Kennett High School’s Lisa Teixeira: Teacher as Hero

Ms. Lisa Teixeira, library media specialist at Kennett High School, has won the National Liberty Museum’s Teacher as Hero Award. Ms. Teixeira will receive her award at a reception at the museum in Philadelphia on April 30.

The National Liberty Museum’s Teacher as Hero Award, a program sponsored in conjunction with the museum by State Farm, each year recognizes dedicated teachers in the Delaware Valley who “inspire, motivate and educate young people.” Teachers who have been recognized in prior years have “stood up for students’ rights; … advocated on behalf of a troubled student; … provided incredible enrichment opportunities for Sample Imagetheir students.” According to the museum’s website, “The National Liberty Museum is dedicated to preserving America’s heritage of freedom by encouraging people to find their own place in the story of liberty. Our core themes for young people and adults include leadership and good character; diversity and inclusion; peaceful conflict resolution; and civic engagement. Our primary art form is glass art, as it makes the point that freedom is as fragile as glass.”

Each year the museum asks for nominations and encourages people to look for qualities that include an appreciation for diversity, an ability to teach students how to resolve conflicts respectfully, and a commitment to giving students a deeper understanding of the relationship between rights and responsibilities. Teachers who honor the student voice, who take a risk to remove obstacles to a student’s liberty, and who incorporate all of these qualities into their daily relationships qualify for this award.

Ms. Teixeira was nominated for this award by Guidance Counselor Mr. Fran Ryan, who stated in his letter of nomination, “Ms. Lisa Teixeira is one of those rare individuals whose energy and humanitarian efforts far exceed that of even the most dedicated educators and community service leaders. Lisa is a fierce proponent of human rights, whether she is working in our small town of Kennett Square or whether she is serving halfway around the world. Lisa demonstrates all of the characteristics of a Teacher as Hero Award winner. Because she is our school’s librarian, she has the opportunity to interact with all of our students in grades 9-12. She is active in teaching literacy and research skills to our entire student body. She teaches lessons on a daily basis and uses her teaching as a platform to promote human rights, citizenship, and literacy skills. She also uses her sponsorship of our school’s Humanitarian Club, our Literature Club, Better Than Oprah, and for many previous years, our Student Council, to greatly enrich the education of our students in many ways.”

Mr. Ryan went on in his four-page nomination letter to enumerate the ways in which Ms. Teixeira personifies each of the qualities the award honors.

“Lisa is particularly sensitive to the cultural and educational needs of our Latino population which makes up approximately 37% of our student body. Lisa is a tremendous advocate and supporter of these wonderful students. Fifteen years ago I had the opportunity to travel with Lisa and two other colleagues to the region of Mexico from which many of our Latino students and their families migrate.  Representatives from the Department of Education in Mexico escorted our group to various public schools in the Guanajuato area. This program also included the study of the history and culture of Mexico. This experience helped all of us to see the plight of our students from Mexico with a new perspective. When we returned from our trip our group prepared and presented a workshop on Mexican culture and education to the faculties and administrators in our school district. Lisa’s tremendous research skills proved to be a great asset in helping us to put together this workshop. I believe that this workshop benefited our entire school district. It led to a better-informed and more compassionate approach to educating the Latino students throughout the district. This program could not have come close to reaching the level of excellence it did without the untiring efforts of Ms. Teixeira.”

Ms. Teixeira has traveled extensively throughout Mexico and South America on her own and is particularly interested in Mayan and Incan history and culture. She is a frequent guest speaker in the school’s social studies classes when students study these topics. The school’s Latino students are particularly appreciative of Ms. Teixeira’s knowledge of their history and cultures of origin.

Another way that Ms. Teixeira supports the school’s minority students is by serving as a mentor in the Walk in Knowledge program (WIN) that meets twice a week after school. Not only does she offer herself as a personal mentor, but she also offers the resources of the Library/Media Center to the other mentors and tutors that work in this program.

Ms. Teixeira has recently become active as a mentor in a local community program, Chester County Futures. Chester County Futures focuses on removing barriers to college attendance for minority and disadvantaged students. Her wisdom and optimism provide her mentees with great hope that they can one day attend college, despite the significant barriers they face.
An appreciation of diversity in the classroom can also be seen in the diversity of literature selections that are read and discussed in Ms. Teixeira’s Better Than Oprah book club. She and her club members select, read, and discuss books from a diverse group of authors and genres. The fact that the club members themselves come from diverse backgrounds is proof that Ms. Teixeira promotes diversity in this club.

Ms. Teixeira’s appreciation of diversity has not been limited to her work in Kennett High School and in Mexico. Her work has also reached around the world to China, where she taught English in China during the summers of 2012 and 2013 as part of an educator exchange program sponsored by the Chinese Department of Education. Her experiences in China helped her to develop a better understanding of Chinese culture and the Chinese education system. She shared much of what she learned in an amazing presentation that she made to teachers and students.

Back at school, Ms. Teixeira participates in the high school’s annual Multicultural and Diversity Awareness Conference. This conference brings students from across the Delaware Valley to participate in a day of workshops designed to promote cultural awareness, understanding, and tolerance. In preparation for this yearly event, Ms. Teixeira actively promotes literature and readings designed to support cultural awareness and tolerance.

Ms. Teixeira frequently encourages students to “take a stand” and “use their voices.” She promotes these ideals in her teaching and in her work with the school’s Humanitarian Club, and she has done so previously as the sponsor of the Student Council. She teaches students that they have a responsibility as American citizens to make a difference in the world. She encourages students to work to make changes if they see something that is unjust and to take part in the political process.

In discussing Ms. Teixeira’s willingness to take risks, Mr. Ryan pointed to her stand against the banning of books from the District’s libraries and the use of cameras to record students’ activities on the Internet. Ms. Teixeira has always been a proponent of individual rights as well as a strong voice to emphasize to students their personal responsibilities.

Mr. Ryan noted that Ms. Teixeira regularly seeks funding for important initiatives that benefit all students with a special focus on those that help students overcome obstacles. Recently she reached out to the Kennett Education Foundation and secured a grant to purchase Kindle e-readers to provide access to the latest technology to those disadvantaged students that otherwise would not have that opportunity. Lisa also secured a $45,000 Library Services and Technology grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Education that provided federal monies to purchase laptops for disadvantaged students, thus helping to level the playing field for students that lack access to technology in their homes. A grant she obtained from Swarthmore College provided money for books, tape recorders, cameras, and opportunities for college visits. In this program, students created anthologies about their own lives and were given assistance forming plans to attend college. The program also provided valuable mentoring from Swarthmore College students.

Ms. Teixeira has been the librarian at Kennett High School since 1997 and serves as chairperson. She is the senior librarian in the Kennett Consolidated School District. Ms. Teixeira holds a Master of Science in information studies from Drexel University. Prior to coming to Kennett High School, she was the children’s librarian at the Bayard Taylor Library in Kennett Square, she worked at Widener University in informational studies, and she did grant work at Drexel University, where she was also a teaching assistant.

In addition to advising clubs at the high school, Ms. Teixeira serves on numerous committees at the high school and in the District. She has two grown daughters and lives in Kennett Square, where she enjoys the life in the community. She is an active participant in the Kennett Amateur Theatrical Society and has played many roles in local performances.

Responding to her notification of the Teacher as Hero Award, Ms. Teixeira humbly said, “I am very grateful for the recognition, but we know it takes a village, and I’m just one member of the school community!”