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2016 Key Communicator

For a complete list of Key Communicators, click here.

2016 Key Communicator Award
Sponsored by

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SchoolMessenger's Jim Duggan, 2016 Key Communicator Shanna Peeples, and TSPRA President Ian Halperin at the 2016 TASA/TASB Convention in Houston. 

National Teacher of the Year Shanna Peeples named TSPRA’s 2016 Key Communicator

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The Texas School Public Relations Association (TSPRA) has named Shanna Peeples, the 2015 National Teacher of the Year, as the recipient of the association’s 2016 Key Communicator Award. Peeples receives the award in recognition of her efforts as an ambassador for public educators throughout the country during the past year.

Peeples will receive her award, sponsored by SchoolMessenger, from TSPRA President Ian Halperin at the 2016 Texas Association of School Administrators/Texas Association of School Boards Convention, to be held in Houston from September 23-25, 2016.

“Shanna is an exceptionally qualified recipient for TSPRA’s highest honor,” said Halperin. “She has been a champion for public education not just in Texas, but across the globe.”

As an English teacher and instructional coach at Palo Duro High School in Amarillo, Peeples taught a wide range of students, from AP classes during the school day to those at-risk of dropping out during the school’s evening credit recovery program. She worked with English language learners with backgrounds in 27 different languages. “She seems to have an innate ability to understand where her students come from, their personal stories and cultural history, and makes that a part of how she advocates for them,” said Viet Tran, one of her former students.

Those experiences helped shape her message as an ambassador and advocate for teachers during her tenure as the nation’s top teacher.

“Ms. Peeples has not only used her year as the nation’s top teacher to talk about the positive,” said Texas Association of School Administrators executive director Johnny Veselka, “she has also worked hard to shape the national conversation about reaching students in poverty and those who have faced other extreme challenges. At every opportunity, whether it was a one-on-one interview with a reporter or a speech to a ballroom full of people, she shined the light on these challenges facing public schools and on the importance of public education.”

As National Teacher of the Year, Peeples traveled more than 200,000 miles, spoke in 27 states and five countries, delivering more than 300 speeches on public education and her experiences teaching students living in poverty or new to the country.

“We simply cannot think of another teacher in this city, in this state or in this country who has done more work to communicate the good work of educators than Shanna has in the past year,” said Chris Hays, CEO of Panhandle PBS, who featured Shanna in an episode of the station’s newsmagazine, Live Here, in November. “She shared her experiences as National Teacher of the Year and discussed the diversity of her students and the effects of poverty upon them.” A portion of the episode was translated and shared with educators in Shandong Province, China.

Peeples’ efforts have won her recognition from across the nation. She is a 2016 National Education Association Global Learning Fellow, a member of the Global Teacher Prize Academy, Scholastic’s National Advisory Panel and the U.S. Presidential Scholar Blue Ribbon panel. She received Texas A&M University’s Outstanding Educator Award and the Texas State Teachers Assocation’s Instructional Advocacy Award.

“In my role as a Texas State Representative, I meet many exceptional individuals all over our great state,” said Texas State Representative Four Price, “Shanna Peeples is a standout. She possesses great communication skills and characteristics that I know will continue to serve her and her profession well.”

Before becoming a teacher, Peeples worked as a reporter for the Amarillo Globe-News. She earned her bachelor’s degree in at West Texas A&M University and a master’s degree in education from the University of Texas at Arlington.

Since 1981, TSPRA has recognized a Key Communicator for outstanding contributions to public education through effective communications. The recipient may be a legislator, educator or a professional in another field who has improved school communications, or a member of TSPRA who has contributed outstanding service to the profession of school communications. Recipients have included leaders from business, media, PTA, politics and education. A complete list of past recipients can be found on TSPRA’s website at www.tspra.org/awards/key-communicator/list-of-key-communicators

SchoolMessenger is the sponsor of the Key Communicator Award sponsor. SchoolMessenger is a strong supporter and valuable tool for school districts throughout Texas, and TASA/TASB conference attendees are encouraged to visit their booth at the Austin Convention Center in September.

