Fall 2023 ATPE News

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A traditional sports coach is using his talents to build a new program and already seeing great success in Edinburg CISD.



Did you know the median hourly rate for an attorney in Texas is more than $250? That’s more than the annual cost ($235) of a 2023-24 ATPE professional membership—and in one hour, you would hardly have time to explain the employment situation you are facing, let alone discuss potential solutions.

That’s why ATPE membership provides such an incredible value to Texas educators. In addition to ATPE’s public education advocacy, professional learning opportunities, and exclusive menu of services and discounts, eligible members have access to professional liability insurance and employment rights protection benefits* that include:

• Up to $8 million in professional liability insurance, subject to policy limits.

• Employment rights defense insurance that pays attorney fees for eligible members, win or lose, in defense of covered employment action claims.

Separate from the insured benefits, ATPE employs more staff attorneys than any other Texas educator association to assist eligible members with employment-related legal concerns. ATPE’s assistance is quick, confidential, available in English or Spanish, and included in your annual membership dues.

Still Need to Renew?

If you are not on rollover (auto-renewal), please log in to your member profile at atpe.org to renew today.

Questions? Email members@atpe.org or call (800) 777-2873.

*Eligibility, terms, conditions, and limitations apply. Visit atpe.org/protection to view important disclosures and current program details. Staff attorney services are provided separate from the Educators Professional Liability Insurance Program.

Because you don’t get a bill in the mail later.
CLARICE CROSS middle school science teacher, Plano
Why is ATPE the No. 1 choice of Texas educators?


State Officers

Jayne Serna President, Leander (13)

Jason Forbis Vice President, Midway (12)

Jerrica Liggins Secretary, Paris (8)

Eli Rodriguez Treasurer, Cypress-Fairbanks (4))

Stacey Ward Past President, Humble (4)

Board of Directors

Twila Figueroa McAllen (1)

Adriane Taylor Corpus Christi (2)

Sean Douglas Cuero (3)

Vacant Pending special election

Christy Skinner Lumberton (5)

Donna Ward Willis (6)

Teresa Millard Woden (7)

Abby Rogers Paris (8)

Denise Sanders Vernon (9)

Wanda Bailey Mesquite (10)

Christopher Adams Crowley (11)

Christina Flores Riesel (12)

Stephanie Stoebe Round Rock (13)

Leslie Ward Merkel (14)

Betty Gail Wood-Rush Early (15)

Sherry Boyd Spearman (16)

Abigail Ramford Lamesa (17)

Gail Campos Big Spring (18)

Robert Zamora Clint (19)

Laura Herrera North East (20)

ATPE News Staff

David George Editor

John Kilpper Art Director

Michael Spurlin Associate Editor

Jack Densmore Associate Editor

Jennifer Price Digital Editor

Marjorie Parker Contributing Designer

Kate Johanns Editorial Director

ATPE News (ISSN 0279-6260) is published quarterly in fall, winter, spring, and summer

Subscription rates: for members of the association, $3 32 per year (included in membership dues); non-members, $10 per year Extra copies $1 25 each

Published by the Association of Texas Professional Educators, 305 E Huntland Drive, Suite 300, Austin, TX 78752-3792 Advertising rates may be obtained by contacting comm@atpe.org Opinions expressed in this publication represent the attitude of the contributor whose name appears with the article and are not necessarily the official policy of ATPE ATPE reserves the right to refuse advertising contrary to its purpose Copyright 2023 in USA by the Association of Texas Professional Educators

ISSN ©ATPE 2023 0279-6260

305 E Huntland Dr , Ste 300 Austin, TX 78752-3792

(800) 777-ATPE (2873) atpe org | atpe@atpe org

Welcome back, ATPE family! Nothing in the universe moves faster than time in the summer. I hope you were able to relax and recharge with family and friends and that you are excited about the 2023-24 school year. I was so glad to see so many of you at the amazing 2023 ATPE Summit at Kalahari in Round Rock. Many thanks to the stellar ATPE staff for putting together such a wonderful event. I was honored and excited to be elected to serve as your 2023-24 ATPE state president.

As the school year begins, don’t forget to ask your colleagues and friends to join ATPE. Your personal invitation is always the best referral. They will greatly appreciate the discounts, advocacy, and legal protection. Let your co-workers know why you are a member of ATPE!

Last spring, our Past State President Stacey Ward came to you noting that because the Legislature was in session, you needed to stay informed about the political decisions that affect our profession. As the series of special sessions continues through the fall, I would urge you to do the same, using excellent tools such as ATPE’s TeachtheVote.org, Advocacy Central, the weekly Teach the Vote email, and updates that our amazing Governmental Relations team sends out. I would also urge you to do something I began doing a few years back— making a monthly contribution to the ATPE Political Action Committee (ATPE-PAC). There is no better financial investment in the future of our organization, profession, or public school system in Texas. And for the price of a trip or two to Sonic or Starbucks each month, we can have a powerful impact.

I cannot thank each of you enough for all that you do for your schools, families, and communities. Have a wonderful fall semester. Take care of yourselves as you take care of your students, and please let me know if there is anything that I can do for you!

The official publication of the Association of Texas Professional Educators


12 Round Rock ISD Community Fights Ongoing Student Homelessness Crisis

Several factors have caused student homelessness to increase in Texas. Fortunately, organizations all over the state are hard at work to help these students, and they could use your support.

15 Scholastic Gaming Programs: Taking Student Engagement to a New Level

Scholastic esports programs are growing rapidly across the state, and in Edinburg CISD, a traditional sports coach is using his talents to build a new program and already seeing great success.

ATPE NEWS | Fall 2023 Volume 44, Number 1


18 2023 ATPE Summit Wrap-Up

ATPE members made the trek

July 10–12 to Kalahari Resorts & Conventions in Round Rock for the 2023 ATPE Summit. Catch highlights of the event, including volunteer training, a couldn’t-miss legislative update, the 2023 ATPE House of Delegates, and professional learning. Plus, meet our 2022-23 ATPE award winners.

26 In Your Neighborhood

Join us as we visit ATPE “neighborhoods” all over Texas to get an inside look at what volunteers are doing to recruit, retain, and rejoice with their fellow ATPE members.

31 In Memoriam

Remembering past Region 5 Director Bill Moye

35 Volunteer Spotlight

Meet La Joya ISD career and technical education teacher

Artemio Cantu, ATPE’s 2022-23 Campus Rep of the Year for local units with 501–1,000 members.


6 Calendar

7 Your Ally

2023 Legislation Affecting Educators’ Employment Rights

8 Regional Roundup

10 Your Voice

Three Easy Steps for Turning Anger into Action at the Capitol

11 PAC Honor Roll

28 Your ATPE

Gen ATPE Program I One New = $10 for You l ODP Business Solutions l 2023-24 Leadership ATPE Cohort l Update to Membership Dues I ATPE

Staff Member Recognized by Tarleton State University


The Association of Texas Professional Educators (ATPE) supports the state’s largest community of educators who are dedicated to elevating public education in Texas.


ATPE advocates for educators and delivers affordable, high-quality products and services that give members the peace of mind needed to inspire student success.

Image adapted
Kilpper from
by John
photo by Robert Williamson;
courtesy of the Project Red team
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6 ATPE NEWS CALENDAR November 3 Last day of early voting 5 Daylight saving time ends 6–10 School Psychology Week 7 Election Day 13 ATPE Board of Directors meeting (virtual) 14–17 State Board of Education meeting 17 Substitute Appreciation Day 22–24 State office closed for Thanksgiving break October National Principal Month 2 School Custodian Appreciation Day 10 Last day to register to vote in the Nov. 7 general election 23 First day of early voting 27 Last day for ballot-by-mail applications to be received 31 Deadline for first-time professional members to join ATPE; One New = $10 for You submissions due September Aug. 29–Sept. 1 State Board of Education meeting 4 State office closed for Labor Day 14–15 Teacher Retirement System (TRS) Board of Trustees meeting 17 Constitution Day 22–23 ATPE Board of Directors meeting (Austin) 28–29 State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) meeting 30 Last day to join ATPE or renew to avoid 30-day wait for employment rights defense insurance to be effective*
Nomination deadline for Educator of the Year, Local Unit of the Year, and Campus Rep of the Year awards
*Eligibility, terms, conditions, and limitations apply. Visit atpe.org/protection to view important disclosures and current program details. Staff attorney services are provided separate from the Educators Professional Liability Insurance Program. SEPT. 30 Last day to join ATPE or renew to avoid 30-day wait for employment rights defense insurance to be effective* ATPE Awards Nominations Due Dec. 1 TRS COLA on the ballot

2023 Legislation Affecting Educators’ Employment Rights

During its regular session, the 88th Legislature added new rights and protections for educators, lessened workloads in some areas, and provided additional safety measures. It also changed certain educator duties and responsibilities. The following recaps new legislation affecting educators’ employment rights.

are not required to use these materials, but they are eligible for additional funding if they do.



House Bill (HB) 3, the new Texas Education Code (TEC) 22.904, requires employees who interact regularly with students to complete mental health training on students experiencing mental health or substance use issues who may pose a school safety threat. Employees may earn continuing professional education (CPE) hours, and those who have taken similar training are exempt.


Educators have 48 hours to report suspected child abuse or neglect to the Department of Family and Protective Services or law enforcement. HB 63 amends Texas Family Code 261.104 and 261.201 prohibiting an individual from making an anonymous child abuse or neglect report to the department.


