East Texas teachers were recognized and awarded Thursday at Region 7 Education Service Center in Kilgore during the annual Teacher of the Year Regional Awards Reception & Celebration.

42 elementary and secondary-level teachers from throughout Region 7, a 17-county area encompassing 95 school districts and 7 charter schools, received a trophy for being named district winners. Each winner was also a nominee for regional teacher of the year.

“Today we’re here to celebrate teachers and the educational process that they lead each and every day across this region,” said Elizabeth Abernethy, Region 7 ESC Executive Director.

Abernethy summed up the contributions and hard work of East Texas educators with a quote: “I touch the future. I teach.”

Those words were spoken by Christa McAuliffe, a New Hampshire teacher killed in the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster in January 1986.

“I think that’s true of every man and woman who is involved in education, whether they’re the janitor or the cafeteria worker, the teacher or the principal or the superintendent. It’s an honor to have you here today, teachers,” Abernethy said.

The executive director’s comments were echoed by the event’s sponsors, who took the stage next to thank teachers and offer them additional rewards and benefits.

Sponsors included Brookshire’s, Hospitality ER, Texas Broadcast Museum in Kilgore, Sign Gypsies in Henderson and Horace Mann Educators Corporation, who provided funds to host the event.

“We’re here to serve you,” said Richard Devendorf, Horace Mann representative. Devendorf said the company offers teachers a variety of services including insurance, educational workshops and help with obtaining student loan debt forgiveness.

Also sponsoring the event was Jerry Jones from Jack O’ Diamonds Honda in Tyler, who provided a $5,000 prize and a brand-new Honda Accord to the two educators named Teachers of the Year.

Kaci Koviak, KETK news anchor, addressed the teachers before announcing the regional nominees.

“Kids don’t have as many teachers as you do students,” Koviak said. “You have the opportunity to make a lasting impact that goes far beyond the classroom. Just to look down this list of recipients today, it warms my heart because there truly is no other place like home and East Texas is just full of some of the most wonderful people I’ve ever met in my life.”

Kristina Wyman, fourth grade English Language Arts and Reading teacher from Hallsville ISD, won the Elementary Teacher of the Year award and Tammie Evans, Life Skills teacher from Carthage ISD, won the Secondary Teacher of the Year award.

As the two teachers took the stage to a standing ovation, each was handed an envelope containing a grand prize. Neither knew which envelope contained which prize until they opened them onstage.

Evans received the $5,000 prize and Wyman took home the keys to the brand-new Honda.

“I’m speechless. I told (Wyman) I keep thinking I’m in a dream. This is just incredible, just to have been nominated was an honor in itself and I’m so grateful,” Evans said.

She added her students were her favorite part of being a teacher and she might use the prize to fund a vacation to celebrate her thirtieth wedding anniversary next summer with her husband.

Wyman said she was overcome with emotion upon learning she had won the award.

“I think I screamed!” she said.

“My son is excited because now he will have my car since I have a new car.”

She credited her students with helping her become a better teacher.

“We learn from each other as we go. We’re always lifelong learners and I fully believe that so they’re helping me along the way.”

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