Award winners from left: Emily Courtney and Amy Rhoades

The Beaumont Foundation announced Amy Rhoades, Coston Elementary teacher, and Emily Courtney, Lufkin High School teacher, as recipients of the 2022 Gilbert I. “Buddy” Low Excellence in Education Award at an awards gala in San Augustine, Texas on Tuesday night.

As part of the Beaumont Foundation’s ongoing commitment to support education, the Low Excellence in Education Award was created to celebrate and recognize superior contributions of teachers whose leadership and dedication inspire a spirit of learning in students of all backgrounds and abilities.

The teachers are first nominated by their campus committees, and the winners are then selected by the Beaumont Foundation. The nominees are from throughout Angelina, Sabine and San Augustine counties. Three teachers are selected annually to receive the award and a check for $10,000.

“Education is the key to a better future, and great teachers are the key to education,” Beaumont Foundation board chairman Wayne A. Reaud said. “Our winners are outstanding representatives of excellence in education.”

Amy Rhoades has been an educator for almost 34 years. She teaches 5th grade English Language Arts at Coston Elementary. She received her degree in Education from Stephen F. Austin State University. She serves on the Language Proficiency Assessment Committee, the Accelerated Reader Committee, and is a district professional development presenter for English Language Arts.

“Mrs. Rhoades is one of our most energetic and motivational teachers who has some of the highest STAAR scores every year. She is dedicated and constantly works to improve her teaching skills so she can meet the needs of all her students. In addition to her teaching talents, she has an innate ability to build relationships with students and staff. This is unquestionably enhanced because of the demands she puts on herself to serve others. Her focus on student progress never wanes and is appreciated by all,” said Joshua Slack, Coston Assistant Principal.

Mrs. Rhoades has received the Lufkin ISD District Teacher of the Year award in 2018 as well as the Coston Teacher of the Year for 2018.

Emily Courtney is the lead teacher for Advanced English I Gifted and Talented at Lufkin High School. She has nine years teaching experience and received her education from Texas A&M University in College Station. Mrs. Courtney is the National Honor Society advisor, FALCON Club sponsor and helped found the Youth Outreach Initiative Club.

Brittany Sanchez is a dual-credit instructor at Lufkin High School and Adjunct Instructor for Angelina College. She teaches a number of Emily’s students and wrote, “Mrs. Courtney’s curriculum and teaching philosophy resonate through her students year after year. Quite often, students can tie their knowledge of literature or a particular skill back to Mrs. Courtney. By the end of any tough unit, her students can see their mastery of difficult concepts and recognize it is because of the foundation she helped them build.”

Mrs. Courtney has received the Lufkin Education Foundation Educator of Influence Awards in 2017, 2019, and 2022. She received the Beulah Dominy and Samuel Gill Teacher of the Year award in 2016.

Mrs. Courtney said upon receiving the award she felt a sense of gratitude for each educator that has had a hand in shaping her life.

“Each teacher who has been part of my path was also honored through this award – from my mom, a retired teacher of 37 years, to my teaching colleagues who inspire and encourage me to grow daily,” said Mrs. Courtney.

Mrs. Rhoades was overwhelmed and humbled.

“I still can’t believe that out of all of my hardworking dedicated coworkers, I was nominated for such a wonderful award. I feel so grateful that I am able to work with people who put so much of themselves into serving their students, and I was wishing that we could all be recognized,” said Mrs. Rhoades.

When asked what is their favorite part about teaching Mrs. Courtney said seeing her students succeed and develop a love of learning.

“When a student walks in my classroom excited to tell me that they were accepted to their top college or they arrive with a new book by an author we read previously in class, I am reminded of why I love what I do,” said Mrs. Courtney.

Mrs. Rhoades feels fortunate to be doing something she loves.

“I consider myself lucky that I get to do something every day that I enjoy and that, I hope, contributes positively to a child’s education. I enjoy getting to know my students and following their progress through school. I am always excited to see former students and to find out where life has taken them,” said Mrs. Rhoades.

Mrs. Courtney’s advice for other teachers is to remember why they started teaching in the first place.

“For most of us, it’s the kids. Therefore, the students should be at the core of each decision we make in our classroom,” she said.

Mrs. Rhoades encourages teachers to keep on pressing on.

“My advice to other teachers is to not let the daily aggravations, that I can assure you will be there without fail, cloud your resolve to accomplish the goals you have set for yourself or your students. There will be setbacks and there will be failures.Just be determined to come back the next day and figure out a way to do it better. Some of the best things I do in my classroom are only good because I messed it up in the beginning and had to fix it. Don’t quit!  The kids depend on us,” she said.

The gala was attended by friends, family members, and administration including Superintendent Lynn Torres.

She said, “We are very grateful to the Beaumont Foundation and the Low Excellence in Education Award. Lufkin ISD is very proud to have two recipients of this honor. Both of these ladies are fine examples of caring, compassionate, dedicated teachers, and are very deserving of this recognition.”

To find out more about the Gilbert I. “Buddy” Low Excellence in Education Award, click here.