HB 1416 amends TEC 28.0211, the statute covering HB 4545 accelerated instruction tutoring. Requirements for student achievement on state assessments are halved from 30 to 15 hours unless a student performs “significantly below satisfactory.” Teachers may work with four students instead of three.


HB 1605 establishes an online open education resource for SBOE-approved instructional materials. The goal of the bill is to improve curriculum materials and lessen teacher workloads. Districts

Under Senate Bill (SB) 294, school districts and open-enrollment charter schools may adopt policies regarding the maintenance and administration of respiratory distress medication. Authorized and trained employees and volunteers may administer this medication without parental written notice, but parental notifications are required afterward.


Per SB 629, school districts must adopt maintenance, administration, and disposal of opioid antagonist policies at campuses serving grades 6-12 and may do so for lower-grade campuses. Employees and volunteers must be authorized and trained before administering antagonists. Immunity protections apply to a person who in good faith takes, or fails to take, any action related to the maintenance, administration, and disposal of opioid antagonists.


SB 798 removes classroom teaching experience from the qualifications for school counselor certification.


SB 838 requires school districts and openenrollment charter schools to provide each classroom with silent panic alert technology beginning with the 2025-26 school year.


SB 1720 allows district employee identities to remain confidential when reporting potential

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The legal information provided here is accurate as of the date of publication. It is provided here for informative purposes only. Individual legal situations vary greatly, and readers needing individual legal advice should consult directly with an attorney. Please note: Rights based on the Texas Education Code may not apply to all. Many Texas Education Code provisions do not apply to public charter schools, and public school districts may have opted out of individual provisions through a District of Innovation plan. Eligible ATPE members may contact the ATPE Member Legal Services Department.


There are more than a thousand school districts in Texas and each one has success stories. Regional Roundup highlights some of the achievements happening in our public schools. When something special happens in your school district, let us know! Send news to comm@atpe.org.


From Across the State HEADLINES


ATPE Members Receive H-E-B Excellence in Education Awards

In May, H-E-B announced the winners of its 2023 Excellence in Education Awards. Three ATPE members received awards, including Alamo Heights ISD member Lisa Barry, who won the Lifetime Achievement in Elementary Award and received a $25,000 cash prize and a $25,000 grant for Woodridge Elementary School. Spring Branch

ATPE member Ryan Beeler won the Rising Star Secondary Award and received a $5,000 cash prize and a $5,000 grant for Spring Woods High School. Lastly, Flour Bluff ISD member Katie Doyle won the Rising Star Elementary Award and received a $5,000 cash prize and a $5,000 grant for Flour Bluff Intermediate School.

“H-E-B has been an amazing partner to Texas educators and students,” Beeler said. atpe.org

2 Texas School Districts Earn National Recognition

Niche, a ranking and review service, recently ranked cities across the country with the best public schools, and the three top Texas cities on its list were The Woodlands at No. 6, Plano at No. 8, and College Station at No. 14. Niche also featured six Round Rock ISD schools in its top 100 in Texas list, including Westwood High School at No. 8 for best public high schools.

Niche’s top 10 public school districts in Texas include Eanes ISD, South Texas ISD, Carroll ISD, Lovejoy ISD, Coppell ISD, Frisco ISD, GrapevineColleyville ISD, Highland Park ISD, and Prosper ISD. roundrockisd.org

3 Dallas ISD Holds Multi-Location Elementary Chess Tournament

In May, Dallas ISD held a chess tournament that included elementary students from 104 schools. The tournament was held at Thomas Jefferson High School and Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy. About 1,600 kindergarten to fifth grade students took part in the tournament. One hundred fifty-nine students won gold medals, 88 won silver, and 509 won bronze. On top of the medals, each school also selected a Most Valuable Player of the Year.


4 Comal ISD Students Receive $592,622 in Scholarships

Throughout Comal ISD’s five high schools, students received a total of $592,622 in scholarships from local donors. The scholarships ranged from $50–$16,000. “We continue to be amazed by the generosity of the Comal ISD community, which funds our local scholarships,” Sarah Permenter, executive director of community relations for Comal ISD, said in the district’s article on the scholarships. The scholarship totals exceed the goal set by the district.

“The increase in local scholarships is not by chance,” explained Hilary Griffin, the district’s program coordinator. Comal ISD has focused on building relationships and partnerships within its communities and has worked to streamline the scholarship process for both donors and students. Griffin works one on one with each donor as well as with each high school campus’ academic and career adviser to ensure the process is easy for both. comalisd.org

When something special happens in your school district, let us know! Send news to comm@atpe.org.

Arkansas Louisiana co ATPE NEWS 9
Photos courtesy of H-E-B, Round Rock ISD, Dallas ISD, & Comal ISD

Three Easy Steps for Turning Anger into Action at the Capitol

Ican identify the moment when, for me, the last vestiges of hope that the current cohort of politicians might do the right thing by students and educators died. Toward the end of the second special session, the Senate unanimously added a one-time bonus for teachers to the property tax relief bill. Shortly thereafter, a group of House members called for adding an even more significant school funding measure to the bill. Don’t get me wrong: It was clear Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick wasn’t signifying a newfound priority on teacher pay. He was using teacher funding to goad House leadership into moving on his property tax bill, but he was doing so without tying the funding to a private school voucher—and at least some House members were seeing his bet and raising him. Then, the final property tax bill came out, and education funding was nowhere to be seen. Disappointing, but the real kicker was when we heard—on good authority—that the provision unanimously added by the Senate had been removed because Gov. Greg Abbott made it clear he would not sign a property tax bill that included teacher pay or education funding.

Why, might you ask?

Because he wants to maintain teacher pay and education funding as a carrot to pass a voucher in the fall.

If it wasn’t before, it should be clear now the governor, lieutenant governor, and those following their lead do not prioritize public education, public educators, or the students they serve. They have zero intention of passing any bills that fund public education except as a bribe to pass vouchers. If that doesn’t make you angry, then I don’t know what would. How can we translate our anger into constructive action? We can take three simple steps.


What does this look like? First, it is imperative to work from the understanding that your individual

elected officials, your House member and your senator, do not have the ability to pass any legislation on their own. They can file legislation, offer amendments, and vote yes or no. That’s it. If we want to hold elected officials accountable in the upcoming special session—when Abbott and Patrick clearly do not intend to accept a teacher pay raise without a voucher attached—we must tell legislators we expect them to file bills that would provide education funding and an educator pay raise without a voucher. We expect them to vote for providing education funding and an educator pay raise without a voucher. And we absolutely expect them to vote against any bill or amendment that does contain a voucher. If they, as our representatives, do those things, and Abbott, Patrick, and the the pro-voucher minority insist on vouchers anyway, those elected officials who stood with us will still have earned our support. Enacting Step One is our best hope of keeping public schools public. It also sets the stage to shift from spending our time working to defeat bad bills to working to pass good ones.

As I have said a lot recently, elections have consequences. Steps Two and Three will help ensure those consequences are in our favor in the future, as opposed to the 88th session where we squandered a $32 billion surplus by spending an entire session pushing vouchers.


The simple truth is elections cost money. If we want to keep the support of current legislators who prioritize public education and grow their ranks, then we must help them fund successful campaigns. We are not talking about big dollar donations. If the majority of ATPE members gave as little as $5 a month, we would have one of the most formidable PACs in the state. It is hard to overstate the psychological impact this would

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Thank you for your investment in Texas public education.

The following ATPE members donated $50 or more to the ATPE Political Action Committee (ATPE-PAC) from April 1 to June 30, 2023.

Barbara Lebold


Ron Fitzwater


Michael Renteria

Shane Whitten





Deneen Hampton

Brenda Marlett


Darlene Kelly


Ona Beth Day

Richard Wiggins


Crystal Hammill

China Spring

Dawn Wilson

Community ISD

Wendy Smith


Courtney Jones


Cory Colby


Julleen Bottoms


Eli Rodriguez


Maria Slette


Betty McCoy

Meredith Malloy

Fort Worth

Betty Berndt

Steve Pokluda

Galena Park

Sharon Dixon

Charlene Macawili

Lynn Nutt

Hale Center

Sharon Ginn


Jennifer Hill


Shawna Mayerson


Jessica Rutherford


Albert Lemons

Lynn Phan


Gayle Sampley

Stacey Ward


Roger Moralez


Kelley Walker


Janet Godfrey


Emily Fortune

Joanna Trobough

Ron Walcik


Marsi Thomas


Betty Plunkett

La Academia

de Estrellas

Deborah Pleasant

La Joya

Jesus Garza

Norma Vega

Lake Worth

Brenda Garcia


Jayne Serna


Karen Hames


Twila Figueroa

MaElena Ingram

Daisy Palomo

Belinda Rosa


Connie Haas

Sharon Nix

Erin Young

Midway (12)

Jason Forbis


Maria Trevino





Susan Ambrus

New Waverly



North Lamar

Shelia Slider

Northside (20)

David de la Garza

Madonna Felan

Rachel Olivarri

Laura Talamantes


Dale Lovett

Becky Spurlock


Jerrica Liggins

Abby Rogers


Joelle Garcia

Katy Matthews

Lindsay Robinson


Beverly Bredemeyer

Round Rock

CaRita Forte

San Antonio

Byron Hildebrand


Sherry Boyd

Spring Branch

Diann Rugg


Margaret McGinness


Jennifer Lorenz


Teresa Millard

ATPE Staff

Shannon Holmes

Cynthia Villalovos

See who was honored at the ATPE Summit for their 2021-22 contributions on page 22.

