||Estella De Los Santos
Deborah Westbrook |
Four University of Houston-Victoria employees recently were honored for their dedication to advancing the School of Education & Human Development's presence in Victoria, the state and the nation.
The inaugural faculty and staff awards were introduced earlier this year when Fred Litton, dean of the UHV School of Education & Human Development, organized a committee of faculty and staff members to choose the winners from the school.
The winners are:
- Faculty Research – Barba Patton, associate professor of mathematics education
- Service – Estella De Los Santos, professor of mathematics education
- Teaching – Amy Barnhill, assistant professor of literacy
- Staff – Deborah Westbrook, teacher certification coordinator
Litton, who just completed his first academic year as the school’s dean, said he wanted the hard-working faculty and staff members to know they are appreciated.
“A career in education involves selflessly giving back to the community,” he said. “I wanted to make sure our outstanding faculty and staff members are recognized for their efforts in advancing the school this year. The committee did an excellent job choosing the inaugural winners.” Patton was chosen for the Faculty Research Award based on her numerous publications, presentations and research achievements. She also is active with several professional organizations to enhance the social sciences and math education.
As a mathematics team leader with the statewide College and Career Readiness Initiative, Patton works to get universities, community colleges and school districts working toward a common goal of preparing students for higher education. Patton also is involved in a partnership of UH System universities working with students in Fort Bend to determine retention levels in relation to state test success rates.
Patton said her research helps her keep abreast of the latest findings in the field of education. In doing so, she is able to give her students a current vision of the discipline being studied.
“As teachers, my students will need to be as objective as possible,” she said. “So giving them different viewpoints and showing them how to teach innovative lesson plans allows them to avoid being biased in their teaching.”
This past year, Patton received honors from the Canadian International Conference on Education and the National Social Science Association. She serves on the executive board of the National Social Science Association and previously served as regional director of Texas Council of Teachers of Mathematics. She is the founding newsletter editor and former director for the Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators.
“Being active in different organizations gives me the chance to talk with colleagues who are willing to resolve situations and problems we face in our work,” she said. “It’s not uncommon for me to come home from a conference or meeting with a new perspective and a vast amount of knowledge that resulted from sitting around a table and talking with others.”
De Los Santos was honored for her service to the School of Education & Human Development, the university and the community. De Los Santos has been a UHV faculty member for 20 years and is a member of the Victoria Independent School District Board of Trustees. This year, she headed a new Adopt-A-School program encouraging collaboration between UHV and Stroman Middle School. She also was Patton’s mathematics team for the statewide College and Career Readiness Initiative.
De Los Santos said education in Victoria is special to her. Having spent most of her life in Victoria, De Los Santos began teaching mathematics and computer science in 1977 for the Victoria school district.
“I enjoy giving back to the community where I live,” she said. “It is a joy to go back to Stroman, where I attended when it was a high school, and work with the teachers and students as a mentor.”
She received recognition for her volunteer work or mentoring from the Victoria Business & Education Coalition, the Victoria school district Board of Trustees, Leadership Texas Association of School Boards, National Association of Professional Women, Texan Nursing & Rehab West and Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation Child Sponsorship Program.
Barnhill was honored for her dedication to teaching and motivating UHV students. Her unique teaching style includes facilitating classes where students discuss their own questions and thoughts based on a variety of readings. One learning experience she uses allows students to read and discuss issues facing students in schools, such as drugs, gangs and poverty. Her students reflect on what they can do in their own lives to make a change.
“We discuss how they can use the same process with important issues when they are teachers,” she said. “A lot of self-reflection is accomplished, and I think it motivates them to be the best teachers they can be.”
Barnhill said her philosophy is to be the kind of teacher who makes a difference. One way she’s making a difference is through the international education honor society Kappa Delta Pi. As the faculty adviser for Alpha Zeta Lambda, the UHV chapter of the society, she has guided members of the honor society since it was formed in 2011. With more than 90 active members in Victoria and Fort Bend, the organization hosts several community service projects and educational meetings for members.
“Being a part of Kappa Delta Pi allows me to associate with our students outside of the classroom,” she said. “I’m able to build relationships with them. This helps me when I am in the classroom because teaching is all about building relationships.”
Westbrook was honored with the staff award because of her customer service to education students, potential students, staff and faculty. Her responsibilities range from advising students to compiling important reports to government agencies.
All students wanting to teach or be school counselors, principals, superintendents or specialists in Texas schools are required to take the Texas Education Agency exams in order to become certified. As a teacher certification coordinator, she explains to students the Texas state certification requirements and various policies the School of Education & Human Development has to prepare students to become certified professionals.
“Deborah completes her tasks with efficiency and personal service, all done with grace and a smile,” said Diane Prince, a professor and certification officer for the UHV School of Education & Human Development. “She is an unsung hero for our school.”