GISD educators recognized across state, nation

With a mission to provide exceptional education, Garland ISD knows it would not be possible without exceptional educators. And, the district has more than 7,500 of them. Four in particular recently received prestigious awards and appointments at the state and national levels.

Two are being recognized by the Texas Association of School Librarians. Joni Harris has received the organization’s 2018 Media/Virtual Presence or MVP award, while Richelle O’Neil has been elected to a three-year leadership term. As a 19-year educator, Harris is finishing up her third year as the librarian at Hillside Academy for Excellence. O’Neil nominated her for the MVP award and describes her as someone who understands the power of social media as a professional learning network. According to O’Neil, Harris leverages the power of Twitter and a personal blog called “Reading on the Hillside” to help other librarians transform their programs. Harris was the Texas Association of School Librarians’ only 2018 MVP winner from among more than 4,500 members all across the state. Those same members elected O’Neil to lead the organization beginning in 2018-19. Over the next three school years, she will hold Chair-Elect, Chair and Past-Chair positions—all in addition to her Library Media Services Coordinator position in Garland ISD. During O’Neil’s leadership term with the Texas Association of School Librarians, she will be called upon to serve on committees, provide input on current issues, advocate for libraries and school librarians across Texas, plan the organization’s annual conference and serve as a national representative for Texas librarians. She is a 12-year educator with previous experience as a lead librarian, lead instructional technologist, high school librarian, elementary librarian, and secondary theater arts teacher.

A third outstanding educator, Director of Visual and Performing Arts George Jones, was recently named the winner of the Texas Bandmasters Association’s 2018 Lifetime Administrator Achievement Award. This distinction signifies an outstanding career in music education, as well as many contributions to the profession. An accurate description of Jones, his 41-year career has been spent solely in GISD, with 20 years as a middle and high school band director and 21 years in his current role. He has not only led students to local, regional, state and national awards. He has also led the district to earn nine Best Communities for Music Education titles. Additionally, Jones has served as chairman of the Metroplex Music Supervisors, president of the Texas Music Administrators Conference and conductor of the Richardson Community Band. He will be presented the Texas Bandmasters Association’s Lifetime Administrator Achievement Award at the organization’s annual convention this summer.

The final honoree is no stranger to recognition. In 2017, Sachse High School English teacher John Murray was appointed to the SpringBoard National Faculty. This year, he is one of just six people nationwide to be named a SpringBoard Teacher of Distinction. Murray is also the first male recipient of this award in its five-year history. SpringBoard is an instructional program offered by the College Board. In a congratulatory letter, College Board’s CEO stated that Murray’s commitment to student learning, as well as his unique blend of excitement and challenge in the classroom, were very evident in his application.

“Mr. Murray consistently seeks ways to authentically engage all of his students and consistently differentiates to bring out the best in all learning and create an environment where all students can thrive,” said David Coleman. “It is clear that his work is helping to further your mission and provide exceptional education to all students.”

As a Teacher of Distinction, Murray will now become a member of the SpringBoard teacher advisory council. He will also have the opportunity to review new materials, participate in pilot opportunities, and attend the SpringBoard Annual Conference and AP Annual Conference.

The GISD Board of Trustees awarded each of these exceptional employees with Evidence of Excellence awards at the May 8 work session.