The Texas Charter Schools Association (TCSA) named Dr. Soner Tarim the Leader of the Year and Ms. Brooke Lucero the Teacher of the Year at the 2017 Texas Charter Schools Conference last week. TCSA’s Chris Busse presented the awards to Dr. Tarim and Ms. Lucero at a luncheon with Education Commissioner Mike Morath, and discussed their contributions benefitting students and the charter school sector in Texas.

TCSA’s Leader of the Year Program
This award honors one outstanding charter leader from across the State of Texas. As the second recipient of the award for Leader of the Year, Dr. Soner Tarim received a complimentary registration to the conference, a plaque, and a cash award of $1000. The award recognizes charter leaders that advocate for charters at the state and national level, have successfully replicated high performing charters that are innovative in their approaches to educating all students, and serve as a mentor to other charter leaders.

Dr. Soner Tarim is the Founder and CEO of Harmony Public Schools and he has been an educational advocate for more than 30 years, encouraging students in underserved communities to pursue learning in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. He is a driving force for STEM education throughout Texas and the United States. He brings decades of experience developing innovative educational programs for K-12 schools to Harmony, which has garnered state and national recognition for its high academic standards. Harmony was a finalist for the Broad Prize for Urban Education in 2017. The Broad Prize for Urban Education recognizes school districts in urban areas for closing the achievement gap by improving academic performance of low-income and minority students.

Under Dr. Soner Tarim's headship, Harmony has earned the reputation as one of the best charter schools in the country, many of its campuses recognized on prestigious high school rankings, such as News & World Report and Children @ Risk. These successes have only increased Harmony’s demand with 55 campuses scheduled to open in the 2017-18 school year in Texas and Washington D.C., educating close to 36,000 students.

Dr. Tarim holds a Ph.D. from Texas A&M University and is a trained biologist and ecologist. He taught courses in biology, ecology, general science, and physical education at the high school, college and graduate-school levels, and spearheaded scientific symposiums and international science Olympiads, such as the International Sustainable World Energy, Engineering, and Environment Project – or ISWEEEP -- which attracts more than 600 top-ranking high school students from more than 60 nations.

Dr. Tarim continuously works toward building meaningful partnerships, maintaining effective communications and positive relationships with high-level corporate and civic leaders to advance high-quality, rigorous education throughout the state and nation.

TCSA’s Teacher of the Year program
This is the second year for TCSA’s Teacher of the Year program which honors one outstanding educator from across the State of Texas. As the recipient of the award for Teacher of the Year, Ms. Brooke Lucero received a complimentary registration to the conference, a plaque, and a cash award of $1000. The award recognizes charter educators that advocate for charters at the local level, are innovative in their approaches to educating all students, and serve as a leader on their campus and within their communities.

Brooke Lucero is a special education teacher at the Great Hearts Northern Oaks campus, and has 10 years of classroom experience. She inspires students of all backgrounds and abilities to learn. Ms. Lucero uses Socratic Seminar, knowledge of different learning styles, strategies, accommodations and modifications, knowledge of behavior analysis as well as multiple positive behavior supports and systems to work with the special education students she teaches. Great Hearts is passionately committed to cultivating the hearts and minds of students through the pursuit of truth, goodness, and beauty.

Is your charter system blessed with an outstanding charter school teacher or leader that you would like to see recognized at the state level through the Texas Charter Schools Association (TCSA) during our annual conference?  A board member, administrator, teacher, student or parent, or community member may nominate a fellow administrator through TCSA’s website for consideration of this award. Once nominated, the leader must submit biographical information and several essays through the online system. TCSA’s member panel will review the nomination, biography, and essays as part of the nominee’s application and select a winner. Nominations for each of these awards are due on April 15, 2017.

A candidate for the TCSA Leader of the Year award is an administrator who has demonstrated successful innovation in academics, operations and finance, and governance. The candidate is dedicated to the education of public charter school students in prekindergarten through grade twelve in an active administrative role. The TCSA Leader of the Year should:

  • Create innovative and creative spaces and approaches with the potential to be expanded or replicated either locally or statewide;
  • Earn the respect of students, parents and charter colleagues;
  • Advocate for the local and state charter movement and serve within their community;
  • Serve as a leader within their region, willing to mentor other leaders;
  • Have at least five years of experience working in a Texas public charter school;
  • Serve on at least one TCSA member committee or council; and
  • Work for a charter that is a current TCSA member.

Nominate an outstanding leader by clicking here.

A candidate for the TCSA Teacher of the Year award is an educator who is passionate, knowledgeable and dedicated to the education of public charter school students in prekindergarten through grade twelve in an active teaching status. The TCSA teacher of the year should:

  • Use innovative teaching strategies that inspire students of all backgrounds and abilities to learn;
  • Earn the respect of students, parents and charter colleagues;
  • Advocate for the charter movement and serve in their community;
  • Serve as a leader on the campus, willing to mentor other educators;
  • Engage with students, parents and community members in a poised and articulate manner;
  • Have at least two years of experience working in a Texas public charter school; and
  • Work for a charter that is a current TCSA member.

Nominate an outstanding teacher for this award by clicking here

Awardees serve as inspiration and a model for other charter colleagues and their communities. Educators chosen for this award may be asked to represent public charter schools at state legislative and policy events when needed.  Winners will receive an award and cash prize during the TCSA conference in October.  Media releases in the charter system’s local area will be provided in addition to recognition in a TCSA newsletter, Facebook post and through our website.

Questions may be directed to Dr. Paula Moeller through email or by telephone 512.584.8272.

The Texas Charter Schools Association (TCSA) named Mr. Chuck Cook the Leader of the Year and Dr. Alissa Russell the Teacher of the Year at the 2016 Texas Charter Schools Conference earlier this week. Both Mr. Cook and Dr. Russell received recognition and their awards at a luncheon with keynote speaker Governor Greg Abbott and Deputy Commissioner AJ Crabill.

This is the first year for both the TCSA’s Leader of the Year and Teacher of the Year programs which honors one outstanding charter leader and educator from across the State of Texas.

The Leader of the Year award recognizes charter leaders that advocate for charters at the state and national level, have successfully replicated high performing charters that are innovative in their approaches to educating all students, and serve as a mentor to other charter leaders.

The Teacher of the Year award recognizes charter educators that advocate for charters at the local level, are innovative in their approaches to educating all students, and serve as a leader on their campus and within their communities.

Mr. Cook is the Co-founder and CEO of Responsive Education Solutions (ResponsiveED) which was established in 1998. Since then, he has led ResponsiveEd’s expansion into one of the largest charter school systems in the state. ResponsiveED operates more than 70 campuses, employs more than 2,200 educators, and serves more than 22,000 students in grades K-12. The focus of these charter schools vary from credit recovery to STEM to classical education. His mission is to provide hope for students through innovative, character-based, personalized learning environments where they are academically successful and develop into lifelong learners.

Dr. Russell is an educator at the Life School Oak Cliff campus and has 13 years of teaching experience who inspires students of all backgrounds and abilities to learn. She uses Socratic Seminar, differentiated group modeling, and peer partnership grouping as innovative instructional practices in her mathematics classroom. She works to ensure each student in her classroom receives a customized instructional approach based on his or her individual needs. Dr. Russell is the secondary mathematics department head and works as an instructional coach for her peers to maximize instructional effectiveness. Additionally, she is a committed volunteer within her community.

TCSA thanks both Mr. Cook and Dr. Russell for their service and strong commitment to the students of Texas!

Photographs courtesy of Adam Sear

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