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Lake Dallas teacher named Regional Teacher of the Year

Posted by Lori Burton, ESC 11 at 8/20/2016

Denise Kennedy Denise Kennedy, a band director at Lake Dallas High School in Lake Dallas ISD, was named the 2016 Region 11 Secondary Teacher of the Year at a special awards banquet at the Hurst Conference Center on August 10, 2016. The banquet, hosted by the Education Service Center Region 11 and generously funded by the EECU credit union, recognizes all of the teachers of the year from school districts in the north central Texas region.

Denise Kennedy earned her bachelor’s degree in music education from Southwestern Oklahoma State University. She has served as an associate director and a director of bands at Lake Dallas ISD since 2009. Prior to that, she has worked as a band director in Mabank ISD and in three school districts in Oklahoma.

In reviewing her application, the judges were impressed with the passion that Kennedy conveyed in her application. “You can feel her determination and grit,” commented one judge. “I can just see her class filled with all of these students with varying developmental skills – and they’re all learning.”

The judges were also touched by Kennedy’s commitment to her community through the activities in which she has her band students participate. “She focuses on only on developing music skills, but on developing servant leaders in her students,” said another judge.

In her professional biography essay, Kennedy discusses the lack of good band directors in the school system in which she grew up. “Mediocrity became the norm rather than the exception, and it made me mad,” she writes. “For me, that wasn’t acceptable.  I had a laundry list of things that you should never do as a band director, and I became determined to be the exception and make a difference.” In her philosophy of teaching essay, she writes, “Leading the band is about the students, shepherding each along a pathway until they find their voice, their confidence, and their independent spirit. Only then can we make beautiful music together.”

“EECU was thrilled to be an active partner in the Region 11 Teacher of the Year Celebration,” said Lonnie Nicholson, EECU president and CEO.  “We’ve all been inspired by the care and enthusiasm of a great teacher. This event was a wonderful opportunity for EECU to support both teachers and the youngest members of our community.”

The Teacher of the Year Program, sponsored by the Texas Association of School Administrators, allows districts to submit one elementary and one secondary candidate to compete at the regional and state levels. Sixty-four teachers, representing 35 school districts in Region 11, participated in this year’s competition.

District winners who competed for the regional award were required to complete seven lengthy essays describing their educational history and professional development, professional biography, community involvement, philosophy of teaching, education issues and trends, the teaching profession, and their message should they be selected as state teacher of the year. The regional selection panel, comprised of teachers (including past regional winners), assistant principals, and central office staff from school districts within Region 11, reviewed and scored all of the essays before selecting Lemke and Kennedy as the regional winners. In addition to the two regional winners, 12 teachers (six elementary and six secondary) were recognized with a “best of category” essay award.

Kennedy will now compete at the state level for the Texas Teacher of the Year award. The Texas Association of School Administrators will meet with selection committees to review the applications of the regional winners on August 15, 2016.  On August 22, three secondary teachers will be named as state semifinalists in the competition.

The semifinalists will then travel to Austin for an interview with the selection committees on October 13, 2016.  The elementary and secondary state winners will be announced at a state ceremony on October 14.

ESC 11 Press Release by
Lori Burton
Public Information Officer