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YISD teacher winner of the 2024 George I. Sanchez Memorial Award

Teacher photo

Parkland Pre-Engineering Middle School teacher Alejandro de la Peña, Jr., has been named the winner of the prestigious 2024 George I. Sánchez Memorial Award from the National Education Association (NEA) for his impact on the lives of Hispanic students/families/educators, as well as his efforts to support education and the achievement of equal opportunity for the Latinx community.

Mr. de la Peña knows firsthand the importance of breaking the cycle of poverty and violence. Growing up in poverty and facing a criminal record, he broke the cycle and became the first person in his extended family to graduate from high school. Determined to make a difference in the lives of others, he pursued a career in education. In his time at Parkland Pre-Engineering Middle School, he has raised more than $152,000 in grant money for his campus on DonorsChoose.org – where he is the No. 1 All-Time Teacher in El Paso in fund-raising – and was named the 2022 National LifeChanger of the Year and a finalist for the 2023 H-E-B Excellence in Education award.

His innovative approach to securing funding has not only benefited his campus but has inspired a wave of generosity in the community. He works hard to celebrate social-emotional learning (SEL) in his community so that all children can, in turn, work hard to fulfill their dreams. By organizing events such as NspirED@thePark and SEL@thePark Awards, Mr. de la Peña has created a culture of giving and celebration, where stories of perseverance and triumph are shared and positive behavior is recognized and rewarded.

Through his work with homeless families, Special Olympians, at-risk students, and underprivileged youth, he has impacted countless individuals, providing them with the resources and support they need to succeed. His commitment to improving literacy, combating period poverty, and promoting health and well-being has made him a beloved figure in the community.

Mr. de la Peña will be honored this summer at the NEA Human and Civil Rights awards ceremony and dinner program, which takes place July 3 in Philadelphia to honor individuals and groups who have contributed to the human and civil rights goals and aspirations of Americans and communities across the nation.