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De Zavala Elementary School teacher Diana Garcia

SMCISD educator wins $25K award

Friday, May 8, 2020

Local De Zavala Elementary School teacher Diana Garcia has been selected as a H-E-B 2020 Excellence in Education Winner for Lifetime Achievement.

Since 2002, the H‑E‑B Excellence in Education Awards are designed to honor outstanding public school professionals and to thank them for their dedication and commitment. Through this program, H‑E‑B seeks to pay tribute to those educators who go the extra mile each and every day to serve their students and their communities and who inspire others to do the same.

Jill Reynolds, a public affairs manager at H-E-B, said winners are selected by a group of community educational leaders looking for teachers that go above and beyond for their students, adjusting their teaching style to reach every student in the classroom and put forth extra effort and passion into teaching. 

De Zavala Elementary School Principal Elena Villanueva said Garcia without a doubt goes the extra mile for her students.

“We are extremely proud of her because she works really hard,” Villanueva said. “She has a really natural ability for recognizing and accepting the differences of our students and families. She goes above and beyond in engaging our students in authentic learning experiences and it's always to promote and create a more positive world. She wants to give our kids a broader perspective.” 

Garcia teaches her first graders to be proud of being part of a global community. 

“I am fiercely proud of being Mexican American. I teach them to not be afraid of people who are different because they will enrich their lives. The more the merrier,” she said.

The prize amounted to $25,000 for Garcia and $25,000 for De Zavala Elementary School in the San Marcos Consolidated ISD. There, she “frequently injects creativity, social justice and cultural appreciation into her instruction,” said the San Marcos Cinema Club where Garcia has been a member since 2015. 

As an advocate for under-resourced dual language programs, Garcia has requested De Zavala Elementary invest the $25,000 prize in programs for their dual language classrooms. 

Villanueva confirmed that would likely be the direction the school takes.

“She is extremely passionate about working with bilingual students,” Villanueva said. “I think we have the largest population in the district when it comes to students who are English language learners.”

The Lifetime Achievement Award is for educators who have been in the classroom longer than 20 years. Garcia has been teaching for 26 years, 10 of which have been in the San Marcos Consolidated ISD. She also teaches Spanish GED classes to adults two nights a week through Community Action and runs professional development and writing workshops for other teachers through the National Council of Teachers of English and the National Writing Project.

Garcia focused her application on her passion, writing, “I love to teach my first graders to write, it's one of the most difficult skills for kids to learn. It teaches critical thinking skills and organizing your thoughts.”

Garcia is also on the Board of the Calaboose African American History Museum, Secretary of San Marcos Bahai's and is a member of the San Marcos Cinema Club.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the 2020 Excellence in Education Awards interviews and selections were conducted virtually.

Garcia has applied to the award several years to be recognized for the hard work she puts into her students and community. 

“I know so many teachers work very hard and all their hard work goes unnoticed and unappreciated by the general masses," Garcia said. "I want to thank all teachers for choosing a noble profession.” 

San Marcos Record

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