Did you donate during the ATPE Summit? Look for your name in the next issue. Invest in the ATPE Political Action Committee today! It’s easy to donate at atpepac.givesmart.com. ATPE-PAC solicits contributions only from members, employees, and their families. Participation in ATPE-PAC is voluntary.

Round Rock ISD Community Fights

Ongoing Student Homelessness Crisis

Multiple factors, including natural disasters, a global pandemic, and the rise of human trafficking have led to a youth homelessness crisis in Texas. Fortunately, there are organizations all over the state that are hard at work to help these children, and they could use your support.


Round Rock ISD’s Families in Transition program and the student-run Project Red, also located in Round Rock, are both fighting to support homeless youth and homeless families in the Central Texas community north of Austin. The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act was signed into law in 1987 by President Ronald Reagan. This act requires school districts to have a local education liaison to ensure the rights of homeless students are being upheld and help homeless families with education and transportation services. For Round Rock ISD, this requirement is fulfilled through the Families in Transition program. Program coordinator Desiree Viramontes serves as the district’s homeless/foster care liaison and as Project Red sponsor.

Round Rock ISD’s Families in Transition program is located next to Round Rock High School and the Round Rock ISD administration office. The resource center includes a welcome area created through a Girl Scout project, several books, tutoring services, fresh produce donated by local farmers and food banks, a play area, and outside seating for picnicking and for appointments. The building is also equipped with a washer and dryer should families need to complete laundry during their appointments. The program also aids students with several supplies, including backpacks and hygiene kits. The center also has clothes and blankets. The program is supported by Nike, and the center contains a shoe wall as shoes are one of the easiest clothing items to provide to help students blend in.

The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) released a report in March on youth homelessness in the United States, estimating that 4.2 million youth and young adults are experiencing homelessness in this country and that the number of unaccompanied minors—youth with no family, parent, or guardian—is approximately 700,000. The NCSL estimates that one in 10 adults between the ages of 18–25 and one in 30 youths ages 13–17 will experience homelessness each year. With current classroom sizes in Texas, this can equate to almost one child in every classroom who will experience homelessness.


Multiple factors contribute to homelessness in both youth and adults, including natural disasters, global pandemics, human trafficking/sex trafficking, drug abuse, and the foster care system. For example, after Hurricane Harvey hit Texas in 2017, an estimated 22,000 youth were homeless in the Houston area,

according to The 74 organization. Before 2017, the population of homeless students in Round Rock was only 600. Since 2017, the number of students experiencing homelessness in Round Rock ISD has increased by approximately 200 each year, with more than 1,000 students currently being served by the district’s outreach. The district’s youth homeless population is fairly evenly split between elementary and secondary students, with 545 students in pre-K through fifth grade and the rest in middle school and high school.

The COVID-19 pandemic shaped the world in many ways, but one of its most harmful effects was the displacement of families. Stimulus checks during the pandemic aimed to ease the hardship, but when those benefits ended, many families were once again left in a financial bind.

“After that first stimulus check, what we saw was a bump of families being able to stabilize with that increase of money, like being able to go into an apartment for the first time in a few years,” Viramontes says. “Then, as the stimulus checks kept going, everything was fine. But during this school year, in particular, we saw a jump in our numbers, and there were no family stimulus checks, and there was a decrease in the amount of SNAP food benefits.”

With rising rent, inflation, and an affordable housing crisis, Viramontes believes it is getting harder and harder for families to achieve housing stability.

“It is really impossible to stabilize in our area, in particular,” Viramontes says. “There’s nothing going on in our society at this point—post-COVID—that’s making it any easier for families to stabilize. One thing can throw off a family very, very quickly.”

Another cause of the rise in homeless youth in Texas has been weather events, such as the winter storm in 2021.

“We’ve seen just an increase in natural disasters in the state of Texas since 2017 to the point where now each school year, I don’t know what the natural event is going to be or when it’s going to hit,” Viramontes says.

“[Human trafficking] is something that many people are not even aware of,” Viramontes says. “It’s embedded in affluent neighborhoods and poor neighborhoods alike. There hasn’t been a year where I haven’t talked to or worked with a family that is escaping those situations.”
Jishnu Saani and Andrew Vu are co-founders of the organization Project Red. The organization originally started in Saani’s garage before expanding into what it is today. The organization works closely in conjunction with Round Rock ISD’s Families in Transition to aid students experiencing homelessness. Photo courtesy of the Project Red team

“It just seems like par for the course that we’re going to have a winter event every year, and before, we didn’t.”

Another aspect of homelessness not often discussed is its correlation with trafficking.

“It is a huge crisis that our nation is going through,” Viramontes says. “It is something that many people are not even aware of. It’s embedded in affluent neighborhoods and poor neighborhoods alike. There hasn’t been a year where I haven’t talked to or worked with a family that is escaping those situations.”

Viramontes further explained the current situation in Texas and stated that Waco and Houston are some of the biggest areas in human and sex trafficking with I-35 acting like a conduit between major cities. According to the Department of Homeland Security, thousands of human trafficking cases are reported every year, but many more are not. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center states one in three teens on the street will be lured into prostitution just 48 hours after leaving the house. The National Network for Youth also states about 20% of homeless youth are survivors of human trafficking and that about 68% have been trafficked or engaged in “survival sex,” which occurs when someone who is homeless trades sex for food or shelter. The most vulnerable to trafficking are LGBTQ+ youth and children who have left foster care.

How You Can Help

Both Project Red and Families in Transition are always open to help from the public, and other school districts across the state have similar programs that need public support. For Families in Transition, it is possible to donate online, which goes directly to the students and families experiencing homelessness in the program. Project Red also provides a way for the public to donate online, and the money goes to future events, supplies, charities, and supporting the nonprofit’s operations. Project Red is also open to volunteers, and though most volunteers are students, it is open to adults as well. Plus, Project Red offers internships.

There are several ways to report suspected human trafficking, including contacting federal law enforcement by calling (866) DHS2-ICE, or by submitting a tip online at ice.gov/tips. Trafficking victims are urged to call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at (888) 373-7888 or text 233733.

The Texas Human Trafficking Resource Center also has a variety of resources available, including online chat through the Human Trafficking Hotline Web Chat.

Viramontes observes that right now there is a lack of hard data regarding homelessness in LGBTQ+ youth. However, the National Coalition for the Homeless estimates about 40% of the homeless youth population across the country identifies as LGBTQ+. This is in contrast to the 10% of general youth population who identify as LGBTQ+.

“It’s kind of hard to track that part of it,” she says. “We’re still missing the fact that LGBTQIA are hugely vulnerable in the homeless population and highly at-risk of getting kicked out of their homes.”

The Project Red team conducts a canned food and clothing drive as part of Project Camouflage, which began in December 2022 to provide food and clothing for students to help them “camouflage” into their school environment. The project resulted in the collection of more than 3,000 canned goods.

Still, programs and organizations such as Round Rock ISD’s Families in Transition and Project Red are not giving up on providing aid and relief for those experiencing homelessness, no matter the cause.


Project Red is a student-run organization located in Round Rock founded by two students, Jishnu Saani and Andrew Vu.

One of their projects, Project FirstAid, provided first-aid kits to those who are homeless. After receiving donations, Project Red was able to coordinate with the Salvation Army to distribute these first-aid kits. The project started slow as both Saani and Vu encountered obstacles and unintended consequences.

“We would make these custom first-aid kits for each of these different (seasonal) situations,” Saani says. “One crucial thing we learned from this drive is these kits may not be used for the best purposes. The majority of homeless people are addicted to certain kinds of drugs, and although these kits are intended to get them out of this cycle of homelessness, it kind of did the opposite.”

The kits contained alcohol wipes, which are sometimes used to disinfect an area before applying drugs.

“That was a bummer,” Saani says. “Our intentions were being reversed, and we did not want to contribute to the problem. So we immediately halted operations.”

Although the project hit a roadblock, Saani and Vu continued in their efforts to help homeless individuals. This includes their most recent project, Project Camouflage. The idea behind the project was to help homeless students during the winter with food and clothes that would help

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The center of the Robert Vela High School cafeteria was its usual crowded mass of tables and chairs, but for the tournament, it had been transformed. The tables were lined not with food trays but with consoles and computer monitors placed neatly amongst a jumble of cords. In each chair sat a competitor, their hands busy with either a keyboard or controller. Cheers erupted from one side of the room as one match ended and another began.

A table lined with trophies sat patiently across from the giant screen that Robert Williamson and his Eisenhower Elementary students were now fixated on. As a coach, Williamson knew that his student was talented, but the boy’s opponent was clearly getting the best of him. In the Super Smash Bros. game, the key to victory is controlling the middle of the map, and the Eisenhower star player was struggling to maintain his position. Understanding his predicament, his teammates were distraught.

“Coach,” they exclaimed. “He can’t get in there to attack him. He is going to lose.”

“Guys, don’t worry,” Williamson said. “He knows what he is doing. Just watch.”

Super Smash Bros. matches use a first-to-three-point system, and if the match reaches the time limit and the competitors are tied, it goes into sudden death mode, where one hit is all it takes to win.

