YISD teacher among finalists for H-E-B Excellence in Education award
Representatives from H-E-B made a surprise visit this week to Ysleta ISD’s Parkland Pre-Engineering Middle School, where they announced teacher Alejandro De La Peña is a finalist for the H-E-B Excellence in Education Award for his outstanding dedication and commitment.
De La Peña, who teaches Special Education, is among several educators across Texas who were announced as finalists in a series of surprise classroom/campus visits in February and March. As a finalist, he was presented Wednesday with a $1,000 check for himself and a $1,000 check for Parkland Pre-Engineering Middle School.
This is the latest of several honors for De La Peña, who won nationwide acclaim last August when he won a National LifeChanger of the Year Spirit Award and a $5,000 prize for helping his school raise hundreds of thousands of dollars in grant money and making a difference in the lives of students.
In his four years at Parkland Pre-Engineering Middle School, De La Peña has helped showcase student and community spirit through Christmas gift giveaways and events like NspirED@thePark (where community members share inspiring stories of overcoming obstacles) and SEL@thePark awards (to celebrate community members who help build and promote a positive social-emotional learning environment).
“I want to be the type of teacher who can help kids who are facing the same struggles I did when I was younger,” said De La Peña. “I understand the difficulties that come with various types of challenges, and I want to be able to provide guidance and support to those who need it.”
Through its Excellence in Education, H-E-B seeks to pay tribute to those educators who go the extra mile each and every day to serve their students and their communities and who inspire others to do the same.
Since the program’s inception in 2002, H-E-B has awarded almost $13 million in funding to outstanding Texas teachers, principals, public schools and districts, school boards, and early childhood facilities.
In 2022, officials said H-E-B awarded $430,000 in cash and grants to winners and $82,500 to finalists. Teacher finalists like De La Peña are invited to compete on a statewide level for larger cash prizes totaling more than $400,000. A statewide panel of judges not affiliated with H-E-B conducts a personal interview with each finalist to select winners.
Eight winners – two principals and six teachers – will be announced at a special awards ceremony next month in San Antonio, along with two school districts, one large and one small, a public-school board and an early childhood facility.
Ysleta ISD – the only “A”-rated school district in the city of El Paso and the No. 1-ranked El Paso area school district by Niche.com – serves about 36,000 students in pre-K through 12th grade at 52 campuses, including five international schools, a college-preparatory Young Women’s Leadership Academy for girls in grades 6-12, and four early college high schools.