Glitz, glam and tears flowed as educators from across the state were cheered Friday at the H-E-B Excellence in Education awards ceremony at a downtown Austin hotel.
A chemical engineer-turned-high school teacher received a top honor for her work at McNeil High School.
Lisa Windolph, 48, won the leadership award, which recognizes teachers with 10 to 20 years in the classroom. She took home a $10,000 check for herself and a $10,000 grant for her school.
A former IBM engineer, Windolph has been a teacher with the Round Rock school district since 2002. She has been selected as McNeil’s teacher of the year twice in the past six years.
“Lisa Windolph is an excellent teacher. She combines technology and hands-on experience,” McNeil Principal John Yonker said in a video interview.
Windolph said she has brought a 3-D printer into the classroom to help students visualize their projects and uses field trips to businesses and guest speakers to help bring her subjects to life.
Windolph said the award affirms her decision to switch careers — and take a salary hit — and solidifies her plan to stay in the classroom.
“I’m having too much fun,” she said.
The Round Rock district also took home the largest prize awarded by the San Antonio-based grocery store chain. Jesús Chávez, the district’s superintendent, collected a $100,000 cash prize for winning the district category award.
Other Central Texas teachers and schools made the finalist level and received smaller cash prizes. The finalists included Austin teachers Kaci Moore of Barton Hills Elementary, Holly Brandt of Travis Heights Elementary and Penny Smeltzer of Westwood High School.
H-E-B recognized schools that had received a $15,000 grant for their work in addressing childhood obesity. Among the recipients were Allison Elementary in Austin and Hemphill Elementary in Kyle.
The H-E-B Excellence in Education program has awarded more than $6.5 million since 2002, organizers said. Educators are nominated and then fill out an application. The winners are chosen through a process that includes three judging panels.