Charlotte LaGrone of Weatherford ISD chairs TSPRA’s 2016 Professional Awards Committee, which includes Julie Zwahr, Denton ISD; Patti Pawlik-Perales, Alamo Heights ISD; Andy Penney, Frenship ISD; Suzi Pagel, Midway ISD Education Foundation and Allison Lewallyn, Mesquite ISD.

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2016 Chapter Awards

The chair of TSPRA’s 2015-2016 Professional Awards Committee is Veronica Castillon, APR; Laredo ISD. Other committee members include Tim Carroll, APR; Allen ISD; Marco Alvarado, Lake Travis ISD, Rachel Frost, Terrell ISD and Erin Kleinecke, Willis ISD

2016 Professional Achievement Award: Monica Faulkenbery, APR; Northside ISD

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Professional Achievement recipient Monica Faulkenbery, APR, with Relatrix's Mark Franke

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"Monica Faulkenberry embodies the ideals of school public relations professionals and serves not only our organization in a number of ways, but she serves her school community and represents all of us in a manner which benefits public education.

"Monica has served our organization and its members for more than 15 years and has always stepped up to serve on committees, provide professional development and encourage TSPRANs to complete the process to achieve APR. Monica has a strong work ethic and an impeccable record which speaks volumes of her quality of work. Monica shows up with a smile on her face and encourages others to do the same, she mentors others with her mere presence. When I think about TSPRA, I think about Monica and the things she has taught me without even knowing she influenced me. She is the epitome of a mentor as she does it without even trying!

 

 

 

 


 

2016 Most Valuable Member: Louise Henry, APR; Harris County Department of Education

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Awards committee representative Rachel Frost, Most Valuable Member Louise Henry and SchoolMessenger's Frank Catalano.

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"Louise has received more than 80 state and national public relations awards for effective branding, communication and marketing.  Louise is known in education PR circles as an innovative, strategic thinker and leader who can problem solve, as well as make you smile.

"Louise has served on and elected to more than 25 committees and board positions, many of these through TSPRA. She most recently has been involved in one of the newer TSPRA committees called Celebrate Texas Public Schools (CTPS), a reformed Texas Public Schools Week campaign that is now year-long.

"She has presented more than 30 workshops on communication, public relations, branding, marketing, community involvement, crisis management, media relations, fundraising, government procurement and more.  I have lost track of how many of Louise’s presentations I have attended throughout my tenure in TSPRA. They have always been informative and adaptable for my needs."

 

 

 

 


 

2016 Rookie Of The Year: Tiffanie Blackmon-Jones, Dallas ISD

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Awards committee representative Erin Kleinecke, Rookie of the Year Tiffanie Blackmon-Jones and O'Connell Robertson's Amy Jones and Cathy Brandewie.

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"Today, this former rookie is anything but. She is a true equal to everyone in the department and is frequently called on to apply her expertise and creativity to all manner of projects. Colleagues respect her insight, willingness to take on new projects, ability to quickly grasp complex issues and add value to the team’s coverage of the programs, activities and people of our district. 

"A highly dependable and skilled communicator, Tiffanie performs a broad variety of duties in the department. She covers events with multiple skills—as a photographer, a stand up broadcast reporter, a writer and, increasingly a marketing strategist." 

 

 

 

 


 

2016 Bright Idea Award: Picture YourSelfie At College; Mission CISD

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Bright Idea recipient Craig Verley of Mission CISD and Elementary Schoolmate's Rick Hill.

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"As the selfies were sent in, we then would confirm their names, year of high school graduation and which high school they went to. We also asked them to answer a couple of questions relating to their college experiences that we could use in association with our project. 

"Once we had a nice batch of selfies and quotes in place, we created posters, using the Picture YourSelfie at College phrase, and using an Instagram inspired graphic, to share the pictures and quotes of our own graduates pursuing their college dreams. The posters are put up throughout our schools and buildings. A version of the Instagram inspired graphic was also created for further sharing through the district’s two main social media channels, Facebook and Twitter. The #PictureYourSelfieatCollege hashtag was also implemented as a part of the project. 

"The response from the schools and parents has been very positive. The response from the graduates sending in their selfies has also help fuel the fire to succeed for the college students. Many of the students who participated could be considered among our average students in high school. They have taken great pride in their thoughtful responses to our questions and the fact that they are now becoming role models for other students in the schools they attended while at Mission CISD."

