Leavens, Brown named Teachers of the Year

May 14, 2008 4:15:10 PM PDT
Melanie Leavens of Wainwright Elementary and David Brown of Challenge Early College were named HISD's Teachers of the Year during the district's 33rd annual Teacher Recognition Banquet.In front of a huge crowd at the George R. Brown Convention Center, both received $5,000 grand prizes after being selected from among 281 teachers nominated for the awards.

Leavens has been an HISD teacher for 28 years, first at Scarborough Elementary and then at Wainwright Elementary, where she has served as a math, English as a Second Language, and Gifted and Talented teacher. Wainwright's Teacher of the Year in 2005, she was inspired to become an educator by her aunt, who taught third grade at Leavens' childhood alma mater, HISD's Oak Forest Elementary School.

In her classroom, Leavens strives to make her students as excited about teaching and learning as she is. She involves them in recycling and campus beautification projects, including a fashion show for parents and the community featuring costumes made of materials that are normally thrown away. She also invites members of the Texas Association of Future Educators from Scarborough High School to serve as tutors and role models for her students.

Brown joined HISD nine years ago, but this teacher's son has been an educator for four decades. He first taught first aid, preventative medicine, and basic nursing skills in the U.S. Army. Later he taught creative writing to undergraduates at San Francisco State University, and to elementary- and middle-school students through California Poets in the Schools and the University of Houston's Writers in the Schools Project. He also developed FotoFest's Literacy through Photography middle-school writing program.

A graduate of HISD's Alternative Certification Program, Brown launched his HISD career by teaching seventh-grade English at Johnston Middle School. He now chairs the English Department and teaches ninth-graders at Challenge Early College High School, where he has dramatically increased the percentage of students earning "Commended" status on the exit-level TAKS writing test.

Each teacher of the year also received a $1,000 gift certificate from I. W. Marks Jewelers. Palais Royal contributed the cash for the Elementary Teacher of the Year, and LyondellBasel presented the cash award for the Secondary Teacher of the Year.

Leavens and Brown will go on to participate in the state's regional competition. HISD has more than 12,000 teachers working every day to educate almost 200,000 children.

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