Williamson had foreseen this issue and reminded his student of this tactic just before the tournament. If you find yourself outmatched, just do your best to survive and play for sudden death.

Williamson coaches his third–fifth grade Mario Kart team to a second-place finish in the Robert Vela High School Elementary Esports Tournament on March 25. From left to right: Jorge Anaya, Jesus Anaya, Williamson, Giovanna Trevino, and Jaden Maldonado. Image adapted by John Kilpper from photo by Robert Williamson

And that is exactly what he did. He ran from opponents, jumped over them, and blocked their attacks until the time clock expired. As his team held their breath, his character fired a single arrow across the screen. Cheers erupted from the crowd as the arrow found its mark and he secured the victory in dramatic fashion.


Robert Williamson teaches fifth grade at Eisenhower Elementary in Edinburg CISD. He is new to the district, but he has over a decade of classroom teaching experience. He has also coached football and basketball for most of his career, so he is well acquainted with extracurricular activities and what it takes for success. When Williamson first took the position in his new district, he had no idea he would be building an esports (or electronic sports) program from scratch.

“When I got the opportunity to coach an esports club, I got stars in my eyes,” Williamson says. “I told my wife that I’ve played games my whole life and coached for half of it, so it’s cool that both of those things get to come full circle.”

Esports clubs consists of individual players and teams that train and compete in organized gaming competitions either online, in person, or both.

Scholastic esports programs have been around for years in colleges across the country, but it wasn’t until recently that these clubs found their way into K–12 schools. And competitive gaming has grown in popularity over the last decade as Twitch and YouTube streamers broadcast games and tournaments to online spectators, fueling interest and participation in both recreational gaming and organized esports competitions.

Williamson sees many similarities between coaching basketball and teaching his players Super Smash Bros.

“We run drills and practice all different sorts of techniques that they might use,” Williamson said. “We even scout our competition for their strengths and weaknesses —like you would see in traditional sports.”

For Williamson’s players, it isn’t size or speed that determines their success. He explains that a combination of quick thinking and muscle memory makes you a good player. You don’t have to be

physically gifted, so it helps even out the playing field for anyone who is willing to put in the time and effort to learn.


Naturally, gaming as a school-based activity has felt its share of pushback, but game-based learning and extracurricular activities have been shown to provide a wealth of benefits for students, including improved focus, self-esteem, and even academic performance, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

“It was kind of tough at the beginning to get parents on board with what we were offering because the whole idea was confusing for a lot of them,” Williamson says. “They have many questions about what exactly their child would be doing and why it could be beneficial. So we explained to the parents that it’s a competition that their child is already familiar with and they do not need to go buy expensive equipment to participate.”

Many students today recreationally play video games in their own homes and on their own time, and scholastic esport clubs aim to capture that interest and find ways to align it with education.

“For my players who haven’t really ever shown an interest in traditional sports or other extracurricular activities, it is really rewarding to connect with them through

something they are passionate about,” Williamson says. “Esports can bring out the best in them, and you can see their behavior improve in this environment. It’s like they suddenly have all this focus and motivation—a side that we don’t always get to see as teachers.”

With all the potential benefits of scholastic esports, perhaps the most critical to its success is the fun factor. Games have always been incorporated into learning environments in one way or another, but Williamson explains that learning tends to be most effective when it is disguised as fun.

“When the Grand Champion, Hugo Contreras, was interviewed at the end of the tournament, they asked him what he likes most about esports, and he said it is playing after school against his friends,” Williamson says. “He confessed that he had the most fun at practice. You’re not going to get a football player to say that! I’m sorry. They hate practice. It was refreshing to see that and heartwarming to know that you can create so much joy with as little as a console and projector.”


Scholastic esports is rapidly growing in K–12 education as a conduit for developing science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM) skills while encouraging student engagement and fostering

Williamson and his second grade Mario Kart team poses with their medals and first-place trophy. From left to right: Leo Molina, Aiden Acuña, Williamson, Angel De La Rosa, and Julian Rios.

inclusion. Like any team sport, creating and maintaining a scholastic esports program requires a significant amount of planning and investment.

“My district is very into technology and looking for new educational tools that will help us be more successful,” Williamson says. “Every year, ECISD has something called the Innovate Conference, and with the help of all these different tech companies, ECISD staff provide resources for teachers to help them become more tech-savvy.”

As fate would have it, one of the presentations at the conference was on esports programs, and Williamson signed up to receive more information. The idea was fairly new to Edinburg CISD, as several elementary schools had just recently taken advantage of the program. They received funds to cover consoles and supplies to start clubs at their campus. On top of that, they needed an esport sponsor to spend those funds, coordinate the program, and act as a coach.

Williamson started the program with his own personal Nintendo Switch console and a projector from his home. With the help of a fellow teacher, he set them up on one wall of his classroom. It wasn’t everything he had envisioned, but he had to make do with what he had available to begin the year.

“I don’t know exactly how other school esports clubs got their start, but I know firsthand the struggle it can be for new esports sponsors building everything from the ground up,” says Williamson.

To Williamson’s knowledge, the 202223 school year was Edinburg CISD’s first elementary esports competition. The prior year, even with the middle school program up and running, they weren’t yet prepared.

With everything just getting off the ground, schools needed time to purchase equipment and put teams together. But in March, Edinburg CISD held a district tournament in which over 30 schools competed.

Williamson says that Sylvia Faz, his principal at Eisenhower Elementary, assisted him in the district tournament because she cares about the program and the players.

“She noticed that a lot of these kids are not in UIL or other academic programs,” Williamson says. “And she is excited that they get this chance to be recognized and show off their skills. It’s really humbling to see someone care so much about the success of not only the program but also these kids.”

As the year progressed, Williamson received funding for the program and was able to acquire four more Nintendo Switch consoles, a couple of televisions, and another projector.

“The club meets in my classroom, and we have been very blessed with what the district supplies,” Williamson says. “I try to provide structure to their practice with one goal in mind: I want them to learn and improve with every game. And even though they are having fun and doing what they love, they are constantly learning, and I think that is the secret to our success.”


The Edinburg CISD esports tournament comprised over 30 local elementary schools, and Williamson’s club was allowed to enter up to 20 students. This broke down into 10 students competing in Super Smash Bros. with two alternates and two teams of four for Mario Kart. The Super Smash Bros. competition had individuals vying for first- through sixthplace trophies, but for the Super Mario Kart competition, Williamson had to set up a relay team for the Grand Prix game mode, which consists of four races. Each player would run a single race, and their combined scores would determine which school was declared the winner.

“Our secret to success in this event was having a solid strategy going in,” Williamson says. “In Mario Kart, the races get progressively more difficult, so the

first race is always the easiest, and the last race is always the most difficult. I chose students to fill each leg of the competition based on their skill to match the difficulty curve and give us the best chance to win.”

After the qualifying round with all 31 schools, only the top eight clubs moved on to compete in the final round to determine the winner. So again, Williamson had to adjust the team’s strategy to maximize their chances.

“Even though we are commonly referred to as esports sponsors, we can and should be coaches for our squads,” Williamson says. “Just like traditional sports coaches, our players rely on our knowledge of the game and the rules of the tournament to build a winning strategy and make sure our players perform at their best.”

And his players did just that. His second grade Mario Kart team won the first-place trophy, and his third through fifth grade squad took second—losing by a single point. His Super Smash Bros. players did equally well, with one player winning a third-place overall finish and another becoming the Grand Champion.

Williamson was surprised by a comment he received from one of the coaches at the tournament: “You really seem to be into this.”

“It struck me as odd because I was thinking, ‘How are you not?’” Williamson says. “This is awesome. The kids are playing games and cheering each other on. I get it; it’s a Saturday. I’ve been a teacher for 10 years, and Saturdays are sacred. But this is great.”

Williamson emphasizes that after-school programs are extremely important for both students and for teachers. Although he coached football, basketball, and track, Williamson never played those sports in school and was never a star athlete. He says that he is a living testament that it doesn’t take an expert or someone who has played their whole life to get the job done. It just takes someone who is willing to work with the kids and to give them those opportunities to be successful at something outside the normal curriculum.

“My hope is that teachers reading this will consider volunteering the next time their principal asks if anyone would like to

continued on page 32

K-fifth grade students practice Super Smash Bros. after school on a Friday inside Williamson’s classroom at Eisenhower Elementary.



ATPE members made the trek July 10–12 to Kalahari Resorts & Conventions in Round Rock for the 2023 ATPE Summit. Attendees charted a path for their next ATPE adventures in membership recruitment and public education advocacy during volunteer training and a couldn’t-miss legislative update. Also on the agenda were inspiring professional learning sessions, including keynotes presented by Monica Genta, author of 180 Days of Awesome, and Jim “The Rookie” Morris, the real-life high school teacher-turned-major league pitcher. Plus, the 2023 ATPE House of Delegates elected the 2023-24 ATPE state officers and adopted resolutions and the 2023-24 ATPE Legislative Program.

The following pages highlight the ATPE volunteer leaders, members, and supporters whose contributions help ATPE remain the No. 1 choice of Texas educators. Thank you to everyone who joined us for an incredible summit!



Thank you to ATPE’s generous corporate and association partners as well as the dedicated volunteers who made the 2023 ATPE Summit a tremendous success.

