PROSPER — The Prosper Independent School District announced their Teacher of the Year Award winners for the 2017-2018 school year.

Kindergarten teacher Laura Clawson of Hughes Elementary and Prosper High School’s Tony Cooper, who teaches 11th grade U.S History, were announced as the winners at the School Board Meeting on Monday, April 16.

The announcement came as a shock to both teachers, who said they were not expecting the award.

“I was very surprised,” Clawson said. “The whole experience has been exciting, and very humbling.”

“I was shocked and surprised, and overwhelmed with all kinds of emotions,” Cooper added. “I wanted to scream and shout, but deemed it not appropriate.”

But the award wasn’t a surprise to the Selection Committee, who despite having a number of qualified candidates to choose, picked Clawson and Cooper.

“We believe that all of the campus selections are outstanding representatives for their respective campuses and for our district,” Director of Human Resources Bernadette Gerace said. “Clawson’s goal as an educator is to build confidence, grit and curiosity in beginning learners… Cooper has a strong desire to make a positive impact on his community and on the world… he is supremely proud of [his student’s] hard work and dedication to succeeding.”

The Teacher of the Year selection process begins with each of the PISD campuses creating their own method of making nominations. The nominations are based on the following criteria:

How the teacher engages students of all backgrounds and abilities.

How the teacher addresses how learning influences students.

The teacher’s beliefs about teaching and philosophy of education.

How the teacher collaborates with others.

The timeliness and impact of the teacher’s message.

Some campuses elect to choose a teacher of the month and pull nominations from that pool of teachers; others request formal nominations from staff and make their decisions based on the top choices that best meet the above requirements.

Following the nominations, a list of the most qualified candidates is then compiled and forwarded to the district’s Teacher of the Year Selection Committee. Nominees much write an essay detailing why they should be chosen for the award.

“In these essays, the teachers of the year discuss educational topics that are important to them, classroom lessons that have been impactful, and the reason why they do what they do,” Gerace said.

Based on those essays, the both campus and district winners are then selected by the committee.

Though surprising to the recipients, the Teacher of the Award recognition gives both Cooper and Clawson something to be grateful for, especially given the variety of talented teachers they were up against.

“I feel very honored to be chosen for the award, especially because there are so many teachers that are very deserving,” Cooper said.

“It’s humbling to be recognized amongst teachers who are so dedicated and hard-working. I know my success is a reflection of the people and environment that surround me,” Clawson said.

In addition to Clawson and Cooper, a total of ten teachers were selected as the winner for their respective campus:

Baker Elementary - Kelli Smith, P.E.

Cockrell Elementary - Cyndi Lee, 5th grade English/Language Arts

Folsom Elementary - Kristen Kirkland, Special Education Resource

Light Farms Elementary - Alex Juarez, Music

Rucker Elementary - Derek Haney, 4th grade Math and Science

Windsong Ranch Elementary - Tracy Vinans, 4th grade Social Studies, English/Language Arts

Reynolds Middle School - Amy Ousley, 8th grade Science

Rogers Middle School - Nate Jacobs, 6th/7th grade Math

“The district has so many awesome teachers — it makes me want to work even harder at perfecting this craft of teaching and coaching,” Cooper said.

During the School Board Meeting last week, all the winners were congratulated by friends, family and community members who are grateful for the teachers’ service, something Clawson said she holds especially dear.

“The response after winning has been overwhelming. So many have gone out of their way to stop by, email, even Tweet me a ‘congratulations,’” she said. “I think that speaks volumes to the positive culture that Prosper fosters, and I’m grateful to be a part of it.”

Laura Clawson and Tony Cooper will move on to the regional competition for a chance to be named Regional Teacher of the Year.