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EPISD names 2021-22 Teachers of the Year, Educational Support Personnel of the Year

ESP Winner Jerry ApodacaESP Winner Carl SattizahnTOY Winner Amy Martinez PerezTOY winner Andreana Harkless

(STARLIGHT EVENTS CENTER – May 6, 2022) – El Paso ISD crowned its 2021-2022 Teachers of the Year and Educational Support Personnel of the Year on Friday morning in a special ceremony at the Starlight Event Center that celebrated the collective impact of EPISD’s best of the best.

After a two-year hiatus, the District returned to in-person celebration for its employees, combining the events for the first time ever in order show unity in serving the children of El Paso and celebrating the contributions of our employees.

In a festive ceremony, Superintendent Diana Sayavedra and Board of Trustees members Al Velarde, Isabel Hernandez and Israel Irrobali helped crown the winners. And they are:

  • Elementary Teacher of the Year: Amy Martinez Perez from Don Haskins PK-8.
  • Secondary Teacher of the Year: Andreana Harkless from MacArthur PK-8.
  • Educational Support Personnel: Carl Sattizhan from the Maintenance Department and Jerry Apodaca from Canyon Hills Middle.

“You are all a part of the educational process,” Sayavedra said. “Everyone in this room makes a difference to our students – whether you’re a classroom teacher who imparts knowledge to students, a librarian who instills the love of literacy, a custodian or maintenance worker who keeps schools ready for instruction, a food service employee who provides nourishment, a bus driver who provides access to campuses, or an office worker who keeps the department running. We are thankful for the work you do.”

The breakfast celebration honored all the Teachers of the Year from all campuses and Educational Support Personnel from campuses and departments. The winners were narrowed down to 10 finalists before judges decided on two winners in each category.

All finalists received a check for $750 and winners received an additional check for $1,000. Harkless and Perez will advance to the Region 19 Teacher of the Year competition later this summer.

Meet the winners:

Carl Sattizhan: As a locksmith, Sattizahn has the keys to EPISD. But his attention to detail, out-of-the box-thinking and friendly demeanor make him key to the Region 4 Maintenance Department. “He promotes positivity the moment he gets to work,” said his supervisor Joaquin Garcia. “He walks in with a smile on his face, greets everyone by name and is always asking how he can be of service.”

Jerry Apodaca: A former National Guardsman, Apodaca relies on his past training to mitigate risks in providing a secure campus. He’s built a solid rapport with students while always lending a hand to staff.  “Jerry is dependable, detailed, goal-oriented, a good listener and makes an impact on those around him,” said principal Adan Lopez.

Amy Martinez Perez: Martinez, a dual language teacher at Haskins, connects with her students in two languages. Seeing in their eyes a hunger for knowledge energizes her. “The most priceless moment is when a student’s face lights up when they understand a concept that they were frustrated over a few seconds ago. Being a teacher is an incredibly tough job that comes with its daily challenges and struggles, but having the ability to consistently learn and grow while having fun is the most rewarding career.”

Andreana Harkless: Harkless, a former BIC paraprofessional turned PE teacher, coaches volleyball, track basketball and softball. Her teaching philosophy is summed up by her promise “to gently nudge my students day after day to help them grow, to lead by example, to be kind, to be compassionate, to have a servant’s heart, to have fun, to be fair, to care – always, to show respect. Most importantly, I promise to know them individually and connect with them personally.”


Meet the Teacher of the Year finalists:

Martha Tavarez – Barron Elementary

The kindergarten teacher’s correspondence with former presidents and members of the Dallas Cowboys has placed her in the national spotlight. Martha Tavarez enjoys creating letter-writing projects with her students, but most of all, is passionate about incorporating positive language, kindness and respect in her classroom. “I am genuinely in love with my profession.”

Amaris Vega – Cielo Vista Elementary

A special education teacher, Amaris Vega embeds social skills into the everyday curriculum for her students in the behavioral unit.  “I focus on my students’ strengths. All my students are full of enthusiasm and vibrancy. It is extremely rewarding to help them reach their full potential and build their confidence.”

Stormy Daniels – Archie Duran Elementary

Recently recognized by Microsoft as an Innovative Educator Expert, Stormy Daniels designs a rich learning environment for students. “To step into our classroom is to step into a world of inquiry and excitement. Student autonomy and pride are evident as the work to support each other on their path to mastery. Our door is always open, our Zoom is always on and we welcome other classes to join us in the journey to become the best we can be.”

Aide Cardoza – Jefferson High School

The story of Aide Cardoza’s own journey inspires her history students and those who face similar situations.  “Alone, at 15 in a strange city, miles away from home, I never imagined myself years later, in front of eager teenage faces waiting for my historical puns, for my dramatic stories, waiting to learn, growing before my eyes. That growth, that added knowledge, that newfound confidence is what brings me back year after year.”

