The Education Committee of the Laredo Chamber of Commerce is ready once again to ring the school bell for local outstanding teachers. Given the Coronavirus outbreak and the disruption it caused on the school year and in all local activity, this year’s announcement of the School Bell Award winners was delayed. Yet, just as school teachers and students had to adapt to a viral system of instruction, so did the members of the Chamber Education Committee, who agreed that regardless of the changing environment, outstanding educators should have their moment in the spotlight. States Humberto ‘Tito’ Gonzalez, committee chairman, “This challenging situation that we’ve all been through just helped to further underscore the passion and versatility of teachers in our society. For these extraordinary teachers, it wasn’t a question of whether instruction would go on, but how to adapt, and keep focus on the education of our children. Their relentless spirit of dedication certainly has to be recognized.”
Gonzalez explained that following a thorough review of the scores of applications submitted, the members of the committee selected the top rankings in twelve different categories. Winners of the competition will be presented with the coveted School Bell Award. Given the current state of affairs, the committee decided to stay away from a traditional awards ceremony. However, they also felt that this should be a special occasion. Rather than a webinar event, the committee will be presenting the awards to each of the winners individually during the latter part of July. Each of the candidates will be notified of the time and place of the presentation.
The School Bell Award winners for 2020 are:
Vanessa Cortez San Isidro Elementary School UISD
Kristine Campos Villarreal M.S. Ryan Elementary School LISD
Gabriela Raga Castillo St. Augustine Elementary School PRIVATE
Anissa Aguilar Harmony School of Innovation CHARTER
MIDDLE SCHOOL LEVEL
Jorge Luis Garcia Trautmann Middle School UISD
Erica Mendez Memorial Middle School LISD
Stephen Paulson United Day School PRIVATE
HIGH SCHOOL LEVEL
Rosa Clara Salazar United High School UISD
Cristal Montes Martin High School LISD
Francisco Figueroa Harmony School of Excellence CHARTER
Juliana Kelley Laredo College, Associate Professor
TEXAS A&M INTERNATIONAL UNIVERSITY
Puneet S. Gil, Ph.D. Texas A&M Int. University, Asst. Professor, College of Education
Recipients of the School Bell Award will also receive a special gift from Family Chevrolet, a local auto dealership that has embraced the event wholeheartedly over the years. In addition, Killam Development, another local firm, will support winners with a special reward. Both local businesses stress their support for education and their commitment to making sure that local educators realize that the business community is firmly behind them. Over the years, the College of Education of Texas A&M International University has also been a strong contributor to the program.
The School Bell Award is the brainchild of two former Laredo Chamber of Commerce Education Committee members — Candy Hein, former V.P. for Institutional Advancement at TAMIU, and Elia Gonzalez, a telecommunications executive. Hein and Gonzalez, in 1992, decided that the Laredo Chamber should find a way to recognize local exemplary teachers. With the full support of the Chamber’s Board of Directors, the two organized a plan to raise funds and to institute the first awards program. The School Bell recognition was born. Originally, the School Bell Awards were presented at regular monthly Chamber board meetings. In 2001, the Chamber’s Education Committee took the initiative to create the School Bell’s own event. In 2005, Paul Young, a local auto dealer, decided to grow the event further and instituted a program for monetary reward for each of the honorees. This has now been complemented by Killam Development.
Over the years, the Laredo Chamber has made education one of its priorities — the leadership of the Chamber being cognizant that a trained workforce is key to economic development. Aside from the annual recognition event for teachers, throughout the year the Laredo Chamber Education Committee supports and actively participates in school-related activities, e.g., the “Spirit of Laredo” Scholarship Competition for graduating students. In addition, the Chamber fosters leadership skills training for young adults through programs such as the Youth Leadership Laredo
About the Chamber
Founded in 1915, the Laredo Chamber of Commerce is Laredo’s and Webb County’s longest running business organization. Headquartered at 2310 San Bernardo Ave. since 1974, the Laredo Chamber has
been an advocate for the local business community for over a century. With 650 members representative of every industry in the community, the Laredo Chamber is accredited with 5 stars by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Only 200 chambers out of 7000 across the country are accredited by this organization.