Pasadena ISD Superintendent Dr. Kirk Lewis and school Principal Robert Stock (far right) for her selection as First-Year Teacher of the Year for the secondary level; (bottom) South Houston Elementary's Mariana Escobar, joined by Associate Superintendent for Campus Development Steve Laymon and Dr. Lewis, celebrates her Teacher of the Year award with her first-grade students.
Dalel Serda, an English Language Arts teacher at Sam Rayburn High School, and Mariana Escobar, a first-grade bilingual teacher at South Houston Elementary, were named 2011 First-Year Teachers of the Year on Friday for the Pasadena ISD.
Both received surpise visits from Dr. Kirk Lewis, the district's superintendent of schools, and other district officials to inform them of their selections.
Serda, selected from the secondary grades, is a product of the district's Alternative Teacher Certification Program. Escobar, the winner among elementary grades, did her student teaching at South Houston Elementary while finishing her degree work at the University of Houston.
Profiles of the two winners follow:
FIRST-YEAR SECONDARY TEACHER of the YEAR
DALEL SERDA / Sam Rayburn High School
"Dalel-Mania" began early last fall with an email sent by her mentor to administrators at Sam Rayburn. The word "sensational" was tossed around like salt on celery. And administrators took the memo with a grain of salt.
Until they saw Dalel Serda in action, in front of her sophomore level SIOP English Language Arts students.
"Sensational" sprouted like a thesaurus entry. "Phenomenal." "Mesmerizing." Even "life-altering." One district specialist left her classroom with the thought of filming her as a training tool for new teachers.
A product of the district's Alternative Teacher Certification Program, Serda is hardly a teaching novice. She came to Sam Rayburn with the equivalent of four years as a college instructor. She holds a degree in creative writing and a master's in advertising.
She attributes at least some of her classroom success to knowing how to sell a product. Yet, her lessons are also laced with life experiences gathered in travels through Europe and Asia. She met her husband in Japan and together they taught English there and in Korea. She often visits Mexico City - to visit her Lebanese parents.
Praised for her bell-to-bell lessons and constant student engagement, Serda launched a new student organization this year called "Emerging Scholars' Circle," a discussion group for analyzing various subjects. She is preparing her first book for publication - all of which begs the question of who has the more insatiable appetite for learning: Serda? Or her students?
That's the happy mystery behind "Dalel-Mania" at Sam Rayburn.
FIRST-YEAR ELEMENTARY TEACHER of the YEAR
MARIANA ESCOBAR / South Houston Elementary
She has taught four different grade levels. She has handled both bilingual and regular assignments. She has changed classrooms so many times, her box-toting husband is often mistaken for a maintenance employee.
And, yet, Mariana Escobar is just now finishing up her first official year of teaching.
No matter the assignment, Escobar has proven herself to be an upbeat and innovative educator at South Houston Elementary.
Escobar began her association with the school as a student teacher not quite two years ago. She worked with first-graders and then kindergarten students -- and then left. But when the school's kindergarten staff expressed an urgent need for a math tutor, she answered the call and returned.
The following spring, a second-grade teacher went on family leave. Escobar accepted the spot as a long-term substitute. She wasn't "hired" until last summer when a second-grade regular teaching assignment opened up. Although her first preference was a bilingual spot, and despite the lower salary, she accepted.
Almost immediately, a third-grade bilingual spot opened and she grabbed that, leaving another teaching team long-faced. Then, two weeks into the school year, her husband was stacking boxes again. Changing enrollment numbers meant the school had to drop a third-grade bilingual class and add a first-grade bilingual class.
Seamlessly, she handled the transition.
Says South Houston Principal Naomi Orozco-Clements: "I can depend on her to find the positive in all situations."