ABILENE – For the second straight year, the Abilene ISD Teachers of the Year at the Secondary and Elementary levels have been voted the Region 14 Teachers of the Year and will advance to the state competition, which gives each a chance to become the National Teacher of the Year.

Earlier this year, Jimmy Pogue (Cooper High School) and Chelsea Rico (Lee Elementary School) were honored as the winners of the Edwin and Agnes Jennings Teaching Excellence TLC Elementary and Secondary Teachers of the Year, respectively, in the AISD.

That ceremony – the Teacher in the Limelight celebration hosted by the Abilene Education Foundation – took place virtually in April and recognized teachers throughout the district for their work with the more than 16,500 students in the district. Last year’s AISD winners – Kathy Ellison from Abilene High and Molly Harless from Lee Elementary – also earned regional Teacher of the Year honors.

Pogue and Rico were announced as the regional Teachers of the Year at Monday night’s regular meeting of the AISD Board of Trustees with Region 14 Education Service Center Executive Director Shane Fields on hand to make the announcement.

Pogue is a 30-year veteran of the AISD, all of them serving at CHS. He earned both his Bachelor of Arts and Master’s in English and Literature from Hardin-Simmons University.

“I’ve had the privilege of knowing and working with Jimmy for three years, and from the first time I met him I realized he was a true difference-maker,” Cooper principal Lyndsey Williamson said. “To know Jimmy is to love and respect him and I can’t think of a more deserving individual for this honor.”

As the longtime sponsor of the Cooper Student Council, Pogue has taken his last 17 StuCo groups to Chinle, Arizona, for a six-day learning service project with the Navajo Nation. The students, sponsors and volunteers deliver food, toys, blankets, clothes and animal feed to residents in the one of the nation’s poorest communities.

“Jimmy’s passion for his kids not only in his classroom but abroad hasn’t gone unnoticed,” Fields said. “We know he cares about kids, and in his application he wrote about how much they matter. Well (today), he matters.”

For years, Pogue has also been the “Voice of the Cougars” for Cooper football games for more than 20 years after doing games for both Abilene High and Cooper on the radio and AISD-TV. He’s also called basketball, baseball and volleyball games and soccer matches for AISD-TV.

“This is a huge honor,” Pogue said. “I love Cooper High School School. Cooper matters, and Lyndsey points that out to us every day. You don’t this without students who buy into your program, and we have great, great kids at Cooper.”

Rico is a third-grade teacher at Lee Elementary where she has taught for seven years. She earned her bachelor’s degree at McMurry University and her master’s at the University of Texas-Arlington.

“Chelsea is a phenomenal educator who is passionate about her students’ success,” Lee principal Melissa Scott said. “We are so lucky to have her at Lee Elementary.”

Rico took the lead in organizing, directing and working at the 2nd annual Lee Fun Run last fall and said she believes that education is best performed through team efforts and the school community.

“I know that Chelsea loves the kids even outside the classroom, and that’s what makes a teacher of the year,” Fields said. “It’s not just when you’re on the stage in front of them, it’s what happens after that.”

A unit she teaches that best defines her as a teacher would be one she’s taught for several years called “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.” That story is about a porcelain rabbit that goes through a physical and emotional journey learning to love and depend on other while experiencing loss and heartache.

The discussion about those sensitive topics provides students a unique way to share feelings, in addition to typically discovering they have classmates and family members who have been through similar situations.

“Thanks to my students because they are why I get up and do what I do every day,” Rico said. “And thank you to the AISD and the administration at Lee.”