Robert E. Lee High School senior Emily Stanford is a bit older than the other students in her grade. But she seldom shares why.
Miss Stanford grew up with a learning disability that caused her to struggle with spelling and math.
Her challenges in school led to her repeating the third grade, yet now she finds herself ranked highly in her graduating class. Lee swim coach Matt Franks, is part of the reason why, Miss Stanford said Monday while honoring him.
Through the sport of swimming and the 21 hours a week of practice, Franks taught Miss Stanford that quitting was not an option.
"I learned how to persevere, how to keep going even when every part of me wanted to give up," said Miss Stanford, who joined the swim team in seventh grade.
She took those lessons, first learned in the pool, to the classroom where she soon found herself excelling in academics. Now, she is about to graduate ranked 14th in her class.
The Tyler ISD Foundation on Monday recognized the top 20 seniors each at John Tyler and Robert E. Lee high schools during this year's "A Night of Shining Stars" event at Caldwell Auditorium.
During the event, foundation director Marc Loredo recognized each student on stage and shared about their high school involvement and accomplishments.
Each student was accompanied by a TISD teacher, coach or administrator and shared how that person positively affected their life.
Each student received a personalized star-shaped glass award, and the educators received frame certificates, while on stage.
Students described the educators as people who expressed a genuine interest in their students' lives, possessed a contagious passion for their subject area and motivated students beyond their perceived limits.
"She was understanding, but also challenged me to do my best even though I didn't speak English well," Maria Pena said of John Tyler Spanish teacher Anna Hodges.
John Tyler student Sandra Garcia said Moore MST Magnet School algebra teacher Sheila Thurmond pushed her to excel, was willing to help her after school hours and became a friend and someone she could trust.
"You are more than a shining star," Miss Garcia said. "You are the entire sun and the planets all around it."
Lee student Chandler Boone Harrison described art history teacher Melinda Tefteller as a person who taught him to step outside his comfort zone and enjoy art.
The educators described the students as people who were a joy to teach, who dedicated themselves to learning even when it was challenging, and who had gifted minds that enabled them to excel.
"The highest recognition a teacher can get does not come from his or her peers nor the administration," John Tyler biology teacher Guillermo Aranguren wrote of this honor. "It comes from students. The students being celebrated tonight are the elite. To be recognized by them intensifies the significance of this prestigious honor."
Several teachers and coaches were recognized multiple times including Franks, John Tyler English teacher Sandra Taylor, Lee art history and National Honor Society sponsor Melinda Tefteller, Ms. Hodges, Lee English teacher Allison Rogers, and Moore MST Magnet School English teacher Donna Spencer.
Lee student Philip White recognized Moore MST Magnet School athletics instructor and Web applications teacher Jay Powell posthumously. Powell's wife Lisa attended the ceremony.
The 2014 Distinguished Scholars from John Tyler High School are: Chard'e Young, Cristal Galindez, Sandra Garcia, Kenia Delgado, Clifton Henry Jr., Alex Marcial, China Woodward, Kashanti Flowers, Jessica Gaona, Jessica Carachure, Kayla Webb, Erick Gonzalez, Jaquelline Luna, KaBrea Pipkins, KeyAna Tatum, Dhalia Galdamez, Wendy Cervantes, Maria Pena, Raul Olmos and De'shalyn Jones.
The 2014 Distinguished Scholars from Robert E. Lee High School are: Dhruv Narayanan, Robert Tyler Jones, Ayres Allison, Rafael Guzman, Chandler Boone Harrison, Harnaina Bains, Christian Rivera, Sean Wang, Samuel Cook, Heunice Zatarain, John Oliver, Meghan Swartz, Lucas Stephens, Emily Stanford, Philip White, Dorrin Shams, Jackson Calhoun, Taylor Hill, Mallori Dike and Victoria Paige White.
Students selected the following Tyler ISD educators as those who have been the most influential in their lives: Brad Langley, William David Howard, Matthew Franks, Melinda Tefteller, Marilynn McKinley, Allison Rogers, Robert Castillo, Julie Simpson, Elgin Johnson, Antwon Lounds, Keith Showen, Vicki Mullins, Melissa Day, Sandra Taylor, Sheila Thurmond, Toby Wahl, Azmon Walker, Joel Enge, Nancy Caraway, Erin Hall, Aaron Hernandez, Karen Norman, Donna Spencer, Jane Neal, Anna Hodges, Juanita Maxwell, Guillermo Aranguren, April Caldwell, Clara Ramirez, Sh'Quinta Petty and the late Jay Powell.