Photos courtesy SISD

SISD celebrates 2021 Campus Teachers of the Year, Elite 8 with drive-up event, surprise visits

The Socorro Independent School District named and recognized its 2021 Elite 8 Teachers of the Year with surprise visits at their schools and celebrated all campus Teachers of the Year with a drive-up event at the SISD District Service Center.

All 48 campus Teachers of the Year were celebrated  with a special drive-up event, where teachers drove up to hear a special announcement of their name by Superintendent Jose Espinoza, Ed.D. and received a gift bag with commemorative goodies and a charcuterie snack box to share and celebrate at home with their loved ones. They also took a socially distanced photo with Dr. Espinoza, members of the SISD leadership team and board trustees.

At the Elite 8 surprise visits, Dr. Jose Espinoza, assistant superintendents, and trustees went to each of the top 8 teachers’ campuses where they showered them with the news, balloons, Team SISD baseball caps, and a commemorative sign with their photo.

The Elite 8 teachers were overwhelmed with surprise and happiness when they found out they were named the finalists in the program.

The 2021 SISD Elite 8 Teachers of the Year are Kelsey Anderson from Cactus Trails Elementary, Ana Stopyra from O’Shea Keleher Elementary, Gerardo E. Morales from Robert R. Rojas Elementary, LaTreye Waters from Sierra Vista Elementary, Donna Sianez from El Dorado High School, Emily Jo Cancellare from Pebble Hills High School, Angelo M. Arriaga from Eastlake High School, and Cynthia Carmona from Americas High School.

Morales, a SCE-I coach at Rojas Elementary, was the first teacher of the eight to be visited by the congratulatory team.

“I was very surprised because I was not expecting this,” Morales said. “I never aimed to be teacher of the year. I just always try to do the best that can, while working with my peers and with the kids. I do everything I can to make this a better school and make sure that our district is represented well.”

Anderson, a teacher at Cactus Trails Elementary, was equally ecstatic to get the news. She said her sole reason for teaching is to help children succeed.

“I do my job, honestly, to see the results in the kids,” Anderson said. “Their smiles, their laughter, and the fun we get to have. The difference we get to make in their lives is just phenomenal.”

Stopyra, a special education teacher at O’Shea Keleher Elementary, was in complete disbelief when she heard the news.

“This is so hard to put into words,” Stopyra said. “I come to work every day because my heart is here. It’s not just a job for me, this is my world, this is what I do.”

Waters, a teacher and SCE-I coach at Vista Del Sol Elementary, was delighted to be personally surprised by the SISD leadership team.

“It was super amazing and just an awesome surprise to have Ms. (Alisa) Zapata and Dr. Espinoza actually come to see me here. Truly, that meant a lot,” Waters said. “I know they have a very busy schedule and for them to want to come congratulate me in person makes me feel special.’

Arriaga, a ninth-grade Pre-AP English 1 and a 12th grade AP literature and composition teacher at Eastlake High School, was hard at work organizing books when the team stopped by with the news.

“I’m just super excited,” Arriaga said. “I’m just thrilled to be a part of this school district and to be a part of Eastlake High School.”

Cancellare, the student activities director at Pebble Hills High School, was equally thrilled with the news. She said that she caught the teaching bug from her parents who were both educators who came down to El Paso from North Dakota when she was 3 years old specifically to work at SISD.

“I saw the joy and happiness that Socorro brought them, so I decided to go into education as well,” she said. “I am so excited!”

Donna Sianez, a professional communications teacher at El Dorado High School, was humbled to know that she had been nominated by her peers and called Team SISD her family.

“It is an extension of our family, it is our family,” Sianez said. “I’m just so excited because we (her family) live and breathe Team SISD and we’re just so glad to be a part of it.”

Cynthia Carmona, an algebra 2 and geometry teacher at Americas High School, joked that she was confused when she saw camera after camera go into her classroom, but once she got the news, she said it was a wonderful surprise for a Monday morning.

“I feel like having been nominated is a huge honor because I know that every single teacher of the year from the district is absolutely amazing and it’s just such a massive honor to know that someone saw something great in me,” she said. “It is extremely heartwarming, and I can’t stop shaking because it’s really exciting news.”

The Elite 8 Teachers of the Year are participating in the next round of the TOY program and the top elementary and secondary winners selected to represent the district at the regional level will be named later this school year.

Dr. Espinoza, board trustees and administrators surprised the four elementary and four secondary teachers who were named as Elite 8 finalists in the annual SISD TOY awards program on February 22 and 23.