 

 

 

 


 

2016 Media Award: John Garrett, Community Impact Newspaper

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Media Award winner John Garrett, publisher of Community Impact Newspaper

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"With more and more printed newspapers quickly going out of business, it is refreshing to see the Community Impact Newspaper flourishing. Known for its outstanding graphics and well-written articles, this newspaper is proving that 'Print Ain’t Dead.'

"Every issue in our region includes at least one article about education and the two public school districts within the readership area. The reporters and editor support the school districts coming to Board meetings, events and establishing a strong rapport with district leadership. The articles are positive and informative as well as thorough and well-researched."

 

 

 

 

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2015 Key Communicator

For a complete list of Key Communicators click here.

2015 Key Communicator Award
Sponsored by

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Texas House Education Chair Jimmie Don Aycock named TSPRA’s 2015 Key Communicator

Aycock headshot webThe Texas School Public Relations Association (TSPRA) has named Jimmie Don Aycock, Texas state representative and chair of the House Public Education Committee, as the recipient of the association’s 2015 Key Communicator Award. Aycock receives the award in recognition of his decade’s worth of work in the Legislature to improve and defend the Texas public education system.

Aycock will receive his award, sponsored by SchoolMessenger, from TSPRA President Lorette Williams at the 2015 Texas Association of School Administrators/Texas Association of School Boards Convention, to be held in Austin from October 2 through 4, 2015.

“The Key Communicator Award is the most prestigious honor bestowed by TSPRA,” said Williams. “Representative Aycock’s record as a champion of public education in the Texas House of Representatives makes him a deserving recipient of this award.”

Aycock represented District 54 in the Texas House of Representatives from 2006 until his retirement at the end of the 2015 Legislative Session. During his legislative career he served on the Culture, Recreation and Tourism; Agriculture and Livestock; Defense and Veterans’ Affairs; Higher Education, and Redistricting committees and most notably as chair of the Public Education Committee during the 2013 and 2015 sessions.

As chair, Aycock shepherded House Bill 5 through the 2013 session, significantly reducing end of course testing for Texas students and creating more paths to graduation for Texas students.

“Chairman Aycock is highly respected by his peers in the Legislature as well as by those of us who advocate on behalf of Texas public school districts and students,” said Amy T. Beneski, associate executive director with the Texas Association of School Administrators. “As a former member of the Killeen ISD Board of Trustees, he understands that to effect good policy for Texas students, one must listen to the professionals who have dedicated their lives to educating those students — teachers, principals, superintendents and other educators.”

In 2015, Aycock proposed legislation that would have added $800 million from general revenue to the $2.2 billion in the House’s original budget proposal. Though he pulled that bill from the floor in the face of apathy from the State Senate, his efforts helped kick start a conversation about repairing the state’s school finance system that many predicted would never happen before the Texas Supreme Court ruled on the state’s latest school finance case.

“His bravery in attempting to address school accountability, school turnaround measures and school finance in one session will not soon be forgotten,” said James B. Crow, executive director of the Texas Association of School Boards.  

Throughout his tenure in the Legislature, Aycock has been a vocal defender of Texas students and teachers, celebrating the good news of public education while highlighting the challenges educators face in keeping standards high. His belief in a system that serves Texas’ 5.2 million students has made him a consistent opponent of efforts by lawmakers to introduce private school voucher systems to the state.

“His vision of a Texas that is concerned about its citizens, fair in its dealings, and efficient and equitable is laudable. As a visionary leader Representative Aycock may have no equal in the Capitol,” said Barry Haenisch, executive director of the Texas Association of Community Schools.

Aycock’s lengthy record of public service in and around his home in Bell County includes service on the Killeen ISD Board of Trustees, the Central Texas College Board of Trustees, the Comanche Hills Utility District and Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce. He received a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Degree from Texas A&M University in 1970 before serving as a captain in the U.S. Army until 1972.

