May 15, 2019 by HCDE-Texas
First-year Fortis Academy Math Teacher Zachary Wikstrom was surprised May 13 by being named Harris County Department of Education’s 2019 Teacher of the Year while Academic and Behavior School East Educational Aide III Byron Clay was named the 2019 Educational Aide of the Year.
“I’m at a loss for words as this is my first year teaching and it was very unexpected,” Wikstrom said. “It’s a quite an honor to be selected and I know there were such high-quality candidates I was going against.”
It’s special to Wikstrom to be able to work with the students at Fortis Academy because he says they are real treasures. Fortis Academy is the first public recovery high school in Harris County.
“To be able to reach them with one-on-one time is a special experience to get to see these kids grow,” Wikstrom said. “To see them as A and B students now when they were failing all of there classes is amazing.”
Clay always tells youth, especially his daughter, regardless of whatever the position, title or challenge you’re up against you always put your best foot forward.
“I sent her a text telling her I wasn’t sure what the outcome was going to be, but I always give my best,” Clay said.
He wants to set an example for his daughter and youth he comes in contact with. His work environment as an educational aide allows him to do it on a daily basis.
“It’s more rewarding now because these kids are hurting,” Clay said, “The reason I can relate is that I’m able to reach them on how they can take their experiences in class to life. When there’s an adverse challenge, I try to convert that to a learning lesson when given an opportunity.”
Other Teacher of the Year nominees included: ABS East teacher Kenneth Davis, Highpoint School teacher Ashley Johnson and ABS West teacher Jeffrey Sam.
The second Educational Aide of the Year nominee was ABS West Alejandra Garza.
The four HCDE schools provide three specialized education programs and feature individualized learning and small-group instruction in highly structured classes. Programs are for students with intellectual, developmental or behavioral disorders; troubled or adjudicated youth; and recovering youth.