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    Travis Arnold Travis Arnold

    Arlington Heights High School

    Sewell Lexus and Infiniti of Fort Worth Chair for Teaching Excellence in Humanities

    Travis received his bachelor’s degree from Texas Tech University and has taught seven years in Fort Worth ISD. Travis builds relationships with his students to help them prepare for the future challenges of college, but he also wants them to appreciate the past. “I want to show students that humans throughout the globe are more connected than they ever realized. There is a history and explanation to everything in our lives.” Travis gets to know his students and then provides student-centered learning experiences and acts as a facilitator to assist them along the way.


    Shelli Aulisio

    Shelli Aulisio

    Sam Rosen Elementary School

    Angela D. Paulos Chair for Teaching Excellence in Visual Arts

    Shelli earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of North Texas and has taught 12 years in Fort Worth ISD. She encourages students to explore their own interests, find their own voice, and develop individual strengths in various art media. Shelli adjusted to a virtual classroom by surveying students about what they wanted to explore or were able to access. She has offered media options such as drawing, collage, photography, weaving, and natural art. She guides students and parents through virtual platforms and has even held a virtual art show to highlight students’ work.


    Timothy Brendler Timothy Brendler

    I.M. Terrell Academy for STEM & VPA

    Bayard H. Friedman Chair for Teaching Excellence in Performing Arts

    Timothy earned master’s degrees from Baylor University and George W. Truett Theological Seminary, as well as a bachelor’s degree from St. Olaf College. He has taught four years in Fort Worth ISD. Timothy strives to build an inclusive community that prepares students for future success. Skills required for successful music ensembles, such as team work, problem solving, critical thinking, listening, and communication are valuable skills throughout life. “Music classes teach that what was impossible for one individual becomes possible in a community that together thinks critically, coaches and encourages one another, communicates clearly, and listens to one another.”


    Sendy Casas Sendy Casas

    Cesar Chavez Elementary School

    Lockheed Martin Chair for Teaching Excellence in Elementary Math and Science

    Sendy received her bachelor’s degree from the University of North Texas and has taught in Fort Worth ISD 11 years. As a child, she played softball on the land where she now teaches. She and her students come from similar backgrounds, including being English language learners. Today, Sendy creates a learning environment where students work on teams, use their creative skills and solve problems, in order help them achieve success in and out of the classroom. She chose to teach at Cesar Chavez Elementary. “I work in the community that raised me.”


    Shay Garcia Shay Garcia

    Trimble Tech High School

    Blue Zones Project Chair for Teaching Excellence in Health & Physical Education

    Shay earned her bachelor’s degree from Graceland University and has taught in Fort Worth ISD eight years. Shay creates a safe classroom environment based on respect, structured classroom management, and clear expectations. Students create and abide by respect agreements and take ownership of their learning. “I am a facilitator. Students can learn so much from each other with the right guidance. My role as their health teacher is to give them the tools to make healthy decisions so they can be successful in all aspects of life once they leave us.”



    Sharon Gartrell Sharon Gartrell

    Charles E. Nash Elementary School

    XTO Energy Chair for Teaching Excellence in Early Childhood Education

    Sharon has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin and has taught four of her 13 years in FWISD. Her philosophy of teaching and learning is summed up in the word “engagement.” Engaging students during distance learning is especially challenging this year, but Sharon said her creative juices started flowing. “I could not become complacent, but had to innovate.” She modifies familiar routines, such as recording a morning message and using online guided reading groups. She even created a virtual classroom Bitmoji library to make engagement from a distance fun.



    Peter Hernandez Peter Hernandez

    Sam Rosen Elementary School

    Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson, LLP Chair for Teaching Excellence in Elementary Reading

    Peter has a master’s degree from the University of Texas at Arlington, a bachelor’s degree from Washington University, and has taught in Fort Worth ISD for seven years. Peter said his job is not to teach, but to help students learn. He provides a safe environment so students can navigate their own worlds and gain self-confidence. “The pandemic has provided an opportunity to redesign instruction so students are a bigger part of the process. Students provide opinions on what is effective and ideas on how to move forward with their learning.”


    Bernita Jackson Bernita Jackson

    Trimble Tech High School

    Crescent Real Estate Chair for Teaching Excellence in Career & Technical Education

    Bernita has a bachelor’s degree from Prairie View A&M University and has taught in FWISD 34 years. She sets high expectations for her students because she believes everyone is capable of being great if they put forth the effort and work hard. This sentiment goes for teachers, too. “Students look to you for guidance, for assurance they are worthwhile, and for respect. Students want someone they can count on, and they will respect you when they know you care about them. They give back to you what you give to them.”


    Mary Jackson Mary Jackson

    Applied Learning Academy

    Kroger Chair for Teaching Excellence in Special Education

    Mary earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Abilene Christian University and has taught 10 years in Fort Worth ISD. Mary builds relationships with her students so she can keep them engaged in the classroom. During the pandemic, these relationships are vital to her students’ continued success. She lets students know it is OK to struggle as they adjust to their new learning environment. “I am an advocate of being honest and real. I talk about my own struggles. When I model that for them, they begin to see that they are not alone.”



    Patricia Lambis Patricia Lambis

    Burton Hill Elementary School

    Central Market Chair for Teaching Excellence in Acquisition of Language

    Patricia earned a bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M University and has taught in FWISD 11 years. Patricia creates a safe and fun learning environment where students grow, try new things, and even make mistakes. “My priority is to care for each child emotionally, socially, physically, and academically. Sometimes that means we get off schedule because our class needs unplanned circle time, but it can also mean modeling how to talk out a problem they are having. Each class has different dynamics and each student has different needs.”


