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20131029 Teachers-of-the-Year Alton AF 2901ALTON—Two years in a row, the honor of top teacher in the region has gone to educators at Alton Memorial Jr. High.

Yvette Nevarez received Regional Secondary Teacher of the Year for 2012, and Rosbel Peña won the title for 2013; an achievement that was unexpected, according to the duo.

“It was a big honor to represent our campus, our kids and our co-workers and my family,” Peña said. “We try our best, we don’t go in there expecting to win, there are 26 other teachers in there competing for the same award.”

Both teachers graduated from Mission High School. Nevarez is teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) while Peña teaches mathematics at the sixth grade level.

Peña has had 20 years of experience with Mission CISD, and actually taught Nevarez at Marcell Elementary. Peña recalls seeing Nevarez’s interest in University Scholastic League (UIL) at a young age, and now the two take students to compete side by side.

“When I first came here, she (Nevarez) came and gave me a big hug and I thought ‘Cool, she remembers me’,” Peña said. “When she won the award, we were extremely excited. Seeing a former student of mine excel to that level is really rewarding to me.”

Nevarez said she was equally as excited when her former teacher won the same title this year. The two teachers said there are new challenges every year, but they are proud to represent Alton Memorial Jr. High at the regional level.

The regional title covers 47 school districts in the South Texas area, from Laredo to Port Isabel. Staff recommends teachers for the Teacher of the Year award, and nominees are asked to submit a resume along with a series of essays, 14 pages in total.

Both Nevarez and Peña received the award at the district level as well as the regional level. It is difficult for two teachers from the same campus to take the title for two consecutive years, but Nevarez said their environment is unique as well as supportive.

“We have an awesome group of people working here, our principal, Sylvia Garcia does an amazing job of picking good quality people to come in,” Nevarez said. “There is a lot of heart here. It has a lot to do with the climate, your coworkers…what you are handed.”

Peña said the population the school serves is challenging compared to other campuses in the region. Knowing that, they put their best foot forward and try their best everyday and are excited to see when hard work pays off.

The Texas Education Agency- Department of Assessment and Accountability Division of Performance Reporting Preliminary 2013 Accountability Ratings showed the campus earned two distinctions in English Language Arts and 25 percent progress. Only two of four junior highs received two distinctions on the rating system within the MCISD district.

Peña said they receive support and are continuously reminded of procedures, standards and expectations. He added having drive and standards play a role in the success of his students and campus.

“It really does boil down to what is best for our kids,” Nevarez said. “Reaching them is how you will meet those standards. It is part of the process. It’s more about making sure these kids get quality, we are doing the best for them.”

After winning, Nevarez and Peña said they are looking forward to stepping up their game, pushing for more success and learning for their students, campus and district.

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