Samantha Trevizo – Terrace Hills Middle

Inside Samatha Trevizo’s classroom, you’ll find an escape from the mundane – a peaceful paradise where students are free to be themselves. “In my classroom, Vincent Van Gough influences and inspires our masterpieces and Pablo Picasso teaches us to reach past the space of our paper. Yet, we also push boundaries, disagree, question and confront what it means to be an artist.”

Pete Biddle – Young Women’s STEAM Prep

The librarian calls teaching his destiny. Whether Pete Biddle is leading a group of students and parents on a weekend hike, finding students the perfect book or teaching students how to use the 3D printer, he loves every minute of it. “It is a crazy roller coaster ride that I never want to get off. Every minute of every day is teaching in some way or another.”

Rosa Granados – White Elementary

A bilingual teacher who herself grew up an English language learner, Rosa Granados recalls saying at the age of 7, “Mami, voy a ser maestra!”  “The greatest reward of my teaching career is watching my students become independent learners. As I look back at my incredible teaching journey, I hear my beloved mother’s proud, gentle words loudly resounding in my heart. ‘Esta es mi hija Rosi, LA MAESTRA.’”

Bruce De La Paz – El Paso High

Students in Bruce De La Paz’s class aren’t just learning chemistry. The fifth-year teacher imparts on them skills to be effective collaborators, problem-solvers and critical thinkers.

“The reward that I find in this profession is not just gratitude but the reward of knowing that my contribution to teaching the next generation of students is the stepping-stone to ensuring a better future.”


Educational Support Personnel finalists

Juan Barreras – Apprentice Electrician Maintenance Department

An Austin High grad who learned his trade as a CCTE student, Juan Barrera strives to know, learn and do more in the electrical field. His supervisor Abel Carreon said: “He has created bonds with journeyman electricians to better understand all aspects of electrical work and contributes ideas/input to make installations easier and efficient by showing his creativeness and innovation.”


Rudy Saenz – Equipment Tech for Energy Management

A 35-year veteran of EPISD, Rudy Saenz is a leader who shares his experience, knowledge and desire to improve processes. His supervisor Aida Velasquez said: “He inspires and motivates others by engaging them in an issue that has more than one component of failure. He cares and it shows in how he identifies issues and provides potential solutions.”

Victor Armendariz – Assistant Custodian at Park Elementary

Victor Armendariz, who has been with EPISD 10 years, shows overwhelming support for his campus through his wise words to students, validation of teacher concerns, and working side by side with the custodial team and administration. “Mr. Armendariz demonstrates integrity by being gracious, hard-working, trustworthy, responsible and by valuing other people by showing them respect at work,” said principal Carmen Dwyer.

Maria Sandoval – Assistant Head Custodian at Richardson Middle School

As an integral part of the custodial team, Maria Sandoval understands that the number one priority is ensuring a safe and clean environment for learning. She exemplifies the integrity of the district by putting the needs of students first. “She never loses sight of that mission, and takes it seriously,” said principal Christine Miles. “She takes pride in our school and her work ethic reflects it.”

Gilberto Avila-Martinez – Custodian for Staff Development

Trainings at PDC go much smoother with Gilberto Avila-Martinez’s positive attitude and contagious smile. “His demeanor inspires and motivates each of us to want to come to work,” said assistant director Connie Loya. “Gilberto’s integrity is one of high personal and social standards in performing his duties. For those who know Gilberto, his work ethic is epic.”

Silvia Eddy – Secretary to Principal at Transmountain Early College High School

A 17 year-veteran of EPISD, Silvia Eddy’s work at TMECHS is of paramount importance to the school’s operations. “Ms. Eddy’s exceptional and unwavering devotion to Transmountain Early College High School inspires faculty and staff,” said principal Barbara Lopez. “She believes in the school’s mission and distinction. She inspires and motivates students by believing in their efforts and success. Her belief in the success of the school is contagious.”

Elizabeth Vidal – Secretary at Bassett Middle School

Elizabeth Vidal, the heart of Bassett Middle, keeps the school running efficiently with positive energy and a friendly smile. Her principal, Mike Mendoza, calls the 28-year veteran of EPISD an inspiration to all employees on campus. “She ensures we have a positive and supportive atmosphere on the campus. She has set high standards for herself and leads by example.”

Angel Smith – Campus Office Clerk at Clendenin Elementary

A former Clendenin student who returned to become a volunteer and eventually an employee, Angel Smith hopes to one day become a teacher. “Ms. Smith nurtures the students and mentors them when the opportunity arises. It is heartwarming to see the way students respond to her because they respect her and genuinely like her,” principal Martha Martinez said.

Story by Reneé de Santos
Graphics by Martín A. López