    Brittany Madkins Brittany Madkins

    Morningside Middle School

    Atmos Energy Chair for Teaching Excellence in Secondary Science

    Brittany Madkins received her bachelor’s degree from the University of North Texas and has taught six years in Fort Worth ISD. Brittany believes teachers must build relationships and earn students’ trust before learning and growth can happen. Brittany demonstrates to her students that she is accessible to them for the support they need to be successful. Her mantra is "Try your best and I'll meet you where you are.” She provides students with opportunities to think, create, and explore new ideas. “It's not the teacher lecturing, it is the students discussing, exploring, and questioning.”



    Marisa Phillips Marisa Phillips

    Southwest High School

    TTI, Inc. Chair for Teaching Excellence in Secondary Mathematics

    Marisa has a bachelor’s degree from Texas Christian University and has taught nine years in Fort Worth ISD. Marisa may teach math, but she said her role is to “sell” students on themselves first. “The majority of my work as a teacher is in developing students’ belief and trust in themselves as learners. They must see themselves as agents in their own learning process for any lasting education to occur.” During this pandemic, Marisa is quick to point out that “our real worth is in our relationships with students. Students will do anything for someone they trust, respect, and love.”


    Nettie Scott Nettie Scott

    Leadership Academy at Forest Oak Middle School

    Lockheed Martin Chair for Teaching Excellence in Middle School STEM

    Nettie has an MBA from the University of Phoenix, a bachelor’s degree from Paul Quinn College and has taught nine years in Fort Worth ISD. She believes all children can learn, and she sets a tone of trust in her classroom to let students know she values them. Nettie builds relationships to create a safe climate that encourages students to participate and engage with each other. Even during this pandemic, Nettie meets with students daily in Google Meets to see how they are doing and discuss any concerns they have.


    Orion Smith Orion Smith

    Arlington Heights High School

    Lockheed Martin Chair for Teaching Excellence in High School STEM

    Orion has a bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University and has taught 10 years in Fort Worth ISD. Orion’s students begin each computer science class by repeating, “We are here to change the world,” and Orion equips his students with the tools they need to achieve that goal. He recruits girls and students of color to produce a more diverse and creative learning environment for all students, and he adapts classroom activities to keep lessons fresh. He said the extra effort shows his students how much he values them, which supports their learning.


    Sean Strange Sean Strange

    North Side High School

    Chase Chair for Teaching Excellence in Secondary English

    Sean has a bachelor’s degree from Texas Wesleyan University and has taught 25 years in Fort Worth ISD. Sean wants his students to be successful lifelong learners. “I strive to provide my students with the opportunity to interpret the ideas of great writers while honing the skills necessary to articulate their own ideas to themselves and the world.” A major focus area is communication, especially during this pandemic. Sean communicates with students in a variety of ways, including creating video messages to support assigned activities and to provide encouraging words during difficult times.


    Jennifer Whitman Jennifer Whitman

    Daggett Montessori

    Broadway at the Bass Chair for Teaching Excellence in Dance and Theater

    Jennifer has a master’s degree from Brooklyn College CUNY and bachelor’s degree from the University of Arkansas. She has taught six years in Fort Worth ISD.  Jennifer uses theater to teach students valuable life skills. Students learn about commitment, time management, team building, adapting to new situations and ideas, and self-confidence, which are skills they will need their entire lives. “From making adjustments when engaging people during a presentation to budgeting time so your team can depend on you, theater students learn to think on their feet when life throws a curve ball.”


  • Trimble Tech Teacher Creates Larger-Than-Life Award Checks for Teaching Chairs Winners


    Each year, the 16 Academic Chairs for Teaching Excellence receive their $5,000 award from our generous sponsors, and each teacher’s school receives a banner to display in their honor. This year, teachers also received a special keepsake that is unlike anything they have received before, a hand-crafted wooden commemorative check that can be displayed at home or in the classroom.

    These larger-than-life mementos did not come from a typical commercial vendor. Dayton Tanner, construction technology and construction management teacher at Trimble Tech High School, made the customized keepsake checks to help honor his 16 colleagues.

    Mr. Tanner designs the checks and then enlists help from his upper-level students. Students paint the wood, sand the wood down and prepare the wood to be cut to size.

    “You want to paint the wood first so that when you engrave it, you get that really nice contrast coming through the text,” said Mr. Tanner. Students also help set up the engraving machine that creates the text on the wood. 

    Mr. Tanner said it took about 15 hours to make all the checks. He uses time embedded in his classes so students can work with him on special projects.

    “Upper-level students always need hands-on projects to practice and apply their construction skills. Special projects allow students to apply their knowledge and practice using the construction technology.”  

    These eye-catching awards are among several projects Mr. Tanner has produced in his three years at Trimble Tech. He and his students have designed and created faculty gifts for teacher appreciation week. They have created wooden name plates for all staff members and have designed decorative “double T” plaques to hang in classrooms.

    The idea for this year’s commemorative checks came from his principal, E. Omar Ramos. He asked Mr. Tanner to create the special checks for his two Teaching Chair winners last year, and he thought it would be the perfect pairing with the actual award checks this year.

    “Dayton is a talented teacher who connects with his students. I knew this would be a great way to showcase his and his students’ work across the District,” said Mr. Ramos. “The banners stay at the school, but the teachers can take these checks with them and display them wherever they like, and Dayton’s work and the work of his students is seen by many more people.”