Since 1981, TSPRA has recognized a Key Communicator for outstanding contributions to public education through effective communications. The recipient may be a legislator, educator or a professional in another field who has improved school communications, or a member of TSPRA who has contributed outstanding service to the profession of school communications. Recipients have included leaders from business, media, PTA, politics and education. A complete list of past recipients can be found on TSPRA’s website at www.tspra.org/awards/key-communicator/list-of-key-communicators.

For the fifth consecutive year, SchoolMessenger is serving as the Key Communicator Award sponsor. SchoolMessenger is a strong supporter and valuable tool for school districts throughout Texas, and TASA/TASB conference attendees are encouraged to visit their booth at the Austin Convention Center in October.

Veronica Castillon of Laredo ISD chairs TSPRA’s 2015 Professional Awards Committee, which includes Tim Carroll, Allen ISD; Steve Valdez, Weslaco ISD; Rachel Frost, Terrell ISD; Erin Kleinecke, Willis ISD and Marco Alvarado, Lake Travis ISD.

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2015 Chapter Awards

The chair of TSPRA’s 2014-2015 Professional Awards Committee is Brian Morris, Lubbock ISD. Other committee members include Lynda Queen, ESC Region 16; Tim Carroll, Allen ISD; Kristyn Hunt, Port Arthur ISD; Mark Kramer, Channelview ISD and Adam Holland, Longview ISD

2015 Professional Achievement AwardMARK THOMAS, Birdville ISD

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Shellie Johnson, Keller ISD, Megan Overman, Grapevine-Colleyville ISD and TSPRA Past President Julie Thannum pose with Mark Thomas.

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"Through the years, Mark has proven himself to be a dedicated, articulate, knowledgeable and reliable voice within the district and community as a whole. Mark is adept at communicating with all segments of the community (parents/families/community leaders and/or media) in a professional, calm and diplomatic manner regardless of the event, issue or situation being addressed. 

Among his staff, Mark is known to be an encouraging, inspiring, humble, supportive, patient and giving individual who daily leads by example...Mark Thomas is the consummate public relations professional and an undeniable asset to Birdville ISD."

 

 


2015 Most Valuable Member AwardLORETTE WILLIAMS, Corpus Christi ISD

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Lorette Williams poses with her Most Valuable Member plaque.

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"Lorette's dedication and commitment to all the members of our professional organization is admirable. She chaired the bylaws committee and their efforts to address some bylaws recommendation. She made sure all members have been informed of the recommended changes and have made the extra effort to communicate and explain these recommendations. 

"Her years of service to TSPRA and current task this past year more than qualify her as TSPRA's Most Valuable Member."

 

 

 

2015 Rookie Of The Year: JAMIE FAILS, Kerrville ISD

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Awards chair Brian Morris, O'Connell Robertson's Cathy Brandewie, Rookie of the Year Jamie Fails and TSPRA President Denise Blanchard.

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"Even though new to the job, Jamie Fails did not let her freshman status overshadow her initiative and motivation.

"Amidst the extensive responsibilities and high expectations of the new position, she added volunteerism and support for her Texas School Public Relations Association team. When asked to become a membero f the evolving Celebrate Texas Public Schools committee, she quickly said yes and played a vital role in the planning and facilitating of a retooled campaign, the launch of a new website, the creation and implementation of a state-wide video contest and the promotion and marketing of the campaign and contest."

 

 

 

 
 

2015 Bright Idea Award: LUBBOCK ISD

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Lubbock ISD's Nancy Sharp and Sarah Ancell with Elementary Schoolmate's Rick Hill, center. 

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"'Supply our Students' (SOS), a new initiative to place 55 gallon barrels in all nine United, Market Street and Amigos locations in Lubbock was underway. Customers were also able to make monetary donations at the grocery checkout. School supply lists were visible to all shoppers and a QR code was included for easy access to the supply list which included: pencils, glue sticks, crayons, pens, composition books, highlighters, index cards and scissors.

"More than twenty 55-gallon barrels of school supplies and $4,500 were collected during the SOS school supply drive with United Supermarkets. All 57 Lubbock ISD campuses were provided with gift cards and supplies, based on student need. The supplies were distributed to campuses in Lubbock, Frenship and Lubbock Cooper ISD and made available to students and their families during open house the week prior to school. "

 

 



2015 Media Award: DAVE BERRY, TYLER MORNING TELEGRAPH

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Dave Berry, retired editor of the Tyler Morning Telegraph.

