Videos+Gallery+Story: Lundy, Andress educators are EPISD Teachers of the Year

Two youthful and energetic teachers with a strong passion for education and their community were selected as the EPISD Teachers of the Year for the 2019-2020 cycle.

Denisse Almaraz Valencia from Lundy Elementary School and Michael E. Herrera from Andress High School were announced as the EPISD Elementary and Secondary Teachers of the Year, respectively, during surprise visits to their homes on Friday.

“Ms. Almaraz Valencia and Mr. Herrera represent the very best of EPISD: dedication to the profession, innovation in the classroom and commitment to the children of El Paso,” said Superintendent Juan E. Cabrera. “I am confident that they will do a fantastic job of representing the 4,000 teachers that make up the teaching corps of the District.”

Normally, the winners of the award would be announced during the Teacher of the Year Gala. The event was canceled this year due to the health concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pandemic was on the mind of Almaraz Valencia as she accepted virtual hugs and social-distance congratulations from her principal and co-workers on Friday.

“This means so much to me, especially right now as teachers face some of the most challenging times of our professional lives,” she said. “This award is for all the teachers in EPISD and all teachers in El Paso for going above and beyond to help the children we serve.”

Almaraz Valencia is a dual-language teacher with students in the fifth and sixth grade.

For Herrera, a social-studies teacher, the Teacher of the Year Award is recognition of the impact his school is making in the lives of students.

“Andress High School is such a special community and I am proud to be a part of it,” he said. “The teachers there embrace students for who they are and that makes a huge difference in the work that they do.”

Almaraz Valencia and Herrera were selected from among 10 finalists for the District’s top teaching award. The other finalists in EPISD were Melinda Olivas from Hillside Elementary, Maribel Franco from Logan Elementary, Christina Ceniceros from Mesita Elementary, Jammie Price from Nixon Elementary, Lecroy Rhyanes from Canyon Hills Middle, Tobias Block from Silva Health Magnet High, Sarah Porter from Transmountain Early College High and Jennifer Thacker from Young Women’s STEAM Academy.

The two EPISD winners will now represent the District at the Region 19 Teacher of the Year contest later this year.

Story by Gustavo Reveles  |  Graphic by Martín A. López  – EPISD