May 11, 2022 by HCDE-Texas
Highpoint School East’s Jon-Erik Price and Academic and Behavioral School East’s Dana Jenkins have been named Harris County Department of Education’s 2021-2022 educators of the year.
On Tuesday, Senior Director of Schools Charles Ned, Ed.D., visited each of the winners’ campuses, stopping first at Highpoint to surprise Price, the Teacher of the Year.
“I’m going to call my mom first because she’s got three teacher of the year awards!” exclaimed Price. “My teaching philosophy is simple. Students don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. My entire career has been working with at-risk youth. When they succeed, I succeed.”
Price, who has been employed with HCDE since 2018, began as an Edgenuity teacher at Highpoint by using the online platform to help students stay on target for graduation. He has since been instrumental in facilitating coding as an afterschool activity. In March, one of his students won the first-ever Coding for the Culture challenge, a music-focused STEM competition for Houston-area teens.
As part of his recognition, the Louisiana native was presented with a $1,000 check sponsored by Edgenuity for his outstanding achievement in education.
“This is truly a proud principal moment for me,” said Highpoint Principal Courtney Waters. “Mr. Price has what I call ‘phenomenal powers’ when it comes to building relationships with our population of students. When you go into his classroom, it’s not just about the academics, it’s about the relationship piece, and that’s so important to the population we serve here at Highpoint.”
HCDE’s Highpoint School East is a campus for troubled youth in grades 6-12 that offers a safe, structured learning environment with a low student-to-teacher ratio. Students come to Highpoint on a contract basis through their home school district with the goal of returning to and graduating from their home district.
Ned’s second stop of the day was at ABS East, where he surprised Jenkins, the Educational Aide of the Year, with an $800 check sponsored by Insights to Behavior.
“I am very grateful,” said Jenkins. “This award is confirmation that I was following the direction that was given to me. When you know who’s speaking and are in line with what is supposed to be, then these things come.”
Jenkins, who hails from Aldine, works with middle school students at ABS East to support teacher Titus Butler in the classroom.
“We have a little community here at ABS East. I don’t even feel like a teacher’s aide in my classroom. I feel like I am empowered by Mr. Butler, and we work well together. Like Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving,” laughs Jenkins.
ABS East Principal Donna Treviño-Jones explains that although this is Jenkins’ first year at ABS East, she has gone above and beyond to serve her students.
“She’s really done great with learning everything that she needs to be supportive of the teacher she works with to be a co-teacher, not just an educational aide,” said Treviño-Jones.
Jenkins often requests additional training and ensures that instruction transcends the classroom by giving back to the community.
“I believe that the teacher shortage is the biggest public education issue today,” she said. “I am pursuing my B.A. degree so that I can be a part of the solution.”
In February, she organized a meeting for her students with County Superintendent James Colbert Jr., whom students wanted to interview for Black History Month.
“The great thing about going to interview the superintendent, Mr. Colbert, is that we learned that he was a child in special education,” said Jenkins. “So, I learned that the special education label could be dropped. That’s something that I didn’t know was possible before. That became the goal for our students—to empower them so they can get back to their home school—and not just get back to their home school, but to excel at their home school.”
ABS East is one of two HCDE schools that offer highly specialized educational services for students ages 5-22 with emotional and academic special needs.
“This event really helps to bring closure to the end of the year,” said Ned. “As we reflect, we look back on the work that our staff has done with our students. We have a lot of great educators here within Harris County Department of Education, but they are even better people.”
For their recognition as HCDE’s educators of the year, Price and Jenkins will each receive a complimentary ticket to the 50th annual Houston Area Alliance of Black School Educators (HAABSE) conference, which will be held in Galveston this summer. Complimentary lodging will also be provided. Price and Jenkins will also be recognized at the May Board meeting with a celebration dinner thrown in their honor by the Schools Division.