HOUSTON – May 3, 2018 – Northgate Crossing Elementary Teacher Ladell Whitfield came to the Spring ISD Employee Recognition Banquet to be recognized as her school’s Teacher of the Year, but at the end of the evening she was picking out a brand new car.
The Spring Independent School District named Whitfield as its Elementary Teacher of the Year on Wednesday night at its annual Employee Recognition Banquet, which celebrates teachers, principals and staff for their service and excellence. Whitfield was awarded the choice of a new Ford Escape or Ford Fusion donated by the event’s sponsor, Planet Ford.
Diane Moretti, an 8th-grade teacher at Dueitt Middle School, was named Spring ISD Secondary Teacher of the Year and she was awarded an all-expenses paid cruise by Planet Ford.
“It was really exciting and overwhelming,” Moretti said of receiving the honor. The mother of two got into teaching five years ago after working in sales and being a stay-at-home mom. She realized she had a passion for the classroom after homeschooling her own children for three years when her family lived in Pennsylvania.
For Whitfield, being named the district’s Elementary Teacher of the Year was a welcome surprise. She said she’s always worked hard in her classroom but never expected the recognition. Both she and Moretti will now represent the district in the state’s Regional Teacher of the Year Competition.
“It’s not just a win for me, it’s a win for all of us,” Whitfield said.
The naming of the district’s two top teachers capped an evening-long celebration that celebrated the work of both those in the classroom and others in support roles. Patrick Francis, a custodian at Wunsche High School, received a $1,000 check from the Spring ISD Education Foundation after having won distinction in the Board of Trustees’ monthly Employee Excellence program.
Francis, who was among eight staff members considered for the award, was unable to receive the check in person after staying at his campus to cover the evening shift for a co-worker.
That type of dedication to the students of Spring ISD highlighted the theme of the banquet, which was emceed by Khambrel Marshall of KPRC Local 2 and Gallery Furniture owner Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale, at the Hilton Houston North.
McIngvale shared his own family’s experience with Spring ISD, in particular his daughter who had mental health problems and was kicked out of a private school but thrived and excelled at Westfield High School. On Wednesday, he credited the teachers and staff at Westfield for making all the difference in her life. She has since earned a her Ph.D. from the University of Houston’s Graduate College of Social Work and is now an assistant professor at Baylor University and Baylor College of Medicine.
“This child who others said would amount to nothing is now lecturing all over the world,” he said.
Marshall reiterated the importance of teachers and those who support them. “I’m certain most of us can remember a teacher who made a difference while we were growing up,” he said. “Excellent educators are a source of encouragement, motivation and inspiration. That’s why it’s so exciting to be here tonight in a room filled with those who are dedicated to excellent education, whether as a teacher or a support staff.”
Board President Rhonda Newhouse thanked the nearly 700 Spring ISD teachers and staff who came out to the event for their ongoing dedication to the district. The evening opened with the Presentation of Colors by the Westfield High School JROTC, an invocation from Pastor Steffon Arrington of Spring Woods United Methodist Church, and a performance by the Lewis Elementary choir. The Dekaney High School Chorale provided entertainment in the Hilton lobby as guests arrived.
“There is no one more important to Spring ISD than each of you sitting in the audience tonight,” Newhouse said. “Without your work and dedication, our district would not be the special place that it is.”
The district also honored the two Rookie Teachers of the Year, Jene Patterson of Salyers Elementary School and Adrian Rodriguez Camarillo of Spring High School. Both the elementary and secondary principals of the year, announced in February, were also recognized at the event. LaTracy Harris of Beneke Elementary was named Elementary Principal of the Year and Tracey Walker-Daniels of Roberson Middle School was named Secondary Principal of the Year.
Spring ISD Superintendent Dr. Rodney Watson praised all the teachers, principals and employees, including those celebrating milestone anniversaries. Jane Barber of Twin Creeks Middle School and Jamey Ullrich of Booker Elementary received a special accolade for their 40 years with the district. Watson also thanked the evening’s special guests.
“It was a special treat to have Jim McIngvale joins us and share with staff his children’s positive experiences at Westfield High School,” said Watson after the event. “Even though the teachers and administrators at the event are some of the district’s brightest and most dedicated employees, it’s always good to be reminded of the incredible impact an educator can have on a child’s life.”
On Thursday morning, both Teachers of the Year were still thrilled about being selected from among this year’s 39 finalists. Whitfield said the recognition was especially meaningful because she attended Spring ISD schools, and graduated from Westfield High School.
“I always wanted to come back and teach in Spring,” she said. “There is something about this district I love.”
Whitfield said the prize of a new vehicle from Planet Ford couldn’t have come at a better time. “This car was God-sent,” she said. “My car was on its last legs and this is just a blessing.”