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District hosts inaugural Teacher of the Year banquet

Princeton ISD held its first-ever teacher of the year banquet and made sure it was a red-carpet affair, complete with paparazzi scrambling to see some of the best teachers in the district.


“It has been our dream for some time to host an event like this,” Superintendent Donald McIntyre said. “We decided now was the time to honor our teachers in a fashion that really shows them how special they are and how much we appreciate the work they do.”

 Jazz band.

The evening’s entertainment featured the sounds of the PHS jazz band and soloists from the high school choir. Following dinner for the honored teachers and their guests, Deputy Superintendent Dr. Jackie Hendricks kicked off the Pride Corps induction.


Highlighting the night’s festivities was the announcement of this year‘s Elementary and Secondary Teachers of the Year. 

 Eduardo Vargas and Leroy Mansanales.

Head baseball coach and high school math teacher Leroy Mansanales was named the Secondary Teacher of the Year. Coach Mansanales, who is the chair of the PHS math department, has been with Princeton ISD since 2017 and an educator for 24 years.


Leroy Mansanales is a phenomenal leader and educator on our campus,” PHS Principal Clint Sadler said. “His use of technology and student-centered approach is the reason for his success in the classroom.”


Coach Mansanales also considers the baseball field his classroom.


“Baseball has always been a passion in my life,” he said. “It has been a driving force for much of what I do. In many ways, I feel that God has blessed me with the passion for the game, and this passion led me to the profession of teaching and coaching. I quickly learned that teaching and coaching came down to building relationships with students, faculty and the community. The more that I showed I cared about individuals, the more I saw growth.”


Mayfield Elementary bilingual teacher Eduardo Vargas is the Elementary Teacher of the Year. Mr. Vargas has been with Princeton ISD since 2020. Prior to opening Mayfield as a kindergarten teacher and team leader, Mr. Vargas taught at Godwin Elementary and has been an educator for 25 years.


Mr. Vargas shows up to work every day with a smile on his face and a positive attitude,” Mayfield Principal Jason Brown said. “His passion for education is shown in the amount of time and effort he pours into his learning environment. He is a team player and always willing to lend a hand.”


Mr. Vargas also considers teaching to be a calling.


“I am grateful for the opportunity to make a positive impact on the lives of my students,” he said. “I set high expectations and with hard work and dedication, we reach these goals and, on many occasions, we blow them up. Teaching is not coming to school and teaching a lesson and then going home and repeating again the next day. My goal is to help them learn, to teach them to be better people and to make a difference.”


In addition to naming the two district teachers of the year, the rest of the 2022-2023 Pride Corps was honored. Trustees from the PISD school board read proclamations from each campus teacher of the year as they expounded on being an educator. They are:


Bailey Ewing, 5th-grade teacher at Lowe Elementary, who has been teaching in PISD for four years.


“While most children grow up decorating their room in the latest fashion or craze, my bedroom resembled walking into an elementary classroom,” Mrs. Ewing wrote. “Each night, when I got home from school, I would teach what I learned that day to my imaginary students and stuffed animals. Instead of a poster of Zac Efron on my wall, I had an alphabet and a whiteboard.”


Carolyn Turnipseed Miller, 1st-grade teacher at Smith Elementary, who has been teaching for 34 years.


“Teaching is a calling, in my opinion,” Mrs. Miller wrote. “I was so inspired by my grandparents to share knowledge and open the world of reading to others that I felt that it was my responsibility to my family and my community to become a teacher.”


Amy Dockery, 2nd-grade teacher at Harper Elementary, who has been teaching in Princeton for seven years.


“I pride myself on being innovative and providing an atmosphere where my students are engaged, involved and energetic in their approach to learning,” Mrs. Dockery wrote. “In our educational journey, we have all experienced that teacher who profoundly impacted our lives. I want to be remembered by my students as that teacher.”


Jennifer Nantz, Pre-K teacher at Canup Early Childhood Center, who has been teaching for 18 years.


“My classroom is an extension of me and my commitment to finding that special connection that sparks the eagerness to learn within each of my students,” Ms. Nantz wrote. “While I may only have a student for a short time, I know the impact we have in each other’s lives goes far beyond a single school year.”


Sally M. Figueroa Pagan, bilingual teacher at Godwin Elementary, who has been teaching for 15 years.


“’You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.’ This Dr. Seuss quote has lived in my head since the moment I chose my career,” Mrs. Figueroa wrote. “I have always strived to make my students feel at home. Together, we have formed our own little family, supporting one another, rooting for one another and building each other up.”


J. Ramon Vazquez, bilingual teacher at Lacy Elementary, who has been teaching for 27 years.


“I am grateful for these children, whose hard work and love keep me pursuing success by praising their every little effort, insisting that they help me take them to higher heights by holding them and myself to a high standard … and assuring them, above all, that they can count on me for support and advice if ever they need it,” Mr. Vazquez wrote.


Keith Kniffen, honors algebra teacher at Southard Middle School, who served in the military for nine years before teaching the last 25 years.


“My first teaching experience was teaching perimeter of a polygon to a group of middle schoolers in a small South Dakota town,” Mr. Kniffen wrote. “One student happened to genuinely say, “Oh, I get it.” The words, “Oh, I get it,” captured my heart. At that magical moment, I knew I was born to teach.”


Arionne Smith, 9th-grade biology teacher at Lovelady High School, who has been teaching in PISD since 2019.


“As a teacher, I understand that students will come to me with different experiences, abilities, interests and beliefs,” Mrs. Smith wrote. “It’s been an honor to have the opportunity to help elevate each of my students through education, mentorship and support.”


Jill Edwards, ESL and ELAR teacher at Clark Middle School, who has been teaching since 2005.


“To have a true impact on young people, students need to feel valued, vulnerable and safe,” Mrs. Edwards wrote. “They need to be recognized, included and contribute to the learning process. It is important for me to develop a rapport with students that supports authentic learning.”