Students from College Station’s three high schools were recognized Tuesday during the CSISD Education Foundation’s Hall of Fame banquet, but those honored turned the spotlight onto their teachers.
Each of the 64 students selected an influential teacher to honor with essays included in the evening’s program. Six students read what they wrote from the stage, but every student presented their chosen educator — or a representative in some cases — with a framed copy of their essay.
The 19th annual event comes at a time when teachers are tired as the school year hurtles toward an end. Then, said Chrissy Hester, director of student services, 64 teachers, administrators, coaches and counselors receive a letter in their mailboxes informing them they had been selected as an honored educator.
“And it just makes your year, and you can finish the year because all of a sudden you think, ‘Oh yeah, that’s why I do this. I love doing this, and I made a difference,’ ” she said.
The students were selected through a blind process in which teachers were asked to submit nominations, and the staff then voted on those nominations based on leadership, integrity, dedication to their school and their attitude.
Jenna Helduser, director of the College Station High School Strutters, became the first person in the event’s history to be honored as an educator after having been a Hall of Fame student — in 2012, as a senior at A&M Consolidated High School.
Having been recognized as a student and honoring Chris Diem that night, Helduser said, she understands the significance of the event.
“These kids that work so tirelessly get to be celebrated and recognized for their contributions on their campus,” she said, noting three of her drill team students were recognized. “These kids are like the foundation of our school. … Just to see them be celebrated for the things that they do on and off campus is just so special as an educator; to know that you play a small role in that is just super special. Emma is a special one, and I’m very honored.”
Helduser was the first person Emma Hagen thought of when selecting an educator.
“She’s my drill team director, but I’ve known her since my freshman year. I just remember her coming in as our assistant, and I was just so nervous. I was just that little freshman, and I remember her telling me, ‘You don’t need to be nervous.’ I was crunching my hands, and she was like, ‘Calm down, you’re fine,’” Hagen said. “That’s what she does for me every day. She teaches me lessons more than I can put into words and I learn from her more than I can express and just so grateful because I hope to become half the woman she is someday.”
After graduation later this month, Hagen said, she plans to attend Kilgore College to study psychology and hopes to become a member of the Kilgore College Rangerettes, where Helduser was captain in 2013-2014.
A&M Consolidated High School Principal Gwen Elder was selected as an honored teacher by her son, Derrion Elder.
Not many people have the opportunity to honor their parent during the Hall of Fame banquet, Derrion Elder said, noting in his essay that he was treated just as another A&M Consolidated student.
In concluding his essay, Derrion wrote, “During my time at CSISD I was blessed with having a handful of excellent teachers. Many have made a lasting impression on my life, none more than my mother. Her selflessness, encouragement and love have shaped me into the person I am today.”
After graduation, Derrion Elder plans to attend Texas A&M to study mechanical engineering.
To conclude the event and after hearing six students read their essays, College Station Superintendent Clark Ealy said, he is always amazed by the words the students use to describe their honored educators.
“We get to do this one time a year, and it is great, but what’s happening 174 days in the classrooms across 18, now 19, campuses in the school district is truly amazing,” he said.