As high school seniors prepare to graduate, the College Station ISD Education Foundation gave 60 a chance Tuesday night to look back on the educators who made it possible.
During the CSISD Education Foundation's 18th annual Hall of Fame banquet at the Hilton, each student honored as outstanding was given the chance to recognize the district employee -- teacher, custodian, librarian, food services staff member or administrator from throughout their years at CSISD -- who influenced their life.
"It was surprisingly hard for me to pick," A&M Consolidated High School student Sydney Green said about her choice "I didn't realize how many teachers had touched my life until I had to decide to pick one for this honor. I ended up choosing my freshman year coach [Stephanie Owens] because she had made such a huge impact on my life coming into high school."
The educator to select was obvious for College Station High School senior Taha Rahman.
"There was no question when it came to it: Coach Rhodes over here. He gave me the environment and the tools to succeed in whatever I did," he said.
Just as the students are honored to be selected by their teachers as outstanding students in the district, the recognized teachers feel the same.
"It's an honor to be selected by a student that you serve every day in the classroom," Dennis Rhodes, a career and technology instructor at CSHS, said. "You build relationships with them, and just knowing that someone's paying attention to the work that you do as an educator. Just that. It's just an honor to know that you're appreciated it know that you've made a difference and an impact in student's lives."
As a teacher, Stephen Green -- who teaches technology at CSHS -- said there are times when one questions the impact on students.
"In short, it means a lot," he said about being chosen by one of his graduating seniors. "I have the privilege of teaching a program where I can have students for four years straight, and that's what Tannah [Brister] was for me. She's a senior, and I've had her since she was a freshman. It's great just as a teacher to see the kids grow and develop and succeed just in a normal circumstance, but something like this it's one of those things that just makes it more worth it… Sometimes you wonder because it gets to the end of the year, and you're tired and you don't know if you have any more control anymore, but it's things like this that it's like 'OK, yeah I actually did some good,' which is great."
CSISD Director of Student Services Chrissy Hester called the evening the district's premier event because it celebrates both students and educators for doing what they do on a daily basis.
"You don't compete for this to be here tonight. There's not a competition. You don't have to fill out an application. You just get to be honored for who you are every day," she said.
Educators from A&M Consolidated High School and College Station High School selected their top students and narrowed down their list to the 60 students invited to Tuesday's Hall of Fame banquet. Those students, CSISD Education Foundation Director Teresa Benden said, embody the characteristics of integrity, leadership, positive attitude and school spirit.
"Those are the four things that we base it on, and what I love is that we get to honor kids that are excelling on all levels," she said, noting students selected do not just excel in academics or sports, but also include those who found their niche in fine arts or serve as "quiet leaders" in the district and at their school.
"It's an eclectic group that have been leaders and who have really shine and really are the example of what we want our CSISD graduates to look like," she said.
"It's pretty special to be selected, especially because it's the entire school district," Anica Winn, a student at Consol, said. "It's really nice to be honored, especially knowing that the teachers were the ones that nominated us for this. It's just really nice to be recognized for everything that we've been doing."
In addition to just selecting an educator to honor, the students had to write an essay explaining what influence they had on their life.
Morgan Daughters was one of six who presented their essay.
When she entered high school at CSHS, Daughters planned to pursue a career in the medical field. Then, she took Jessica Norton's art class and was encouraged to continue growing her talent and to hold a leadership position in the art club.
"Without the constant encouragement and kindness Mrs. Norton has shown me, I would not be where I am today. Doctors, nurses and medical professionals aren't the only ones who can change the world and save lives, so can teachers… This fall, I will be studying education, as I hope to become an art teacher and help other students as Mrs. Norton has helped me," Daughters said. "Mrs. Norton has demonstrated that teachers are some of the most impactful people in our lives. One day, I hope to be half as amazing of a teacher as she has been to me. I hope to inspire just as many students as she has."
Consol senior Spencer Williamson recognized information technology teacher Bart Taylor for the opportunities Taylor's class and clubs presented, including helping fight homelessness in the Brazos Valley and keeping toxic electronic components out of the environment.
"Four years ago, I came to Mr. T a blind pessimist. Now I look to my future and I see something more than a boring, unsatisfying life. I see how I can place my dreams of childhood into the world we live in today… I will forever be a better person through your commitment to my education, livelihood, and fostering my dreams. My life used to be riddled with imperfections. However, because of Mr. Taylor I can now find perfection in this strange world I live in."
"These students and thousands more like them in our schools across this district represent what's right in our community and what's right in our society," CSISD Superintendent Clark Ealy said. "Not only do we celebrate our students and their accomplishments, but we celebrate our teachers and staff."