GT teacher at Carnahan and Evers surprised with ExCEL Award

September 23, 2011

KENS-TV anchor Deborah Knapp made a surprise visit to Carnahan Elementary School this week to bestow longtime teacher Melissa Licata with the ExCEL Award, which recognizes outstanding educators in the greater San Antonio area.

Licata, a gifted and talented teacher who splits her time with Evers Elementary School, thought she was supposed to attend a school-wide assembly on anti-bullying. Instead, she was lavished with praise and presented with a $1,000 check from the San Antonio Federal Credit Union (SACU).

A story about Licata and her passion for teaching is posted on the KENS-TV website and will be broadcast Saturday.

Licata said the award is a huge honor but was having trouble taking all the credit.

“The school – including the administration, teachers, children, and parents – is a family, and I am just one member of the family,” Licata said. “I feel guilty accepting such an award as I feel that it rightfully goes to everyone on the campus.”

Licata has been teaching for 19 years and though she’s a GT teacher, she works hard for all the students at the school, Carnahan Principal Lisa Turner said.

“Melissa Licata always ensures that things are done to benefit all students in the school, not just the GT students,” Turner said. “She promotes programs and activities to include all students. She is one of the best teachers I have had the pleasure of working with.”

Last year Licata started a robotics club for all fourth and fifth graders so that students could learn how to build and program robots. The students got to participate in the GEAR Robotics competition at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

Licata also brought End of Year KAMP (Kids and Multiple Possibilities) to Carnahan to expose students to fun hobbies and activities like cooking, babysitting, and volleyball. Students get to pick which classes to attend, and all the classes are led by teachers, instructional assistants and the counselor who have an interest in that area.

And she partners with Behlau and Rhodes GT teacher Kimberly Williams to create a special and educational night for GT students. Last year’s event focused on structures and children participated in hands-on activities such as “building a roller coaster” and an “edible structures” competition. This year’s event will be geared toward ‘change in the 20th century’ and children will step back in time to learn how to make taffy and butter, and learn how to sew.

Licata says she loves her job because she gets to work with children from all grade levels.

“I love working with children and I love to push them to levels that are above and beyond what they thought they could accomplish,” Licata said. “I also want them to understand that we all have strengths and weaknesses, and that nobody is ‘super’ at everything. I want them to learn to focus on their strengths, but I want them to face their fears as well. I feel that it is only through facing adversity that we are truly able to grow.”