Stafford Elementary School fifth-grade teacher Taniece Thompson-Smith and Cooper High School photography teacher Sherry Griffith were honored April 26 as the Edwin and Agnes Jennings Teaching Excellence Award recipients and Abilene ISD Elementary and Secondary Teachers of the Year.

The Abilene Education Foundation hosted its 11th annual Teacher in the Limelight Celebration at the Abilene Convention Center, recognizing teachers throughout the district for their work with the more than 15,500 students in AISD.

Smith is in her second year in AISD but is a veteran of 14 years in education in seven schools across seven school districts throughout the United States and Japan. Her husband is an officer at Dyess Air Force Base, but Smith has found a home at Stafford, where she teaches science and social studies.

She pioneered a project titled “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?” where students and other teachers at Stafford read and answer questions from the STAAR tests. The project positively impacts academic learning and school culture. Smith believes that “education is a powerful equalizer; it’s not what you teach, it’s how you teach.”

Griffith began her career in AISD in 1993 as an art teacher at Clack Middle School. Two years later, she was asked to teach photography at Cooper and has served in that role for the last 28 years. She has served as Visual Arts Department Chair, Campus Foundations Team Leader, Photo Club sponsor, and Senior Class sponsor.

She organized a 1960s-themed “Big Art Day” project for Cooper students, and they created a giant mural pieced together by individual squares crafted by students.

“Sherry is kind, humble, and sincere in her interactions with others,” Cooper principal Lyndsey Williamson said. “She is proud of the work her students produce and finds opportunities to showcase their work on the Cooper campus in the community of Abilene.”

Smith and Griffith will now represent AISD in the Texas Teacher of the Year competition. The first step is the Region 14 Teacher of the Year competition at the elementary and secondary levels. A win there would send one or both on to the statewide competition.

Other teachers honored at the dinner:

Teachers who took top honors on April 26 at the Teachers in the Limelight Celebration dinner (left to right): Abilene Education Foundation executive director Adam Samuels, Craig Middle School coach Josh Ambroson, Abilene High School counselor Roxanne Bush, Mann Middle School band director Amber Moore, Bassetti Elementary School teacher Summer Morgan, ATEMS teacher Broc Baird, Abilene High School teacher Cynthia Usery, Abilene High School teacher Megan Butler, Stafford Elementary School teacher Taniece Thompson-Smith, Cooper High School teacher Sherry Griffith, and AISD Superintendent Dr. David Young.

Edwin and Agnes Jennings Teaching Excellence Award Recipients and Abilene ISD Elementary and Secondary Teachers of the Year
• Elementary – Taniece Thompson-Smith (Stafford Elementary School)
• Secondary – Sherry Griffith (Cooper High School)

J.B. and Winnie Gibbs Awards
• Craig Middle School – Josh Ambroson (coach)
• Abilene High School – Roxanne Bush (counselor)

Future Shapers Award
• ATEMS – Broc Baird
• Bassetti Elementary School – Summer Morgan

TLC Science Teacher of the Year
Funded by Edwin and Agnes Jennings Teaching Excellence Endowment
• Abilene High School – Megan Butler

TLC Math Teacher of the Year
Funded by Edwin and Agnes Jennings Teaching Excellence Endowment
• Abilene High School – Cynthia Usery

Fine Arts Teacher of the Year
Funded by AEF & the Abilene Philharmonic Orchestra
• Mann Middle School – Amber Moore

Campus Teacher Tributes
High School
• Abilene High School – April Rifenburgh
• Abilene High School – Scott Stephens
• ATEMS – Broc Baird
• Cooper High School – Rylee Wilkerson
• Cooper High School – Sherry Griffith
• Woodson Center for Excellence – Caris Anaya

Middle School
• Clack Middle School – Natheda Mills
• Craig Middle School – Nathaniel Elders
• Madison Middle School – Megan Brooks
• Mann Middle School – Jennifer VanCamp

Elementary School
• Alcorta Elementary School – Abby Cummins
• Austin Elementary School – Shelly Reed
• Bassetti Elementary School – Summer Morgan
• Bonham Elementary School – Kevin Wright
• Bowie Elementary School – Shannon Ochoa
• Dyess Elementary School – Kim Crawford
• Martinez Elementary School – Steven Pritchett
• Ortiz Elementary School – Jane Voss
• Purcell Elementary School – Kayla McCoy
• Stafford Elementary School – Taniece Thompson-Smith
• Taylor Elementary School – Laura Goodman
• Thomas Elementary School – Anna Richardson
• Ward Elementary School – Andrea Gazaille
• Long Early Childhood – Danielle King

Science Teacher Tributes
• Abilene High School – Megan Butler
• Abilene High School – Jordan Dempsey
• Abilene High School – Travis Kern
• Cooper – Jessie Spitler
• Cooper – Ashley Kozora
• Cooper – Kimberlee Keith

Math Teacher Tributes
• Abilene High School – Cynthia Usery
• ATEMS – Taylor Claxton
• Cooper – Kyle Johnson
• Clack – Tracy Desrochers
• Craig – Nathaniel Elders