Tyler ISD educators gathered Thursday evening to celebrate campus teachers and principals who showed excellence in teaching and extraordinary leadership at the Educator of the Year banquet at the Green Acres Baptist Church Crosswalk Center.

The event was long awaited, as last year’s banquet was canceled and held virtually.

After watching a humorous video thanking all teachers for teaching a total of 67,200 minutes, the nominees and winners were announced. Each person who walked across the stage received a gift, ranging from an umbrella, gift bag containing items like an Echo Dot, gift card and more, and a trophy from Tyler ISD.

Ashley Phelps from Andy Woods Elementary School was named the District Elementary Teacher of the Year, Ashley LaCroix from Moore MST Magnet School was named the District Secondary Teacher of the Year and Jade Perry from Jones Elementary School was named Rookie of the Year.

Every principal at Tyler ISD was named Principal of the Year, as requested by Superintendent Marty Crawford.

A graduate of Texas Tech University, Phelps has taught physical education at Andy Woods for 11 years. Phelps’ goal is to educate the “whole child” by meeting their academic, mental and physical needs. To accomplish this goal, she partners with parents to help students build healthy habits at school and home.

“We have a lot of success with our Family Challenge program,” she said. “Students are given tasks, like doing a wall sit while they brush their teeth, or challenging their parents to a plank hold. It is fun for them to see their parents do at home what we do at school. Integrating programs like these use external motivation to create internal motivation.”

LaCroix teaches eighth-grade reading, language arts and professional communications at Moore. She is a UT Tyler graduate and is in her seventh year of teaching.

With a classroom library of more than 500 books for her students to “browse, borrow, read, and reread,” LaCroix hopes they find value in the words of others and their own.

“Joyful reading and exploratory writing are core values and principles in my classroom,” LaCroix said. “The days my students beg for more reading time or can’t put the book down until they’ve reached the end of a paragraph or chapter are truly magical. While some in the world write them off as ‘teenagers,’ I see a generation filled with kindness, wonder, fierce independence and everything we need in this country. My reward is helping them find their path, their voice, and their way through a literate life,” LaCroix said.

Traditionally, the Principal of the Year award would honor a principal for their outstanding leadership among their students, staff and community. Crawford said that this year, all Tyler ISD principals came together in a collaborative spirit to create safe environments for staff, students and families.

“I’m going to try not to get emotional tonight,” Crawford said as he read submissions for nominations from each principals’ peers. “This school year has been like no other. This group of principals stepped up to the plate to guide, encourage, and equip their staff and students to be successful throughout this unprecedented year. I am extremely proud of every one of them. For this reason, I name them all Principal of the Year,” he said.

As district teachers of the year, Phelps and LaCroix will advance to compete for Regional Teacher of the Year through the Region 7 Service Center.

“I’ve said this many times, but Tyler ISD has the best teachers and educators in East Texas, and I am so proud of their dedication in adapting to the challenges this year has presented and delivering opportunities for student success,” Crawford said. “It is always fun to honor the best of the best in a profession, and we are certainly doing so tonight.”