ABILENE – Abilene ISD teachers Molly Harless and Kathy Ellison were announced Thursday at Abilene ISD Convocation as the Region 14 Regional Teachers of the Year. Both will advance to the state competition, which gives each a chance to become the National Teacher of the Year.

Earlier this year, both were named the winner of the Teacher of the Year award for the AISD, Ellison at the secondary leveland Harless at the elementary level. Ellison – a ninth-grade English Language Arts (ELA) teacher at Abilene High – was present at convocation to receive her award from Shane Fields, the executive director of Region 14, and AISD superintendent Dr. David Young.

Harless – a product of the AISD who taught second grade at Lee Elementary – joined the proceedings via FaceTime while on vacation. Harless isn’t returning to the classroom this year, but will instead welcome a new baby into her family sometime in the next few weeks.

Ellison and Harless learned of their AISD Teacher of the Year awards earlier this year, but each found out about their regional honors earlier this week. Harless found out during a video call with Dr. Young and Fields, while Ellison was surprised to learn of her regional honor at Thursday’s convocation ceremony.

“Abilene ISD has been my home as a teacher,” Ellison said. “I have grown here. I have learned here. I would not be the teacher I am today if I hadn’t come to Abilene and received the support and encouragement I’ve received. Everyone in this room (Beltway Park Church) is deserving of the award and I hope I’m a good representative of the AISD.”

Harless joined the convocation crowd via video conferencing and delivered a message of encouragement to the assembled crowd.

“It’s truly an honor to be selected as the teacher of the year for the region,” she said. :Everyone in the district is capable of amazing things. We tell our students all the time that they can do it and that we’re proud of them, but sometimes we forget to tell ourselves that so I want everyone to know they’re capable of amazing things and that you’re going to do great this year.”

Both Ellison and Harless will now advance to the Texas Teacher of the Year level, and if one or both win at that level, they will advance to the National Teacher of the Year competition.

Every fall, 40 Regional Teachers of the Year are selected — one elementary and one secondary teacher from each of the 20 Education Service Center regions in Texas. Six finalists are then chosen from among the 40 semifinalists. Following an interview process, the Texas Elementary Teacher of the Year and Texas Secondary Teacher of the Year are chosen from among the six finalists. One is selected to represent the state in the National Teacher of the Year program.

“To be recognized as the regional Teacher of the Year is no small feat,” Fields said. “After combing through several regional applications, the selection committee made excellent choices in Molly Harless and Kathy Ellison.  Teaching is hands down the hardest thing to do. The problem is that being a teacher is so different from what people think. A good teacher has the task of teaching while guiding, cultivating and inspiring our children not only academically, but socially and emotionally as well.  These two individuals definitely fit picture of a model teacher.”