Corporate Partners

Frost Insurance Association Partners

It’s Time Texas, TCEA, Texas ASCD, Texas Association of Future Educators (TAFE), Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented (TAGT), Texas Girls Coaches Association (TGCA)

Region 13 Welcome Committee

Pamela Brown-Ledet, Erin Campbell, Phyllis Crider, Callie Dawson, Mary Dorney, Kim Kauitzsch, Heidi Langan, Samantha Lynn, Cristela Rocha, Danielle Sanders, Kristin Shelton, Christie Smith, Tina Steiner, Greg Vidal, Jennifer Wilson, and Cheryl Zalk

Summit Steering Committee

Erin Campbell, Temeika Durden, Samantha Lynn, Danielle Sanders, Jayne Serna, Kristin Shelton, Christie Smith, Stephanie Stoebe, Greg Vidal, and Jeannette Whitt

Educator of the Year Committee

Chair Jackie Davis, Sherise Bell, Sharon Dixon, Colleen Norton, Brooke Anna Roberts, and Angela Rice

Leader of the Year Committee

Chair Evelyn Miles-Hoskin, Carl Garner, Maria Samantha Montano, Daisy Palomo, Cristela Rocha, Cassandra Rogers, and Gayla Rhoads

Nomination/Election Committee

Chair Ron Fitzwater, Belinda Wolf, Sandra Bounds, Kelley Walker, Tara Linz, Art Cantu, and Shannon Bush

Resolutions Committee

Chair Cathy Stolle, Julie Fore, Mary Gardner, Kristy Hollingsworth, Michael Renteria, Davina Carter, and Jennifer Adams

Legislative Committee

Chair Abigail Ramford, Jennifer Bowland, Kim Dolese, Christopher Douglas, Sean Douglas, Jesus Garza, Hayli Hassell, Karen Hill, Phyllis Jarzombek, Dale Lovett, Sarah Mayne, Maria Mendez, Opal Mobbs, Rose Perez, Gayle Sampley, Shelia Slider, Emily Smith, Nattina Wilkerson, Melanie Willett, and David Williams

Membership Committee

Chair Melissa Walcik, Sue Ambrus, Kimberly Anderson, Denise Braun, Gayla Brown, Madonna Felan, Michelle Fuller, Yessica Garza, Jaclean Harris, Taylor Kruppa, Kay Loftin, Meredith Malloy, Patricia Moore, Traci Morrison, Yesica Munguia, Amber Shipman, Greg Vidal, Katherine Whitbeck, Susan Wilson, and Sylvia Zamora

Leader Development Committee

Chair Nicole Fuller, Joy Barreras, Sage Cavazos, Amy Crawley, Carlos Diaz, Patricia Garcia, Samantha Garza, Jordyn Livingston, Tesslyn Mustain, Felicia Robinson, Olena Stuart, Karen Thompson, and Maria Trevino

Public Information Committee

Chair Tracey Smith, Autumn Caro, Blythe Chapman, Phyllis Crider, Greg Fore, Maya Issac, and Erika Mitcham


ATPE’s annual House of Delegates (HOD) meeting reflects our member-governed philosophy. At the HOD, delegates representing their local units and regions vote for ATPE’s next state officers and consider the reports of the Resolutions and Legislative committees.

State Officer Election

The 43rd Annual ATPE House of Delegates elected the following members to serve as ATPE’s 2023-24 state officers: President Jayne Serna, Leander; Vice President Jason Forbis, Midway (12); Secretary Jerrica Liggins, Paris; and Treasurer Eli Rodriguez, Cypress-Fairbanks. They join Immediate Past State President Stacey Ward, Humble.


The HOD readopted Standing Resolutions Nos. 1–13 as recommended by the Resolutions Committee and the ATPE Board of Directors. There were no current or prefiled resolutions to consider. The HOD also adopted an honorary resolution recognizing Past State President Karen Hames for her service to ATPE. Visit atpe.org/hod to read the resolutions.

ATPE Legislative Program

The ATPE Legislative Program outlines the association’s legislative priorities and guides ATPE Governmental Relations in its advocacy efforts. The HOD adopted the 2023-24 ATPE Legislative Program. Visit atpe.org/leg-program to review the program.


2022-23 AWARDS

ATPE honored educators, ATPE volunteers, and education journalists at the summit, as well as presented the association’s highest honor, the Judy Coyle Texas Liberty Award.


Named after one of ATPE’s founding members, the Judy Coyle Texas Liberty Award is presented to individuals or organizations who have demonstrated superior service to public education. The 2023 recipient of the Judy Coyle Texas Liberty Award is Laura Yeager, a tireless Texas public school advocate who says her work in public education policy is “driven by the belief that public education and civic engagement are the central tenets of a strong democracy and key to a better and fairer world.” Yeager has been a founding member of three organizations dedicated to our public schools: Texans Advocating for Meaningful School Assessment (TAMSA), Texas Educators Vote, and Just Fund It TX.


The Alafair Hammett Media Award recognizes specific works of journalism that highlight important issues in Texas public education. The award is selected by the members of the ATPE Public Information Committee, who evaluate journalistic works recommended by ATPE staff. The works are evaluated for relevancy, clarity, approach to public education policy, and ability to capture audience interest. The 2022-23 ATPE Public Information Committee reviewed six nominated articles and selected KXAN investigative reporter Kelly Wiley as the recipient for her broadcast package entitled “The Exit: Teachers Leave. Students Suffer.”


Local Units/ISDs with 1–200 Members

Local Units/ISDs with 201–500 Members



The 2022-23 Top Recruiter is Amanda Fortenberry, formerly of Hardin-Jefferson, who recruited 39 new members. Fortenberry received $390 ($10 for each new member), plus $1,000 for being the state’s top recruiter as part of the One New = $10 for You recruitment challenge.

Sean Douglas Cuero

Finalists: Jessica (McHale) Rutherford, Hempstead; Christy Skinner, Lumberton

Roya Dinbali Nacogdoches

Finalists: Monique Juliangarza, Spring; Katherine Whitbeck, Nacogdoches

The Doug Rogers Campus Representative of the Year Awards acknowledge those special ATPE volunteers who are fundamental to the continued growth and development of our grassroots organization.

Local Units/ISDs with 501–1,000 Members

Local Units/ISDs with 1,001+ Members

Artemio Cantu

La Joya

Finalists: Hilda Martinez, La Joya; Aiesha Odutayo, Houston

Antonio Mercado


Finalists: Michelle Jeffrey, Katy; Jennifer LeWinter, Plano



Local Units with 1–200 Members

Local Units with 201–500 Members

The Floyd Trimble Local Unit of the Year Awards acknowledge the efforts and accomplishments of outstanding local units across the state.

Local Units with 501–1,000 Members

Local Units with 1,001+ Members

University Local Units

Bandera ATPE

2022-23 officers: President John Milner, Vice President Stan Payne, Secretary Sherrie Williamson, Treasurer Diane Payne

Finalists: Hempstead ATPE, North Starr ATPE

Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ATPE

2022-23 officers: President Michael Sweet, Vice President Lydia Marez, Secretary Dora Melendez, Treasurer Martha Alvarado

Finalists: Allen ATPE, Magnolia ATPE


Administrator of the Year

Associate of the Year

La Joya ATPE

2022-23 officers: President Artemio Cantu, Vice President Julian Villarreal, 2nd Vice President Vanessa Brown, Secretary Bertha Cantu, Treasurer Jesus Garza, Membership Chair Hilda Martinez

Finalists: Alief ATPE, Houston ATPE


2022-23 officers: President Janet Godfrey, Vice President Ollie Kendrick, Secretary Sherry Doll, Treasurer Dalton Lauck, Membership Chair Dedra Robertson

Finalists: Cypress-Fairbanks ATPE, Denton ATPE

University of St. Thomas ATPE

2022-23 officers: President Brenna Ruehter, Vice President Shermeen Patel, Treasurer Anahy Martinez Balleza, Historian Xareni

Chazares, Sponsor Jean Kiekel

Finalist: Houston Baptist University ATPE (now Houston Christian University)

The Charles Pickitt Educator of the Year Award recognizes ATPE members who demonstrate exceptional or innovative capabilities in their respective educational fields.

Elementary Teacher of the Year

Secondary Teacher of the Year

Special Services Educator of the Year

Christina Flores


Finalists: Claire Bray, Nacogdoches; Kris Mitzner, Katy

Francis Sanchez Zapata County

Finalists: Wanda Bailey, Mesquite; Eduardo Mercado, Edinburg

Michael Sweet

Pharr-San Juan-Alamo

Finalists: Christy Biehle, Katy; Lacey Brajenovich, Katy

Daxus Nessoi Katy

Finalists: Clarice Cross, Plano; Joan Pearson, Cypress-Fairbanks

Greg Fore Dallas

Finalists: Ana Ramos, Roma; Dedra Robertson, Katy



Stephen F. Austin ATPE-PAC Honorees

The members below have contributed the following cumulative amounts to ATPE-PAC since July 1997.

