ROSHARON — Elenora Grill said her former teacher, PJ Silva, instilled in her a principle she always will carry with her.
“I learned that actions speak louder than words and weird is wonderful,” Grill said.
The graduating senior was one of the “Top Cat” students invited to share some words about an educator who inspired them Tuesday at the second Angleton Cat Café Foundation Breakfast at The Oaks at Oak Plantation in Rosharon.
Some of the students shed tears of appreciation as they described the moments their inspirational educators impacted their lives. The Class of 2019’s top academic achievers described ways they’ll take pieces of their education with them and cherish the lessons learned — both in and out of the classroom.
While the top 10 graduating seniors are honored at the event by Angleton ISD’s Education Foundation, this year the field had to be expanded by one. Two students tied for the 10th spot, one of them a junior who is graduating early.
“There are several banquets honoring sports achievements and other clubs, but there has never been a banquet to honor academic achievement,” said Allison Hemphill, the Education Foundation’s executive director.
Out of the 471 graduating seniors, it is a prestigious honor to be among the top 10 and to have to the opportunity to highlight an educator with the “You Made a Difference Award,” said Melba Beken, Angleton ISD Education Foundation board president.
Junior Kayla Wlecyk, who in addition to graduating early has almost completed her associate degree, said she struggled socially, often being bullied. Her language arts teacher, Angela Sims, pushed her to succeed.
“I’ve greatly been impacted by this teacher,” Wlecyk said. “The greatest thing Ms. Simms has done would be that she always believed in me.”
Senior Ethan Ebner, who will be attending Texas A&M in the fall, said as soon as he met his teacher, Traylor Lenz, he knew he was a special educator and one of the most unselfish people he’d ever come to know.
Valedictorian Kierra Francois said the teacher she recognized, Chris Foley, her senior Advanced Placement physics teacher, is someone she describes as eccentric — though it doesn’t carry a negative connotation.
“To me eccentric is someone who isn’t controlled by societal norms. He puts his heart into the classroom,” Francois said.
The Education Foundation has raised more than $325,000 for the district since it began in 2015, said school board Vice President Tommy Gaines. The money has helped with STEM programs as well as new classroom equipment, encouraging academic excellence and providing students opportunities to thrive, he said.
The banquet also recognized the district’s teachers of the year, Katy Medina Acosta from Westside Elementary and Leslie Schmerber from Angleton High School.
As the event concluded, a parting message was implored to students continuing on to bigger and better things.
“When you make your mark in this world, remember to give back,” Beken said.