Surprise announcement awards top district honors

Five Garland ISD employees received the surprise of a lifetime April 24. Superintendent Ricardo López announced the district’s Paraprofessionals and Teachers of the Year via Zoom. Chelsea Burch, Shannon Cunningham, Christi Davis, Brenda Martinez and Kiri Richardson joined the meeting thinking they were participants in a COVID-19 focus group, but the surprise announcement brought shock and even tears.

Supervisors and principals first described each winner and how the honor was extremely fitting. The Garland ISD Education Foundation, in partnership with Equitable Advisors, then sweetened the deal with a $1,000 award for each. Board of Trustees President Johnny Beach ended the surprise celebration with words of appreciation.

Watch a replay of the Paraprofessional of the Year and Teacher of the Year announcements on the district’s YouTube channel.

Elementary Paraprofessional of the Year Kiri Richardson is an instructional aide at Couch Elementary School. In charge of the campus’s Reset Room, she provides a calm environment where students can process their thoughts, decompress, regroup and then re-engage in the classroom. Richardson not only helps students be successful, make the right choices and live up to their responsibilities. She also helps families in need secure resources such as clothing, housing and more.

Christi Davis is the Secondary Paraprofessional of the Year. As the principal’s secretary at South Garland High School, Davis describes her job as making sure the campus operates at its finest every day for students and staff. There is no task too big or too small. From cleaning up spills to encouraging staff to assisting parents, she is the go-to gal at SGHS.

The district awarded its first-ever Division Paraprofessional of the Year title to Chelsea Burch. She serves as the secretary to Area Directors Jason Adams, Ida Perales and Dr. Kristin Wolfkill. Burch supports the entire district, from campuses to departments to families. She is praised most for her impeccable customer service and ability to answer questions. She is a product of GISD and a parent of GISD students as well.

Elementary Teacher of the Year Shannon Cunningham teaches first grade at Ethridge Elementary School. She strives to ensure every student has a special place to belong, regardless of ethnicity, background or ability. Believing she is one of the first people to influence a child’s love for reading and writing, Cunningham does not take that responsibility lightly. She works to help all students be proud of who they are and able to see themselves in curriculum and in the classroom.

Brenda Martinez is the Secondary Teacher of the Year. Teaching Texas history at Jackson Technology Center for Math & Science, her mission is to help students “live” the content so that they can comprehend and remember what they learned. Martinez impacts more than just her students, though. She helps coordinate a campuswide Leadership Challenge, which prepares all students for a successful future through public speaking opportunities, mock job interviews and special projects at popular Dallas-Fort Worth businesses.

Congratulations to GISD’s top educators of 2019-20.