Liggins, Dale Lovett, Teresa Millard, Lynn Nutt, Steve Pokluda, Deborah Pleasant, Betty Plunkett, Michael Renteria, Lindsay Robinson, Eliseo Rodriguez, Abby Rogers, Jayne Serna, Maria Slette, Shelia Slider, Wendy Smith, Becky Spurlock, Ron Walcik, Katherine Whitbeck, Richard Wiggins

William B. Travis ATPE-PAC Honorees

Maria Trevino, Norma Vega, Melissa Walcik, Ron Walcik, Eileen Walcik, Stacey Ward, Katherine Whitbeck, Shane Whitten, Richard Wiggins, Belinda Wolf

Davy Crockett Fundraising Challenge


Karen Hames, Steve Pokluda


MaElena Ingram


Bill Griffin, Shannon Holmes, Shawna Myerson, Shelia Slider, Michael Sweet


Madonna Felan, Lynette Ginn, Barbara Lebold, Paula Marshall, Yvette Milner, Lynn Nutt, Barbara Ruiz, Stephanie Stoebe, Leslie Ward


Lizandra Ayala Valentin, Beverly Bredemeyer, Greg Fore, Stacy Gallier, Yessica Garza, Tiffiiany Godley, Tiffany Gygi, Crystal Hammill, Catherine Harbour, Tommie Hicks, Dorothy Hulett, Rebecca LeBreton, Angela Robinson, Horacio Rodriguez, Jessica Rutherford, Angela Sanchez, Tanya Snook, Mary Stricker

ATPE-PAC Statesman Award

The ATPE-PAC Statesman Award honors ATPE members who have donated $20 or more to ATPE-PAC for 12 consecutive months. Charlotte Anthony, Betty Berndt, Sherry Boyd, David de la Garza, Sharon Dixon, Twila Figueroa, Ron Fitzwater, Jason Forbis, CaRita Forte, Lynette Ginn, Tonja Gray, Byron Hildebrand, Shannon Holmes, Darlene Kelly, Barbara Lebold, Jerrica

This year’s William B. Travis Honorees are those members who donated $150 or more to ATPEPAC between Aug. 1, 2021, and July 31, 2022. Shannon Abernathy, Tina AlvaradoCrouch, Susan Ambrus, Charlotte Anthony, Susan Ballew, Betty Berndt, Nelson Bishop, Jerry Bonham, Julleen Bottoms, Sherry Boyd, Beverly Bredemeyer, Brandi Claiborne, Sara Connaway, Hector Cruz, Elizabeth Davis, Ona Beth Day, David de la Garza, Sharon Dixon, Alice Erdelt, Madonna Felan, Twila Figueroa, Ron Fitzwater, Jason Forbis, John Fore, CaRita Forte, Ginger Franks, Donna Gibbon, Patti Gibbs, Sharon Ginn, Tonja Gray, Tanya Gray, Stephen Griffin, Karen Hames, Byron Hildebrand, Jeanette Hlavaty, Lisa Hollowell, Shannon Holmes, Malinda Holzapfel, Maria Ingram, Phyllis Jarzombek, Irma Jimenez, Kate Johanns, Courtney Jones, Darlene Kelly, Connie Kilday, Barbara Lebold, Jerrica Liggins, Tara Linz, Dale Lovett, Elias Lozano, Meredith Malloy, Paula Marshall, Hilda Martinez, Melanie Mathis, Katy Matthews, Shawna Mayerson, Betty McCoy, Evelyn MilesHoskin, Teresa Millard, Maria Samantha Montano, Shawn Mustain, Sharon Nix, Lynn Nutt, Bobbye Patton, Deborah Pleasant, Betty Plunkett, Steve Pokluda, Jennifer Price, Michael Renteria, Lindsay Robinson, Eliseo Rodriguez, Abby Rogers, Belinda Rosa, Jessica Rutherford, Gayle Sampley, Jayne Serna, Maria Slette, Shelia Slider, Wendy Smith, Rhonda Smith, Leah Smith, Samuel Spurlock, Becky Spurlock, Stephanie Stoebe, Cathy Stolle, Mary Stricker, Michael Sweet, Marsi Thomas,

This challenge was established to recognize the regions and local units that raise the most money per member for ATPE-PAC. This award covered the Aug. 1, 2021–July 31, 2022, fundraising period.

Region, 10,000 or Fewer Members

Region 11 ATPE

Region, 10,001 or More Members

Region 10 ATPE

Local Unit, 1–200 Members

Woden ATPE

Local Unit, 201–500 Members

McAllen ATPE

Local Unit, 501+ Members

Lewisville ATPE

ATPE-PAC Silent Auction Donors

David de la Garza; Amy Dodd; Andrea Elizondo; Jennifer Mitchell; McAllen ATPE; Regions 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 9, 14, 15, 16, 17, 19, and 20


Congratulations to the following ATPE staff members honored during the summit for their combined 160 years of service.

Five Years of Service

Celina Leal

Jeff Vega

Mary Jane Waits

10 Years of Service

Bret Messer

Diane Pokluda

Martha Moring

20 Years of Service

Andrea Elizondo

Barbara McGrath

Tracy Revetta

25 Years of Service

Joy England

Brian Park


Ensure a bright future for your English learners

Give students the con dence and skills they need to thrive. These resources are packed with research-based strategies to accelerate literacy development, support dual-language instruction, and cultivate active, engaged learners.

ORDER TODAY SolutionTree.com/ BrightFuture

Meet Your 2023-24 ATPE Leaders

2023-24 State Officers

Leander, Region 13

Serna is a 34-year education veteran and adjunct professor of history at Austin Community College.


Midway, Region 12

A 27-year educator, Forbis teaches first grade.

2023-24 Region Officers



Paris, Region 8

Liggins serves as her district’s secondary education director and has 13 years of experience.

Cypress-Fairbanks, Region 4

Rodriguez, a 39-year education veteran, teaches seventh grade English/language arts.

A 26-year educator, Ward teaches fifth grade science.


Adriane Taylor Corpus Christi


MaElena Ingram McAllen


Luis Garcia Valley View (1)


Melinda Marquez San Isidro


Craig Weart Weslaco


Norma Vega La Joya






Jackie Hannebaum Corpus Christi


Brenda Medina Corpus Christi


Ceasar Germain

Flour Bluff


Lorrie Gomez Corpus Christi

Tiffany Keszler Tidehaven


Beth Auble Industrial


Taylor Kruppa Univ. of Houston-Victoria


Cathy Stolle Karnes City

Jay Guerrero Cypress-Fairbanks


Karina Torres Cypress-Fairbanks


Sierra Turner-Villalovos Lone Star College–North Harris


Jessica McHale

Rutherford Hempstead


Paloma Esparza University of Houston–Downtown

Katelyn Hanson Jasper


Sandra Turner Port Arthur


Michelle Fuller Newton


Maya Issac Newton

Christopher Douglas Cameron ISD


Sonia Wolfrom Magnolia


Susan Ambrus Navasota


Lori Mitchell Willis




New Waverly

Donna Ward Willis Christy Skinner Lumberton Sean Douglas Cuero Twila Figueroa McAllen Jerrica Liggins SECRETARY Eli Rodriguez TREASURER Stacey Ward PAST PRESIDENT Humble, Region 4 Jason Forbis Jayne Serna PRESIDENT








Teresa Millard Woden

Abby Rogers Paris

Denise Sanders Vernon

Wanda Bailey Mesquite ISD

Christopher Adams Crowley

Christina Flores Riesel

Stephanie Stoebe Round Rock

Kimberly Dolese

Northeast Texas


J York



Taylor Millard



Michelle Adams

Martinsville ISD


Katherine Whitbeck



Yesica Munguia Paris


Amy House

Chapel Hill (8)

SECRETARY Derrick Robinson

Cooper Bulldogs



PAST PRESIDENT P. Anthony Williams

Chapel Hill (8)


Dale Lovett



Traci Morrison



Belinda Wolf

Wichita Falls


Patti Gibbs


Julia Fore



Clarice Cross



Dani Boepple



Carl Garner



Donnetta Allen

Inspired Vision Academy



Marianne Eckley



Karen Hames



Debra Hardy



Susan Samson



Betty Plunkett



Courtney Jones



Christina Taylor



Shawn Bailey

Midway (12)


Nattina Wilkerson


Kristin Shelton

Round Rock


Danielle Sanders



Erin Campbell

Round Rock


Callie Dawson



Christie Smith




Leslie Ward Merkel

Betty Gail Wood-Rush Early

Sherry Boyd Spearman

Abigail Ramford Lamesa

Gail Campos Big Spring

Robert Zamora


Laura Herrera North East

Nicole Fuller

Jim Ned Consolidated


Heather Wooten



Opal Mobbs



Tommie Hicks Hawley

Amber Shipman Brownwood


Karen Thompson Ballinger


Darlene Kelly Ballinger

TREASURER Maria Mendez Junction

Michael Renteria Amarillo


Blythe Chapman Amarillo


Maria Morado Amarillo

TREASURER Nancy Fowler Amarillo

Brenda Bryan Hale Center


Pamela Meraz Lamesa


Susan Wilson Lamesa


Sharon Ginn Hale Center

Michelle Adams Midland


Karen Hill Pecos-Barstow-Toyah


Ashley Debusk Midland

TREASURER Davina Carter Midland

Sarah Mayne El Paso


Diane Baray Socorro


Martha Rico Ysleta


Eduardo Sierra San Elizario


Mark Mendoza El Paso

Evelyn Miles-Hoskin Northside (20)


John Milner Bandera


Michael Perez Comal


Juaquin Zavala Northside (20)

PAST PRESIDENT Elizabeth Turner Northside (20)


ATPE invites you to join us as we visit “neighborhoods” all over Texas. Get an inside look at what ATPE volunteers across the state are doing to recruit, retain, and rejoice with their fellow ATPE members!

