Karen Sams grew up wanting to be a performer on “Saturday Night Live.” Now, she’s a star in education as her desire to entertain now manifests itself in her teaching style.
Sams, a third-grade teacher at David Crockett Elementary School in Weatherford, was recently named Texas Elementary Teacher of the Year and Texas Teacher of the Year by the Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA).
The State Teacher of the Year luncheon was held at the Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin, where she received a cash award and a trophy.
Sams now advances to represent the state in the Council of Chief State School Officers National Teacher of the Year competition in the spring, where she will try to join Eugene Bizzell (Austin, 1957) and Shanna Peoples (Amarillo, 2105) as the only national winners from Texas.
Sams is the first teacher from Parker County to be named Texas Teacher of the Year. Earlier this year, Sams was named the Region 11 Teacher of the Year by TASA.
“I was inspired by hearing all of the amazing stories from the 40 Regional Teachers of the Year, which reinforces what I already knew ... Texas public schools are doing great things for kids,” Sams said. “I look forward to representing and advocating for the more than five million students and the 320,000 passionate, hard-working, dedicated and relentless teachers in the great state of Texas.
“I am excited to spread the message of taking back our narrative of public education and using our collective voices to make positive changes to policies that affect our students, teachers, schools and communities.”
Sams was an avid theater student in high school and college before graduating from Southern Nazarene University with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in human relations. Then, remembering that her mother said she was born to teach, she obtained her teaching certificate in the area of English as a Second Language Generalist and has been teaching for 15 years at the elementary level.
“We couldn’t be more proud of Karen Sams. As superintendent of Weatherford ISD, I have had the pleasure of observing Mrs. Sams be a champion for all children and witnessing the incredible talent she brings to our profession,” Weatherford ISD Superintendent Dr. Jeffrey Hanks said.
Hanks noted that Sams’ influence as a teacher extends well beyond the classroom. For example, this past year, she implemented a model mentor program at her campus for teachers new to the profession that is being replicated throughout the district. She also partnered with a nearby senior living and memory care center to develop relationships between her students and the residents of this center.
“This partnership highlights Karen’s commitment to our community while providing exceptional learning opportunities for her students,” Hanks said. “While this experience reinforced students’ academic skills, it also developed soft skills such as kindness, compassion, and friendship.”
Sams was also a campus award winner for Teacher of the Year in 2012.
The National Teacher of the Year is announced in the spring by the president during a Rose Garden ceremony at the White House.
Previous Texas Teachers of the Year from the Fort Worth area include Marissa Torres (White Settlement, 2018, Elementary Teacher of the Year), Grant Simpson (Keller, 2008, Elementary), Nika Maples (Keller, 2007, Secondary), Norma Jackson (Grapevine-Colleyville, 1999, Elementary), Ann Brock (Burleson, 1996, Elementary), Gailya Riley (HEB, 1978, prior to 1988 Elementary and Secondary were not separated), Marie Haines (Fort Worth, 1977), and Ben Standifer (Fort Worth, 1972).