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District employees of the year surprised, honored with awards

This year, Ector County ISD leaders surprised the District's 15 Employees of the Year, showing up in a group to announce each recipient's award and to hand over a gift bag, acrylic trophy, cash gift from the Education Foundation of Odessa. Additionally, ICA Properties, owned by Mr. & Mrs. John Bushman, gave each of the 15 employees a $1,500 gift to card to use at ICA hotels and restaurants.

Below is the list of employees, a short biographical sketch, a picture of the award presentation and a link to newspaper profile of the employee.


presentation of big check to Sherry PalmerElementary Principal of the Year Sherry Palmer

Sherry Palmer is retiring after 10 years as the principal at Carver Early Education Center, 24 years with ECISD and 39 years in education. In the nomination form, one teacher at Carver said, “I wish she wasn’t retiring. I’d follow her to the ends of the earth if she asked me to.” Incredibly high praise. She helps her teachers grow by asking questions, modeling solutions, and allowing staff to observe others who excel in an area or skill. Sherry is an advocate for all kids and for parents, too. While at Carver EEC she led the implementation of Academic Parent Team Meetings – high engagement parent/teacher conferences – that have been recognized at the state level. She also started using the school’s Facebook page to read bed-time stories to her students each month.






large check presented to Sarah HawkinsElementary Teacher of the Year Sarah Hawkins

Sarah Hawkins teaches science to the 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders at Travis Elementary. She is the only science lab teacher at Travis, so she works with every student. This past year she taught the Science Lab while moving from classroom to classroom using a cart as her home base.  She was able to arrange and decorate her cart according to the objectives of her lesson.  Many times, she even dressed in a way that contributed to her lesson.  Due to Covid protocols she did not move into her Science Lab until April. She also piloted SharkFinder for the school, which helped to increase math and science scores as shown in MAP data.  She is planning with the district to pilot a computer science program on our campus next year.  Now in her eighth year of teaching, third at Travis Elementary, Sarah is all about helping students learn and be successful.













presentation of big check


Elementary Assistant Principal of the Year Zealia Jenkins

Zealia Jenkins is a former counselor who transferred those skills to West Elementary in her first year as an assistant principal. Always wanting to learn more, she helps out in all areas of the school. She has built strong relationships with all students and staff, and often stays late preparing for the next day knowing the kids deserve the very best from her.






presentation of big checkSecondary Teacher of the Year Cheryl Cunningham (CTE)

A 39-year veteran of education, Cheryl Cunningham has worked for ECISD for 29 years. She teaches Family Consumer Science, Education & Training Dual Credit. Her students in the Teaching Academy are earning up to 21 semester credit hours from Odessa College and the University of Texas Permian Basom in Education courses. She has been integral in the expansion from a junior/senior Teaching Academy to a freshman-senior program that begins next year. This program is Future Teachers of Odessa. Additionally, Ms. Cunningham’s students in the Early Childhood Development program are earning their CDA (Child Development Associate). She is known for always being encouraging, always smiling, working hard and loving big.






presentation of big check

Secondary Principal of the Year Anthony Garcia

Anthony Garcia just completed his third year as the principal at Wilson & Young MoH Middle School. He also worked as an assistant principal at Odessa High School during his nine years with ECISD. He is a change agent. He is constantly monitoring the effectiveness of school practices and their impact on student learning.  When practices are not working, he is not afraid to adjust until he finds the fix.  He works to foster shared beliefs and a sense of community and cooperation on his campus.  He establishes a set of standards and expectations.  He works hard to set up his teachers for success which leads to student growth and achievement. 








 presentation of big checkSecondary Assistant Principal of the Year Megan Watts

Megan Watts is a thirteen-year veteran of ECISD and  has spent the last eight years as an assistant principal at Permian High School. Ms. Watts coordinates substitute teachers at PHS, a job that was especially difficult during the pandemic with a shortage of subs and the need for teachers to quarantine or work remotely. She also leads Special Education services supporting teachers and advocating for students and families. Attendance monitoring and credit recovery classes are also under her supervision. This year, Megan also went above and beyond to make sure junior and seniors had a voice in organizing a prom, since the prom in 2020 was cancelled due to COVID-19.