In Your Neighborhood: ATPE Stories from Your Communities


Corpus Christi ATPE

Corpus Christi ATPE hosted a graduation celebration for Texas A&M University–Corpus Christi graduates May 17. Graduating seniors received ATPE graduation cords to wear at commencement.

Region 16 ATPE & Spearman ATPE

Region 16 ATPE and Spearman ATPE collected necessary supplies for those affected by the devastating June 15 tornado in Perryton. Region 16 ATPE Director Sherry Boyd delivered the supplies to a relief center at Perryton High School.

Region 11 ATPE

Region 11 ATPE members gathered at the Aloft Hotel in Fort Worth for a cinemathemed spring meeting and election that included food and prizes. The Region 11 ATPE Educator of the Year winners were also recognized.

Comal ATPE

Comal ATPE members pose with gift cards they won in door prize drawings at their spring meeting held in April at Casa Garcia in New Braunfels.


Meet the 2023-24 Leadership ATPE Cohort

Leadership ATPE offers professional development, leadership training, and networking opportunities for education professionals chosen from within ATPE’s membership ranks. Through this program, Leadership ATPE cohort members participate in experiences designed to hone the skills needed to serve their schools and communities, pursue leadership roles within ATPE, and advance their careers.

The year-long program includes two weekend training retreats and additional networking opportunities focused on building such skills as public speaking, advocacy, nonprofit leadership, and more.

Congratulations to these ATPE members:

Lena Angel, Katy

Beth Auble, Industrial

Abigail Baiza, IDEA Public Schools

Kiree Bins, Killeen

Davina Carter, Midland

Callie Dawson, Hutto

Eva Dickey, Paris

Shagufta Ellam, Round Rock

Jesus Garza, La Joya

Jay Guerrero, Cypress-Fairbanks

Amanda Hendon, Abilene

Maegan Holycross, Birdville

Taylor Kruppa, Ezzell

Jordyn Livingston, New Diana

Sarah Mayne, El Paso

Taylor Millard, Henderson

Aiesha Odutayo, Houston

Age 30 or Younger? Don’t Miss Out on Gen ATPE

One of ATPE’s newest programs, Gen ATPE, offers special programming and networking opportunities specifically for educators ages 30 or younger. No additional application or fee is required, but to receive notification of Gen ATPE events, your member profile must include your birthdate indicating that you are currently age 30 or younger. To add your birthdate, log in to your Member Account at atpe.org, then navigate to “My Profile.” Add your birthday under “Profile Information,” and click Save!

Be sure to check out the archived Gen ATPE webinars available in the ATPE Professional Learning Portal:

Choosing and Using Diverse Literature

Discover sources to find new literature for your classroom library. There are many beautiful books that can add a new lens for learning. Literature should serve not only as a mirror for students to see the reflection of their lives but also as a window for them to see worlds outside of themselves. See how adding new and diverse books can even impact growth in reading skills.

(Presented by Stephanie Stoebe)

How to Engage Families in Their Children’s Education

One of your biggest challenges as a teacher is finding strategies for getting your students’ families involved in their education. Veteran educators Karen Hames and Shelly Couch will share lessons learned from their careers and explain what really works—and what really doesn’t. Plus, they’ll cover what parental/family involvement looks like post-pandemic, as well as what to do if you don’t feel like your administrators are supportive. By the end of the webinar, you’ll have some time-tested techniques to try this year.

(Presented by Shelly Couch and Karen Hames)


Earn Money Through ATPE’s One New = $10 for You Recruitment Program

Spread the word about ATPE and earn money with the One New = $10 for You recruitment program. Until Oct. 31, 2023, members can earn $10 for every new member they recruit. For this program, the newly recruited member must join as a first-time professional, associate, or administrator. Also, they must be someone who has never been a member with ATPE— the only exception is if the member was previously a college student or student teacher.

ATPE’s 2022-23 Top Recruiter, Amanda Fortenberry, recruited 39 new members and received $390 ($10 for each new member), plus $1,000 for being the state’s top recruiter. Fortenberry is beginning her 2023-24 school year in a new district, and she says she plans to continue that success by doing exactly what worked for her in the past.

“The first thing I’m going to do is to seek out the ATPE people in my new district,” Fortenberry says. “I am going to go to them and ask how I can help. I want everyone to know that if you are interested in joining, you can contact me, and I will literally walk to the door of your classroom and deliver an application.

“I would also like to spread the word about what ATPE can offer to new teachers. My slogan will be, ‘Sign up first and ask questions later. You’re going to want that protection from day one.’”

Incentives earned from recruitment will be paid for each recruited member who is active in ATPE’s database on Feb. 1,

2024. Following that, all funds will be issued via direct deposit in March 2024.

There is no entry form necessary; just instruct any new members you recruit to print your full name in the “recruited by” box on their membership application.

What are you waiting for? You’ve got until Oct. 31 to help grow your association AND earn some rewards for yourself at the same time!

ATPE’s Diane Pokluda Honored by Tarleton State University College of Education

Since 2012, the College of Education at Tarleton State University has presented an annual award to honor educators who have made a positive impact on the lives of students in the Tarleton Teacher Education Program. This year, ATPE’s very own Regional Membership Specialist Diane Pokluda was recognized for her contributions and support with a nomination to join the Tarleton Crystal Apple Society.

Congratulations, Diane, on receiving this amazing award!


Update to Membership Dues for the 2023-24 Membership Year

ATPE membership dues last increased in 2016. In the past seven years, the association has absorbed rising costs associated with cumulative inflation of 24%.

The ATPE Board of Directors has made the difficult decision to raise dues for the 2023-24 membership year in order to ensure the association can maintain an exceptional level of benefits.

Associate $99/year $8.25/month

First-Time Professional $110/year Just over $9/month

Professional $235/year Under $20/month

Administrator $310/year Under $26/month

Retired $30/year

Public $50/year

College Student Free Student Teacher Free

Our mission is to advocate for educators and deliver affordable, high-quality products and services that give members the peace of mind needed to inspire student success, and the Board’s action will position ATPE to deliver those products and services in the near future and for many years to come.

If you are on payroll rollover, ATPE contacted your ISD payroll office to let them know about the 2023-24 dues amount. However, it is your responsibility to review your pay stub to ensure the correct current membership amount is being deducted from your paycheck.

If you are on credit card or bank draft auto-renew, your annual one-time payment/monthly installment payment automatically increased Aug. 1. However, it is your responsibility to confirm the correct current membership amount is being charged to your card/deducted from your bank account.

Please contact ATPE Membership at members@atpe.org or (800) 777-2873

if you have any questions.

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In Memoriam: Past Region 5 Director Bill Moye

Born in Beaumont, on Sept. 14, 1942, Moye was the son of Tryian and Sybil Moye. He lived a full life and had tremendous intellect. Moye excelled at everything he set his mind to as he served as an adult scout leader for decades and even achieved the Vigil Honor from the Order of the Arrow.

Moye was an active member of Warren ATPE and served in many Region 5 ATPE officer roles. He also taught Sunday school lessons at his church. Moye’s unique sense of humor could fill the whole room with laughter. He enjoyed many hobbies, including taking part in historical battle reenactments and listening to country music.

Moye was kind and always willing to help those in need. He was a loving father and grandfather, and he will be deeply missed by all who knew and loved him during his journey through life.

Sue Allen taught with Moye at Warren High School, and they both served as Region 5 ATPE officers.

“Bill was a dedicated teacher and became an outstanding ATPE leader on all levels,” Allen says. “He was an outstanding historian and history teacher who always had a story to tell. I loved sharing a table with him at any meeting because he could keep all of us entertained—especially in those boring faculty meetings we have all had to sit through over the years. Bill was a true friend who loved his family and was always talking about them.”

On the Claybar Funeral Home Bill Moye Memorial Wall, several of Moye’s former students shared their thoughts and memories.

“Mr. Moye was one of the most caring teachers I ever had,” Daniel Odom wrote. “He was passionate about education and bettering the lives of his students, and he was one of the reasons I chose a career as a teacher. I offer prayers for the family, and thanks for all the years you shared Mr. Moye with his students.”

Karl Tolar shared: “Mr. Moye was one of those teachers that connected with students on a life level, not just at the point of education. Anytime I ran into him after I graduated, it was always a good catch-up conversation. He had a robust sense of humor, and it was always a good time talking with him about the world. He made a lasting impression on many young people and I’m glad to have been one of them.”

“It’s been about seven years since being in Mr. Moye’s class, and he was always very sweet,” Caly Bradford wrote. “My favorite times were once a year when he would bring the cannons to school to let us see them and hear what they sound like when fired. He will be missed.”

ATPE extends its sympathies to the Moye family and friends.

ATPE is saddened to share the news of the passing of ATPE member William “Bill” Jennings Moye on June 8, 2023. Moye represented Region 5 ATPE on the ATPE Board of Directors from 2011 to 2015.

continued from page 7—Your Ally

threats to campus threat assessment teams. Identities may only be disclosed to the team, district, or law enforcement to investigate. Districts must maintain a confidential record of reporter identities.


Per HB 2012, a classroom teacher cannot be prohibited from displaying a poster or copy of the national motto in their classroom.

Educators should look for additional information from their school districts as these policies are implemented and be advised that educators’ rights may be further modified during the anticipated special session on public education issues this fall.

continued from page 10—Your Voice

have on legislators as they approach issues important to educators. Think of it as a small investment in yourself and your students that could return huge dividends.


