HMH Honors Six Outstanding Educators

Teacher Collage 2

It’s no coincidence that we are announcing the winners of HMH’s 180 Educator Awards during Teacher Appreciation Week. To their peers who nominated them—and to their students who reap the benefits of their dedication on a daily basis—these teachers are appreciated every day. Below we share the profiles of this year’s 180 Educator Award winners.

In addition to this honor, each teacher will be invited to attend our 26th Annual Model Schools Conference in June and will receive a classroom book set. Nominators for our ELA winners will receive a READ 180 paperback library for their classroom and those for our math winners will receive a gift certificate for professional development publications from Math Solutions.


Ms. Kellie Brown, READ 180, Stage C

Irving High School

Irving Independent School District, Irving, TX

Ms. Brown is being recognized for guiding her students to great success. In her first year of teaching READ 180, many of her students increased their reading levels by two grades.

With two years of experience teaching READ 180, she has had the pleasure of sharing the joy of implementing and teaching the program with both new teachers and teachers from neighboring districts who have visited her classroom looking for ways that they can make READ 180 come to life in their own classrooms. According to one student, “Ms. Brown has helped me focus on literature, and other classroom texts. I learned new strategies and steps for understanding what I am reading.”

“My classroom motto is never give up and never stop trying,” Ms. Brown said. “I try to instill a sense of confidence alongside the content and skills so that when things get tough, they will look at what they have already accomplished and persevere.”


Ms. Amy Gibbons, READ 180, Stage A

Ellis Elementary School

Arlington Independent School District, Arlington, TX

Despite the many academic challenges students at her school face, Ms. Gibbons has demonstrated a tireless effort to grow reading levels and build a growth mindset in every child she encounters, using READ 180. As a result, Ms. Gibbons has been a key factor in leading Ellis Elementary School to become one of the top performing READ 180 schools in the Arlington Independent School District. Ms. Gibbons also credits this to being part of a great team of educators in her district, school and READ 180 community that share the common goal to improve academic achievement and build social/emotional skills among students.

According to her school’s principal, Mr. Keith Boyd, “Ms. Gibbons spares no attention to details in making sure her learning environment is welcoming to students. And once the students are seated in front of her, she engages them by teaching from the heart." 

“As a reading interventionist, teaching reading is my dream job because reading is important across all classroom subjects, as well as in everyday life,” said Ms. Gibbons. “My favorite learning moments are those when I receive the opportunity to watch striving readers become the experts.”


Ms. Denise Giddens, System 44

Franklin Forest Elementary School

Troup County School System, LaGrange, GA 

Ms. Giddens has made a career out of doing whatever it takes to help struggling readers overcome personal and academic obstacles. She has embraced System 44, and her classroom instructional practices are used to familiarize and train other teachers on the program’s implementation.

Ms. Giddens keeps a close eye on her student’s reading data that is used to help them improve. She believes in holding them accountable for their own learning so they take ownership and are successful as they reach reading goals. For example, a fourth-grade student in her class stated, “the computer (program) thought I would make it a reading level 300 but I passed that goal. Now My goal for this year is 400, but I’m going to try to make it to a 500 (reading level).”

Knowing the impact she has on student success, Ms. Giddens seeks to provide rigorous learning and share real-life examples that help her students remember concepts. "If I can teach students to take responsibility for their own learning, then I’ve given them control over their education and ultimately their future,” said Ms. Giddens.

Dr. Cole Pugh, Superintendent of TCSS said, “Congratulations to both Ms. Sankey and Ms. Giddens. They have shown a commitment to increasing literacy levels in their students and have used READ 180 and System 44 for their intended purposes—to help learners read better and comprehend what they are reading.”


Ms. J Geurts, MATH 180

Floyd Light Middle School 

David Douglas School District, Portland, Oregon

A leader in the David Douglas School District for students and teachers using MATH 180, Ms. Geurts helps the most challenged students grow to view themselves as “true mathematicians” with her preparation, dedication and compassion. Her ability to see and understand the needs of students with special learning challenges has contributed to impressive growth and achievement in her classroom. Additionally, Ms. Geurts serves as a mentor for MATH 180 peers across her district, helping to brainstorm classroom management strategies and foster new ideas for moving students forward. According to one student, “I have had many great math teachers who have helped me, but none have given me the strength, encouragement and tools that Ms. Geurts has.”

“I start with lots of structure and predictability until kids get used to me being really reliable, and then they start to trust me,” said Ms. Geurts. “Once they trust me, I can push them further than they maybe thought they could be pushed. Once they get used to that pressure, they will start to push each other, and then eventually they start to push themselves, and at the point that they are owning that challenge, excellence just sort of becomes a habit.” 

“Ms. Geurts' classroom has become a model for our whole district,” said Floyd Light Middle School Principal Doug Pease, who nominated Ms. Geurts for the award. “She has become a teacher of teachers, who take J's model back to their classrooms to the benefit of our whole district. I cannot think of a more deserving candidate for this honor.”


Ms. Marion Sankey, READ 180, Stage A

Callaway Elementary School

Troup County School System, LaGrange, GA

Ms. Sankey goes above and beyond to ensure her students are confident, engaged, and in control of their own learning. Through the implementation of READ 180 in her classroom, Ms. Sankey has created an innovative and collaborative learning environment where students are comfortable sharing ideas and learning from each other. She has created a READ 180 Café for her students. When they reach reading goals, they get to enjoy a beverage from the café.

At mid-year, 20 percent of Ms. Sankey’s students doubled or quadrupled their expected literacy growth, and another 39 percent of the students met or exceeded their half-year goals. Many are on a trajectory to exceed their year-end goals. One of her students said she wants to be a doctor when she grows up and adds, “I’m thankful that Ms. Sankey is helping me grow my Lexile® (reading) level so I can be what I want to be when I grow up.”

“I’m determined not only to help my students become lifetime readers,” said Ms. Sankey, “but to ensure they become self-confident successful adults.”

Dr. Cole Pugh, Superintendent of TCSS said, “Congratulations to both Ms. Sankey and Ms. Giddens. They have shown a commitment to increasing literacy levels in their students and have used READ 180 and System 44 for their intended purposes—to help learners read better and comprehend what they are reading.”


Ms. Ruth Willis, READ 180 Stage B

Altavista Combined School

Campbell County Public School District, Altavista, Virginia

Students in Ruth Willis’s READ 180 class know that she sets high expectations for growth in reading, and they work hard along with her to reach those expectations—and on many occasions, surpass them. Her caring spirit helps nurture struggling readers, and her belief in them helps build their confidence in their abilities. In the first year of the READ 180 implementation, 91 percent of Ms. Willis’s students showed gains greater than 100 points in their Lexile levels, and that growth continues each year. After spending two years in her READ 180 program, many students have gone on to pass statewide assessments and become confident, fluent readers.

“I challenge my students to set goals, and we celebrate their successes—daily, weekly, every chance we get,” said Ms. Willis.

“Amazing, exciting, engaging, dynamic and driven are the words that come to mind when I think about Ruth Willis,” said Altavista Combined School Assistant Principal Michelle McBride, who nominated Ms. Willis for the award. “Her loving and caring spirit help to nurture struggling readers as they enter her room, and her belief in each of them helps to build their confidence in their own ability to be successful readers.”


Congratulations to all! To learn more about the HMH 180 Educator Awards and this year’s recipients, visit our 180 Community

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