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"Dave Berry’s desire to understand a topic fully and maintain a strong working relationship with the district with a positive attitude was always evident. 

"Berry organized meetings between school district officials, members of the Tyler ISD Board of Trustees and the paper’s staff to discuss topics ranging from state funding cuts to changes in the accountability system. These meetings promoted an understanding of these topics not just between an education reporter and source, but among editors and officials in the administration. 

"Berry is a past president of the Texas Associated Press Managing Editors Board of Directors, and the recipient of that group’s Jack Douglas Award, its highest honor for editorial excellence." 

 

 

 

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2014 Chapter Awards

The chair of TSPRA’s 2013-2014 Professional Awards Committee is Ian Halperin, Wylie ISD. Other committee members include Candace Ahlfinger, Richardson ISD; Celina Bley, Del Valle ISD; Angela Shelley, Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD; Brian Morris, Lubbock ISD and Steve Valdez, Weslaco ISD.  

2014 Professional Achievement AwardSHARON COX

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Professional Achievement Award winner Sharon Cox.

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"Sharon constantly remains a top advocate for students. She has received numerous awards for her service and dedication including: Crime Stoppers International, Unsung Hero, School Bell Award, Texas Career and Technology Award, Chamber of Commerce Woman of the Month, Sister Cities International, Kids Who Care and many others.

However, it’s not the awards, but the students and PR/Journalism staffs she has mentored along the way that provide her with the passion and energy to serve kids 24-7."

 


2014 Most Valuable Member AwardHEATHER WILLDEN

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Awards chair Ian Halperin, Most Valuable Member winner Heather Willden and SchoolMessenger's Nate Brogan.

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"Heather puts her money where her ideas are! She secured $10,000 over two years for the first-ever CTPS video contest. That’s $10,000 to Texas Public School students!! She used her skills and the relationships that she built throughout her career in school PR to make her most recent service to TSPRA highly successful!

She has been the glue that holds the CTPS together. She has taken the reins and held on to build continuity for the organization."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

2014 Rookie Of The Year: OLGA PENA 

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Awards chair Ian Halperin, Rookie of the Year Olga Pena, and TSPRA President Patti Pawlik-Perales.  

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"Olga has earned fans both inside the district and out.  In her nomination, a district principal noted “we have been more connected and informed. Great job!” 

Jennifer Marshall-Higgins at the Region 12 Service Center has this to say:  “She is always ready to support her colleagues, has a great attitude and represents all characteristics of a true professional! I am thankful to have her as a friend as well as a colleague!”

 

 

 

 
 

2014 Bright Idea Award: GO PUBLIC, BEXAR COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS

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Representatives of Bexar County's public school districts accept the Bright Idea Award on behalf of the Go Public campaign.

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"Imagined by the county’s Superintendents and fueled by the Communication’s Departments, Go Public is a multi-faceted public information and awareness campaign that features television, radio and print ads, paired with a robust and aggressive social media and digital strategy, that is actively engaging the community."

 

 



2014 Media Award: FRANCISCO VARA-ORTA, SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS

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Dan Carter, K12 Insight and Francisco Vara-Orta, San Antonio Express-News

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"Francisco’s work at the Express-News has earned praise from fellow reporters and educators for its fairness, comprehensiveness and the ease with which he condenses complex education issues into stories easily understood and appreciated.

“When we have a multi-faceted story or a controversial story to tell, we can always call on him to write a comprehensive story first that fully explains the issue at hand,” said Pascual Gonzalez, Executive Director of Communications at Northside ISD.

Vara-Orta has received awards for his reporting from the three largest teacher groups in the state. In 2011-2012, Vara-Orta received the Association of Texas Professional Educators’ Alafair Hammett Media Award for outstanding support for and coverage of public education. In 2012-2013, he was named a recipient of the Texas Classroom Teachers Association’s Silver Apple Media Award for his coverage and the Texas State Teacher Association’s School Bell Award for Outstanding Feature Story. He currently serves as President of the San Antonio Association of Hispanic Journalists."