Esparza teacher named 2011 Texas Teacher of Year

October 15, 2010

Daniel Leija, a fifth grade teacher at Esparza Elementary School, is the 2011 Texas Teacher of the Year!

Leija learned of this top honor at a special ceremony and luncheon on Oct. 15 at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center in Austin. He now will represent the state in the national Teacher of the Year competition.

As the state winner, Leija was awarded a cash prize of $5,000, a SMART Board technology package worth more than $16,500 for his campus, a laptop computer, commemorative trophy, and other gifts. He was first selected as Region 20's Texas Elementary Teacher of the Year, and then was named a statewide finalist.

"Mr. Leija truly is an inspirational teacher, and I am so happy and so proud that he is receiving this outstanding recognition," Superintendent John Folks said. "He is committed to our students, and he works hard to make sure they not only learn, but develop a love of learning. He is a testament to all that is right with public education."

Leija is known around his campus as "Dan, Dan the Science Man." Students and faculty alike flock to his classroom to witness scientific experiments come to life and to marvel at his various science collections. His experiments are regularly broadcast campus-wide, cultivating a love of learning and a heightened fascination for the science field. In addition, Leija mentors retiring or separating military personnel interested in becoming teachers.

Facilitated by the Texas Education Agency, the Texas Teacher of the Year Program annually recognizes and rewards teachers who have demonstrated outstanding leadership and excellence in teaching. Teachers of the Year are dedicated and highly skilled educators who are capable of inspiring students of all backgrounds and abilities to learn.

Past NISD honorees include 2009-2010 Region 20 Elementary Teacher of the Year and TEA state finalist Maricela Alarcon, Burke Elementary School; 2007-2008 Region 20 Secondary Teacher of the Year Cesiah Boryczka, Warren High School; 2002-03 Region 20 Elementary Teacher of the Year Veronica Ball, Blattman Elementary School; and 1980 Texas Teacher of the Year Peggy Carnahan, Jay High School.