2019 State Award Recipients
The TAGT state awards are presented in recognition of service, contribution and commitment to gifted education. Collectively, those being recognized are champions who are working to advance the world of gifted education. Individually, they are each making a difference in their communities and we are proud to recognize their efforts as the 2019 TAGT State Award Recipients. All recipients will be honored on December 5 at INSPIRE: TAGT Awards Celebration during giftED19, the TAGT Annual Conference in San Antonio.
2019 TAGT State Administrator of the Gifted
The TAGT Administrator of the Gifted is Monica Simonds, M.Ed., Director of Advanced Learning Programs and Services for Richardson ISD. Monica Simonds received her M.Ed., from the University of Southwestern Louisiana, currently the University of Louisiana-Lafayette. After teaching for almost 10 years in Louisiana, she moved to Texas where she spent 10 years as a high school debate coach and is now in her tenth year as the Director of Advanced Learning Programs and Services in Richardson ISD. Monica currently serves as chair of the TAGT HB3/State Plan Task Force, has been a mentor in the TAGT Emerging Leaders Program, and was a recipient of the 2017 NAGC Gifted Coordinator Award. A strong believer in collaboration, Monica has successfully (and tirelessly) influenced and helped create her district’s Strategic Plan, which includes adding clustering to the general education classrooms, flexible pacing and grouping at all levels including radical acceleration, and gifted training for all teachers in the district, along with forging relationships with community partners. She is currently leading a Personalized Learning Action Team in implementing the plan.
2019 TAGT Advocate for the Gifted
The TAGT Advocate for the Gifted is Justin Vawter, M.Ed., CCO for NuMinds Enrichment. Justin serves as local SAGE chair, board member of the Gifted Education Alliance of Richardson (GEAR), and is part of the TAGT HB3/State Plan Task Force Committee. During the 2019 fight for funding, Justin left his position with Region 10 ESC to advocate without conflict of interest. His work includes meeting with members of congress, testifying at the House Education Committee, and working on language that would preserve G/T program fidelity. While overseas training Lebanese teachers and volunteering with Syrian refugees, Justin spent many late nights helping support the efforts of key Texas stakeholders. Justin Vawter continues to work tirelessly to enhance our educational narrative--from NuMinds programs for children of refugees and at-need families to helping support local districts. Justin believes that with responsive curriculum, inspired instruction, and expanded identification, we can close the equity gap and bring advanced learning to the forefront of education.
2019 TAGT Educator of the Gifted
The TAGT Educator of the Gifted is Sheila Mulbry, Lead G/T Teacher at Lockhart Independent School District. Sheila is a constant advocate for gifted students and their special needs, and has presented staff development on gifted education for the past 15 years. She has bachelor’s degrees in humanities and elementary education and holds ESL and gifted endorsements from the state. Sheila has served TAGT in multiple leadership positions and task forces. Prior to moving to Lockhart ISD, she served as an Elementary Gifted Specialist with Round Rock ISD, where she helped create curriculum, led staff development for the district, and mentored several gifted specialists. A lifelong learner, Sheila participates in trivia events almost weekly. In addition, she enjoys presenting about the many benefits of curiosity and wonder. Flexibility, a sense of humor, and an understanding of the needs of the gifted drive her philosophy in the classroom.