presentation of large check


Nurse of the Year Alan Pitt, from Ector MS

Alan Pitt serves as the school nurse for Ector Middle School and Zavala Elementary School. His colleagues say he is kind, pleasant to work with and never fails to help when an issue comes up. During the COVID closures in spring and summer 2020, Alan volunteered time as contact tracer for Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in Odessa. He organizes immunizations clinics for his schools and is a talented presenter when called up on for professional development or community outreaches.








presentation of large checkCustodian of the Year Susana Magallanes

Susana is the head custodian at Dowling Elementary, a position she has held for the past four years. She has been with ECISD for eight years. Susana is a great team member at Dowling, and is always striving for excellence in her work. Not only is she willing to put in extra time to make sure the campus looks good, she also looks for other ways to help out at the school.






Officer Hendon with fellow offiers

Officer of the Year Leonard Herndon

Officer Hendon is a 13-year veteran of the ECISD Police Department, the past six of which he has worked as the records officer. In this role, he manages reports, evidence, and processes the department’s cases for the courts. Before moving into this position Officer Hendon served as a campus officer at Bonham Middle School for five years and the Alternative Center for two years.







presentation of large checkParaprofessional of the Year Sandra Pilger.

Sandra Pilger is the administrative assistant to the principal at Bowie Middle School, a job she has held for the past three years. Principal Paul Fulce says Sandra has overseen a renaissance in campus culture and parent engagement. She proactively reaches out to families, supports school employees who are struggling, and is continually refining processes and procedures to be more efficient, human and student-centered. She does it with a smile and the patience of a saint. In Mr. Fulce’s words, “Sandra, quite simply, makes sure that this place runs.”







presentation of large checkCounselor of the Year Daniel Dorethy.

Daniel Dorethy serves as the Student Assistance Services (SAS) Counselor at Bowie Middle School. Serves is without a doubt the appropriate description for his 15 years with ECISD, the last seven at Bowie MS. Dan is the first person conducting home visits, armed with resources and ideas to help the students and families. He has traveled with athletics teams in order to ensure they have support while away from home. He has the unique talent to diffuse any situation with humor and grace, and remains calm even under the most challenging circumstances. He is a model of collaboration, positive attitude, and support.







Presentation of large checkSchool Nutrition Employee of the Year Vuthy Thong.

Vuthy Thong has worked in the ECISD School Nutrition Central Warehouse for the past three years, helping the department maintain and track roughly $4 million of perishable food items each year. His co-workers call him honest, reliable, a quick-learner, and a leader in the department.








presentation of large checkProfessional Employee of the Year Brandon Reyes.

Brandon Reyes has worked for ECISD for four years, the past two as the School Nutrition Director. Under his leadership, the department has expanded free lunches to all students, every day. His steady hand and determination to take care of students’ needs first, helped guide ECISD through the COVID-19 pandemic and the major winter storm in February. From setting up curb-side pick up of meal or even the home delivery service to students learning remotely, Brandon’s team has worked to ensure no student goes without access to nutritious meals.











presentation of large checkTransportation Employee of the Year Laura Hinojosa

Laura Hinojosa is a driver specialist in ECISD’s Transportation Department. Having just completed her 13th year with the District, she has also worked as a Special Education teacher’s aide and a bus driver. He co-workers she always has a smile on her face and his eager to help others.





presentation of large checkMaintenance Employee of the Year Henry Kleck

Now in his 22nd year with ECISD, Henry Kleck is known as “Rome” around the district. He is finishing his sixth year as the campus maintenance man at George H.W. Bush New Tech Odessa. Under his supervision the campus is well-maintained and welcoming.