ARGYLE — An Argyle Intermediate School fifth-grade science teacher got quite the classroom surprise Tuesday.
While sharing a lesson with 23 students on complete and incomplete metamorphosis, Brenda Williams was surprised to learn she had been named a finalist for grocer H-E-B’s 2014 Excellence in Education Award.
Representatives from H-E-B, joined by school Principal Lisa Hartman and Superintendent Telena Wright, arrived at Williams’ classroom door Tuesday morning with flowers, balloons, a cake, a camera crew and a check for $1,000.
As they entered and Williams grasped what was going on, she covered her mouth with her left hand and then clapped.
“Oh my gosh. I’ve been checking your website every day to see when you were coming to North Texas,” Williams said to H-E-B representatives, holding back tears.
“Every day I was checking your website.”
Williams is one of eight North Texas educators being surprised this week by H-E-B representatives as finalists for the company’s award, which spotlights the best educators in the state. A total of 40 educators will be surprised during the next month.
Also awarded Tuesday was a $1,000 check to Argyle Intermediate School. Williams is being invited to Houston in the next couple of months to compete against other educators for cash prizes ranging from $5,000 to $50,000. State winners for the H-E-B awards will be announced in May.
“[It’s] so exciting,” Williams said. “I’m really honored because I work at a great district, very supportive, so very honored.”
Wright said that while the school district has been named a finalist for an H-E-B award a couple of times in the past, Williams is the first educator from Argyle to be named a finalist for an H-E-B educator award.
“She takes a very strong interest in the achievement of each individual student, whether they’re an extremely high-achieving student or whether they need that extra support that students sometimes need with understanding science concepts,” Wright said of Williams. “She’s been a huge contributor to science instruction in Argyle ISD.
“We’re very proud of her. It’s very well-deserved.”
Williams’ career as an educator spans 15 years. She’s been a teacher in Argyle for five years — two years at Hilltop Elementary School as a fourth-grade teacher and the other three with Argyle Intermediate.
Last school year, she was named Teacher of the Year for both her campus and the Argyle school district.
Fifth-grader Lauren Reaves described Williams as hard-working.
“She’s not one of the teachers that just like lets you get away with everything,” Lauren said. “She teaches us like high-level things that I think it helps us a lot.”
Williams “stands out” when thinking about educators who engage students, said Hartman, who nominated Williams for the award. She said Williams’ class is one “you just never want to leave,” and it has “the elements of the perfect classroom.”
“The activities and the things that they do daily keeps them not only interested and motivated but truly learning science concepts in a way that is just so different,” she said. “She takes a different approach. I would say that 90 percent of what she does is hands-on, and you don’t usually see that level of engagement and participation with kids in a science classroom.
“She’s one of those classrooms that it’s just peaceful. It is structured, it’s loving, it’s supportive, it’s got everything.”
Hartman said that because of Williams’ level and quality of professionalism, it was no surprise she was selected a finalist for the 2014 H-E-B Excellence in Education Award.
The program originated in 2002 as a partnership with the Texas Association of School Administrators supporting Texas public education and “has become the largest monetary program for educators in the state, spotlighting best practices and celebrating the passion and creativity of Texas educators,” according to a news release.
BRITNEY TABOR can be reached at 940-566-6876 and via Twitter at @BritneyTabor.