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HISD leaders surprise their top teachers of the year, award them with $2,500 check each

HOUSTON – Even with the ongoing pandemic, Houston Independent School District leaders are determined to recognize their top teachers.

Instead of surprising their teachers as they normally would at a banquet at the Marriot Marquee, the top educators got a surprise home visit from HISD’s interim superintendent and unforgettable goodies including an Acura RDX to drive for the summer.

During Teacher Appreciation Week, HISD's superintendent, Dr. Grenita Lathan, is making her way around town this week along with other HISD leaders to surprise their best teachers.

"Nominations are on a school level, schools nominate. Then there is an application process, and then there's a committee that interviews the teachers," Lathan said.

Wednesday morning, Lathan made a surprise visit to the home of 7th-grade science teacher Rebecca Hiatt, who earned the title of HISD Secondary Teacher of the Year.

“I’m Dr. Grenita Lathan -- superintendent. How are you doing?” Lathan said to Hiatt who opened her door in shock. “I want to just say thank you. Thank you for being an outstanding teacher in our district and an outstanding leader. I want to thank your family for helping us with the surprise.”

Hiatt was joined with her daughter and husband, all smiling from ear to ear.

“Mrs. Hiatt is one of our first teachers to help us start our Baylor Magnet program. She is 7th-grade science, scientific decision-making (teacher). She is also one of our coaches for our beginning teachers. She also works with our boys and girls so they can compete local, state nation and internationally for medical issues,” said Jesse Herrera, Baylor College of Medicine Biotech Academy at Rusk Middle School Principal.

Each teacher received a $2,500 check as well as gift baskets and gifts cards along with the grand prize, the chance to drive a 2020 Acura RDX from Sterling McCall Acura, all summer long.

"It was a shock," Hiatt laughed. "I'm not one for surprises, but it was definitely a nice surprise though."

An hour later, HISD leaders made another surprise, this time at the home of special needs Barbara Bush Elementary teacher, Rebecca Busse who earned Top Elementary Teacher of the Year.

"She does one on one sessions with her boys and girls every single day," Theresa Rose, Barbara Bush Elementary School Principal, said.

“I’m, like, shocked. I’m at a loss for words, which if you know me almost never ever happens,” Busse said laughing.

Her special needs students have improved significantly, according to Rose, with Busse's individually crafted lessons online.

"You don't do it for anything but the kids and families and I just want to be a support to them," Busse said.

This is just the beginning of a week of surprises.

“(We want our teachers to know) that we care. That we value our teachers,” Lathan said.