A pair of area instructors with entertainment in their blood have been honored as the Region 11 Teacher of the Year in their respective categories by the Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA).
Karen Sams, a third-grade teacher at David Crockett Elementary School in Weatherford, and Brian Ketcham, a technical theater teacher at Keller High School, were recently honored in a banquet that recognized them and all of the respective Teachers of the Year from their school districts across North Texas.
Sams grew up dreaming of being a performer, with aspirations of being on “Saturday Night Live.” Now she applies those performing dreams to helping educate her students.
She studied theater in high school and college, before earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in human relations from Southern Nazarene University. After working in a Fort Worth hospital for a while, something was still missing from her life.
Then, she was reminded by her mother that she was born to be a teacher. So she earned her teaching certificate in the area of English as a Second Language Generalist and has been teaching for 15 years at the elementary level.
Sams was also a campus award winner for Teacher of the Year in 2012 as her desire to entertain now manifests itself in her teaching style.
“I love how she incorporates humor with her students,” John Williams, a judge from Mansfield ISD, said. “She creates engaging, fun activities for her students that completely captivate them and teach them at the same time.”
Sams also helped start a new teacher mentoring program in the Weatherford ISD.
“Weatherford ISD’s mission is to teach, challenge, and inspire each student to succeed in the global community. If you know Karen Sams, you know that she exemplifies our mission in her classroom every day,” WISD Superintendent Dr. Jeffrey Hanks said.
“Mrs. Sams works to create a nurturing, caring, and family atmosphere in her classroom, and has extended that family through a pen pal writing project with residents at the Windsor Court Senior Living and Memory Care Center. I am so proud of the work she accomplishes every day with students.”
Through it all, Sams remained humble.
“I’m still so shocked and incredibly honored,” she said. “It’s quite overwhelming to stand on a stage with an award like this surrounded by so many incredible educators.
“I couldn’t be who I am without the phenomenal students I work with, and the many exceptional teachers and leaders who contributed to the teacher I am today. I get this amazing opportunity to make each day count, and, if I’m lucky, get to change another child’s life just by showing the that I care and they matter.”
Ketcham taught history in the Keller ISD at the middle school level for a decade before making a big change and taking a position at Keller High School teaching technical theater in 2016.
“I am extremely humbled by this honor,” Ketcham said. “There are thousands of tremendous educators within Region 11, many of whom I consider mentors and whose experience I have used as a model for how I teach.
“So it means so much to me to receive this recognition. I’m not sure what will come next, but I’m excited to represent KISD and to have an additional platform to speak out about the value and strength of public education in this country.”
Ketcham, a 2001 Fossil Ridge graduate, joked that the a reason he became a teacher to begin with is that he wasn’t drafted to play second base in major league baseball. Instead, he has returned home to the school district of which he is a product after earning a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of North Texas.
“He’s such a dynamic teacher who gets his students excited about learning,” Dr. Richard Valenta, a judge from Denton ISD, said.
Ketcham said that teachers should “aim to be the topic of dinner conversation at night. I do not mean that in the egotistical sense, but if your humor can make them think about their own beliefs and opinions from other perspectives, I guarantee you that will be the topic of dinner conversation.”
Ketcham also added that it is important for teachers to understand that while not every student will pass a class, teachers should believe that every student has the potential for success.
“Follow your passions, believe in karma, and you will never have to chase your dreams. They will come to you,” he said.
Sams and Ketcham will now compete at the state level for the Texas Teacher of the Year award. The winners will be announced Oct. 25.
“Best of Category” winners from the area include:
▪ Defining Lesson/Unit: Elementary – Mindy Ingram, Keller ISD. Secondary – April Feranda, Denton ISD.
▪ Project/Initiative: Elementary – Natalie Finch, Grapevine-Colleyville ISD. Secondary – Tabetha Weeks, Grapevine-Colleyville ISD.
▪ Student/Community Connection: Elementary – Breanna Reed, Azle ISD. Secondary – Edith Torres, Birdville ISD.
▪ Education Issues: Elementary – Chelsey Dunlevy, Northwest ISD. Secondary – Stephanie Harris, Brock ISD.
▪ State Teacher of the Year Platform: Elementary Bre Manuel, Lewisville ISD. Secondary – Marcey Cogar, Eagle Mountain-Saginaw ISD.