Thousands of teachers and staff packed Green Acres Baptist Church to celebrate the start of a new school year.

Tyler ISD hosted its 2017-18 Convocation on Friday, with a renewed focus on improvement and equality.

Board of Trustees President Fritz Hager opened the ceremony by introducing the John Tyler High School Big Blue Marching Band before launching into an impassioned speech about the importance of equity and understanding.

Hager used part of the Declaration of Independence to underline the need to love all students and ensure their success.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness," he said, quoting from the declaration.

"The dictionary defines self-evident as not needing to be explained, but when we look all the way back to 1776, these words may ring hollow," he said. "This self-evident equality was not evident for two-thirds of the population."

Hager said it was the sacred duty of two groups of Americans - the U.S. military and American teachers - to ensure those truths become and remain self-evident.

"Your mission remains unchanged," he said. "Your mission is fixed - teach the children of Tyler. All of the children."

Later during the event, the Robert E. Lee High School theater department performed "We're All in This Together" from Disney's "High School Musical."

The crowd also was entertained by a performance from board Vice President Wade Washmon and the Caldwell Dad Band. The group performed its own teacher-centric cover of Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'."

The biggest moment of the event was the presentation of the district's highest honor, The Gary Mooring Award, which is sponsored by Hall Buick GMC.

Title I employee Maribel Gutierrez took the honor, which is presented annually to an exemplary district employee.

Gutierrez said she was excited and emotional after accepting the award.

"I try to go out every day to help parents learn, empower them and educate them," she said.

Guest speaker Keith Davis, a former NFL player and motivational speaker, continued the theme that all children can, and deserve, to succeed.

"Reach out for the passion you once had, reach for that vision," Davis said. "You don't have to be great to get started, you just have to get started to be great."

Class begins Monday for Tyler ISD.





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Cory is a multimedia journalist and member of the Education Writers Association, Criminal Justice Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. He has appeared on The Murder Tapes, Crime Watch Daily and Grave Mysteries on Investigation Discovery.