Named as the 2023 top district educators are Buffalo Creek Elementary (BCE) instructional librarian Susie Thorn and Guthrie Center Culinary Arts instructor Nakhestcia Franklin.
The two winners were surprised by Spring Branch ISD Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jennifer Blaine at their respective campuses on Wednesday, April 25.
SBISD Board of Trustees member Josef Klam, Principal Carrmilla Young of BCE, Principal Joe Kolenda of the Guthrie Center, Community Superintendent Jennifer Parker, Associate Superintendent for Academics Dr. Kristin Craft, and Associate Superintendent for Communications and Community Engagement Linda Buchman joined Dr. Blaine to surprise the winners. Teacher of the Year sponsor representatives from Sterling McCall Lexus, a Group1 Automotive dealership and First Community Cares Foundation also attended the celebrations.
The Teachers of the Year were surprised with flowers, gift baskets and customized signage congratulating them. Each teacher was filled with joy as the attendees recognized them for their great efforts in supporting Every Child.
As SBISD’s 2023 Teachers of the Year, each winner will receive $1,000 courtesy of program sponsors Sterling McCall Group and First Community Cares Foundation, as well as a $2,000 professional development stipend and a trophy-style Crystal Apple award. Additionally, the Teachers of the Year were awarded the Going the Extra Mile Award by Sterling McCall.
On behalf of the district and the Teacher of the Year Committee, Dr. Blaine expressed her gratitude and noted how proud she was of the work Thorn and Franklin have done and continue to do for students.
Susie Thorn: Librarian, Buffalo Creek Elementary
Elementary Teacher of the Year Susie Thorn is the librarian at BCE and is committed to supporting instruction through collaborative opportunities and giving students the necessary tools to help them become advanced readers.
Thorn struggled to read at a young age and notes that it was challenging to see her classmates excel in reading passages and corresponding comprehension questions. She notes that she saw reading books as a chore instead of an enjoyable activity.
Growing up, libraries intimidated Thorn as finding a book was overwhelming to her. However, she notes that it was always easy to ask for assistance, as librarians were always happy to help.
During her first year of teaching, Thorn learned how a library was organized and alongside her students, she discovered the library was a safe learning environment.
“My student's elation for a read-aloud ignited the same passion in me as a new educator,” said Thorn. “Today, I am inspired and motivated as the instructional librarian at BCE because of my history. My goal each and every day is to reach the reluctant readers like myself, the advanced readers who need more of a challenge and the readers who fall by the wayside because they are in the middle of the pack and get looked over.”
In two short years, Thorn transformed the BCE library, as she actively supports students and teachers through book clubs, reading groups, research groups and much more. Thorn notes that the BCE library represents all she wanted as a child.
“Ms.Thorn exemplifies the SBISD Core Values including Collaborative Spirit, Collective Greatness, Moral Compass, Limitless Curiosity, and Every Child,” said Young. “Her commitment to all students, her team, and our school, has been an inspiration to all who work with her. Through our library, she promotes a culture of literacy and inquiry that permeates throughout our entire school community. I am privileged to work alongside her and proud to have her as an integral member of our team.”
Thorn received a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Whittier College, a master’s degree in library and information science from the University of Texas and a master’s degree in administration coursework from Concordia University.
Nakhestcia Franklin: Culinary Arts instructor, Guthrie Center
Secondary Teacher of the Year Nakhestcia Franklin is the Culinary Arts instructor at the Guthrie Center. She is inspired daily by her students and knows that they will use the skills they are learning to progress their careers and mold their future.
Through her past experiences, Franklin found that her passion was creating learning opportunities for others. She was a long-term substitute teacher in Cypress-Fairbanks, where she supervised students in the kitchen lab setting and taught culinary theory and practice, before joining the Guthrie Center as a Culinary Arts instructor.
Franklin serves as a member of the Teacher Advisory Committee, the Project Advisory Committee for Guthrie’s 2022 Bond Project and has been recognized as the Gulf Coast Career and Technical Education (CTE) New Teacher of the Year 2022-23 and the Guthrie Center Campus Teacher of the Year for the 2021-22 and 2022-23 school years. Franklin notes that she is grateful for the awards and knows the recognition could not be possible without her students.
CTE is very important to Franklin, who is dedicated to providing the skills and resources to students to ensure they reach SBISD’s T-2-4 vision.
“Our students are given a world-class opportunity to experience life beyond the traditional cooking space,” said Franklin. “I want to continue to help create CTE advancement opportunities within SBISD to help students reach their T-2-4 goals.”
When Kolenda received the voting results for the Guthrie Center’s Teacher of the Year, he was excited and pleased to see that Franklin had been chosen for the second year in a row. He says she pours herself into anything she takes on and is always willing to do whatever it takes to help her students.
“Chef Franklin communicates constantly with her students and uses teachable moments to help them develop better, more proficient and accurate culinary skills,” said Kolenda. “This allows them to learn at a deeper level, show their creativity and become independent learners, which is how we want all students at the Guthrie Center to approach their education.”
Franklin holds an associate’s degree in applied science in culinary arts from Central New Mexico Community College and a bachelor’s degree in culinary arts and hospitality management from Johnson and Wales University.
Thorn and Franklin will represent the district in the Region 4 Teachers of the Year competition. If successful, they will then compete at the state and national level.
Campus Teacher of the Year candidates are first nominated by the district’s students, parents, teachers and interested community members. SBISD Teacher of the Year Committee members read and review all Teacher of the Year applications, including candidate-submitted videos.
This year, the committee named seven Teacher of the Year finalists. In addition to Thorn, SBISD’s elementary finalists are Megan Carpenter of Sherwood Elementary and Nan Chandler of Hunters Creek Elementary. Along with Franklin, the secondary finalists are Jerson Andrade Flores from Northbrook Middle, Soha Nassef from Northbrook High and Charles Reed from Spring Woods High. The Teacher of the Year finalists received a $250 award from the First Community Cares Foundation.
Please join us in applauding SBISD’s 2023 District Teachers of the Year!