May 18, 2023 by HCDE Communications
This week, we profile two additional educators who were nominated for the 2022-2023 Teacher and Educational Aide of the Year. These individuals exemplify a commitment to their students, going beyond the classroom to forge personal connections and facilitate real-world experiences that align with the mission of Harris County Department of Education.
Teacher of the Year Nominee
Daisy Alvarez, the culinary arts instructor at Fortis Academy, earned a nomination for Teacher of the Year for her ability to establish trust with students quickly. As a first-generation college graduate, Alvarez draws inspiration from the remarkable educators who influenced her own academic journey.
Armed with an associate degree from San Jacinto College, Alvarez seamlessly merges her two passions: cooking and teaching. As a child, Alvarez learned to cook alongside her mother, Blanca, who emphasized that love is the essential element in every meal. This invaluable lesson has been passed down to students at Fortis Academy, where Alvarez guides her students to develop a deep understanding of culinary practices and their correlation to life.
“Just like spices in a kitchen, our students have different personalities and backgrounds, and it’s my privilege to help shape them,” said Alvarez. “Cooking is an art form, and when my students grasp that concept, I witness their trust in their team, their motivation to explore new flavors, and their determination to create the perfect recipe.”
Alvarez’s influence on students has extended beyond the kitchen with lessons about financial responsibility, collaboration, time management, and patience. Under her leadership, students have catered various events organized by HCDE. One such event is the annual Thanksgiving luncheon for the Board and administration which requires meticulous preparation. The hands-on experience instills a sense of pride in students and prepares them for employment opportunities.
Alvarez is anticipated to obtain her Career and Technical Education (CTE) alternative teaching certificate this summer. As a nominee for Teacher of the Year, Alvarez embodies the qualities of an outstanding educator who has combined her cultural heritage, personal experience, and passion to inspire a new generation of culinary enthusiasts.
Educational Aide of the Year Nominee
Nominated for Educational Aide of the Year, Esteban Ibarra is a 30-year veteran educator. While a student at Simon Rodriguez University in his native Venezuela, Ibarra received an opportunity to play professional basketball for the national team, Lanceros del Llano. However, driven by a desire for a career with longevity, he decided to complete his studies and return to the classroom.
Ibarra began his career in education as a high school substitute teacher when he was in college. The experience opened doors to various roles within the public school system, including teaching and administrative positions as a vice principal. As Ibarra reached retirement eligibility, the increasing political volatility in Venezuela prompted his family to emigrate to the U.S. in search of safety and security.
In 2017, Ibarra seized an opportunity to work with HCDE as a substitute teacher until a full-time Educational Aide position became available at Fortis Academy. Administrators quickly recognized his ability to create an environment where students felt comfortable to share their struggles.
“I believe where there is trust, there is openness, and I try to create that for my students,” said Ibarra. “Even though our kids struggle with drugs and alcohol abuse, many just need love and patience to thrive. They must see you as a friend first, and then they will respect you as a teacher.”
At Fortis Academy, Ibarra supervises community service-learning projects and students’ participation in SIRE, a therapeutic horsemanship program that fosters responsibility and enhanced self-esteem among students.
He is credited for spearheading a program where professional basketball players from Venezuela visit Fortis Academy to speak with students. As part of the program, players connect with students through their shared experiences with drugs, alcohol, and the consequences incurred.
Like Alvarez, Ibarra has set his sights higher with plans to become a certified teacher at HCDE. As a nominee for Educational Aide of the Year, Ibarra has showcased his unwavering commitment to quality student-centered education, regardless of location.
To read additional stories about this year’s nominees, click the blogs below.