What does this mean? Educators have too often been told not to seek out trouble, not to stir the pot, and not to talk about political issues. And while care should be taken in delivering curriculum, the problem with that advice overall is that public education is a political issue. It doesn’t have to be—and shouldn’t be—a partisan issue, but it is absolutely a political issue. We do ourselves a disservice by not talking to everyone we can about the importance of prioritizing public education at the ballot box. We ourselves need to base our votes on public education issues, but that is not enough. If we want a Legislature that prioritizes public education, we must tell our family, friends, and neighbors which candidates support our public schools and ask them to vote for them, too.

continued from page 14—Student Homelessness

them blend into the school environment. The project resulted in the donation of 3,000-plus cans of food and hundreds of pieces of clothing.

“Over 300 families benefitted from the clothes and food that we had,” Saani says. “This also meant we could support one family for an entire year through just our food drive.”

Volunteering for programs and organizations such as Round Rock ISD’s Families in Transition and Project Red are

some of the best ways to help. Project Red also has internships available, and you can donate to both causes.

“The decisions that our interns and our volunteers make directly impact what we do as a nonprofit,” Vu said. “The best way to [help] is to donate to organizations like us, who know what to do with these resources so that these people in need of resources can get them in a way that isn’t harmful to them.”

Family support provided by Round Rock ISD’s Families in Transition program includes enrollment assistance, free school meals, tuition fees for summer school, parent education resources, counseling referrals, transportation, and services for homeless students, such as early childhood and special education programs.

“It’s a really nice space,” Viramontes says. “It’s a space where families come in and get the care that they need and the case-by-case management that they’re looking for.”

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Viramontes wanted to still help families in need while also keeping them safe. So she began doing curbside services to give them the resources and supplies the families needed while also maintaining social distancing, and while doing curbside, she had a lightbulb moment that would include the help from Project Linus.

“I immediately go and email Linus Blankets, so instead of making quilts, they started making face masks,” Viramontes says. “So, the next time he came through, he had Hulk and Iron Man (facemasks) and was the happiest kid.”

It can be difficult for adults and teachers to connect with students and youth experiencing homelessness. What separates Project Red from other organizations is the fact that it is entirely student-run, which helps the project provide homeless students with material and personal support.

“We’re students ourselves, and other students relate with people like them,” Vu says. “They might not listen to an adult. We’re on their level; they trust students like us, and I feel like they appreciate that so much more.”

continued from page 17—Scholastic Esports

start a club,” Williamson says. “And then they can experience for themselves how rewarding esports can be for not only their students but also for themselves.”

Just before the tournament, Williamson prepared his players by asking them to take a deep breath and remember to have fun.

“You’ve put in the practice, and you guys deserve to be here,” Williamson said to his team. “It doesn’t matter if you win or lose because you are getting the chance to play video games with your friends. In my book, you’ve already won!”


Meet ATPE’s


ATPE’s eight dedicated regional membership specialists support ATPE’s members and volunteers in their local communities across the state. Not sure what region you’re in? Visit atpe.org/find-atpe to find out.


Regions 1 & 2 rgutierrez@atpe.org


Regions 3 & 4 cvillalovos@atpe.org


Regions 5–7 gfranks@atpe.org

Regions 8 & 10 jcruz@atpe.org

Regions 9 & 11 dpokluda@atpe.org

Regions 12, 14, & 15 mjwaits@atpe.org

Regions 16–19 jvega@atpe.org

Regions 13 & 20 ymilner@atpe.org


Round of Applause

Let’s give a round of applause to our ATPE members all around the state who go above and beyond.


Rosemary Perez was one of four educators named by the Jourdanton ISD School Board as the Employee of the Year.


Park Place Lexus recognized Allen ISD Secondary Teacher of the Year John Garrott


Kameron Copass was named Walnut Creek Elementary and Azle ISD’s Elementary Teacher of the Year. Michelle Partin was named the Campus Teacher of the Year for Forte Junior High, and Amber Chapman received the honor for Cross Timbers Elementary School. The following ATPE members received the Heart of Azle award:

• Starla Petty, Forte Junior High

• Robert Popp, Silver Creek Elementary School

• Jason Vines, Azle High School


The Texas Parent Teacher Association (PTA) selected West Brook High School’s Nicholas Phillips as its 2023 Secondary Principal of the Year.


Mary Kroll, a STEAM teacher at Krause Elementary School, was named her campus’ 2023 Teacher of the Year.


First grade teacher Rhonda Kruse was named Teacher of the Year for Ben Milam Elementary School.

Corpus Christi

Texas PTA named Moody High School teacher Donna Jones as its 2023 Secondary Teacher of the Year.


Devine ISD named two ATPE members Educator of the Year for their respective campuses: Melody Riou (Devine Intermediate School) and Christian Guerra (Devine Middle School).


April Pool was one of four Jasper ISD teachers to receive a Jasper Public School Foundation Educator of the Year Award.


The Lake Travis ISD school board recognized kindergarten teacher Joy Crenshaw as Lakeway Elementary School’s 2022-23 Teacher of the Year.

Liberty Hill

Fifth grade teacher Emily Lively received Liberty Hill ISD’s Elementary Teacher of the Year Award.


Northeast Texas ATPE’s Suzanne Puryear was named Crunch Fitness’ Educator of the Year.


Midlothian ISD named three ATPE members the 2022-23

Teachers of the Year for their respective campuses:

• Joshua Carpenter, T. E. Baxter Elementary

• Michelle Spradley, Dolores W. McClatchey Elementary

• Donna Scott, LaRue Miller Elementary


Plainview ISD named the following ATPE members the 2022-23 Teachers of the Year for their respective campuses:

• Kelly Shackelford, Plainview High School

• James Pittman, Ash High School

• Mackenzie Sutton, Plainview Junior High School


Courtney Beck was named Redwater Elementary School’s teacher of the year as well as Region 8 ESC’s Elementary Teacher of the Year.


Rosalva Munoz was recognized for her passion in working with bilingual students.


Amy Smith was named the 2023 Outstanding Mentor Teacher by the South Central Area Network for Professional Development Schools.

Do you want to recognize a fellow ATPE member in the next issue of ATPE News? Contact us at comm@atpe.org!


The thousands of ATPE volunteers across Texas are the backbone of this association. Their hard work and dedication allow ATPE to serve the state’s largest community of educators. In this ongoing ATPE News series, we spotlight volunteers who set a great example of service to their fellow educators. NEXT UP: ARTEMIO CANTU teaches career and technical education in La Joya ISD, is president of La Joya ATPE, and is ATPE’s 2022-23 Campus Rep of the Year for local units with 501–1,000 members.


ATPE’s advocacy efforts are one of the biggest reasons Cantu became a member.

“To me, one of the most important benefits would be ATPE’s advocacy and being able to have a say in the legislative process,” Cantu explains. “With ATPE, I can stay up to date with changes that affect our profession. It allows us to have a voice. We have been able to send some of our local unit members to ATPE at the Capitol, where they were able to meet with legislators and have a direct impact. Additionally, they always come back with a wealth of information about what is going on at the Capitol.”

This is something that Cantu emphasizes when he is talking to colleagues about joining ATPE.

“I let them know that ATPE is at the very forefront of what is going on in our profession,” Cantu says. “I let them know that with ATPE, they can have an impact on the bills the Legislature is considering, as well as other changes to regulations and rules that might affect them. Then, it is easier to move on to the other benefits of membership, such as the insurance and discounts.”


As a local unit president, Cantu knows it can be a challenge to find people willing to volunteer for ATPE—given educators’ increasingly busy schedules. However, Cantu wants people to know they can make a positive impact even without a huge time commitment.

“I think a lot of our educators have a difficult time because of the stress of the job,” Cantu says. “They think they do not

have enough time. They are at school from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. or later. Then, they have family obligations. Thanks to online communication, things have become much easier. You don’t always have to meet in a physical location. Now, a lot of things can be done though a simple Zoom call. We can take five or 10 minutes to plan out what we are doing next month. It has made things that much easier.”

Helping grow ATPE by recruiting new members is perhaps the biggest impact a person can have on the association. This, too, is much easier than many people may imagine, according to Cantu. He has seen his most success not with high-pressure sales techniques but rather with being approachable and taking every opportunity to talk about ATPE when speaking with his colleagues. He believes these are tactics every member can use.

“You are already meeting and talking with these teachers, so try and use ATPE as a conversation starter,” explains Cantu. “I will say, ‘Oh, I did this or that with my organization.’ Or, I will talk about something that is going on with the Legislature that I learned from ATPE, and that will usually lead into another conversation where they want to know more about ATPE. So it’s not like I am knocking on doors like a door-todoor salesman.

“I just try and have a smile on my face all the time,” Cantu continues. “There is a good chance somebody is already having a tough day on their own. When you are smiling, you become more approachable. People will come up to me and ask me about my ATPE shirt or my ATPE coffee mug. Then, we can start a conversation about joining ATPE.”

I just try and have a smile on my face all the time. People will come up to me and ask me about my ATPE shirt or my ATPE coffee mug. Then, we can start a conversation about joining ATPE.”

— Artemio Cantu, career and technical education teacher in La Joya ISD, La Joya ATPE president, and ATPE’s 2022-23 Campus Rep of the Year for local units with 501–1,000 members

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