Lubbock Christian University
Education Award Recipients with Awards at event

Lubbock Christian University Recognizes Distinguished Educators

Lubbock Christian University’s (LCU) School of Education in partnership with The Knowledge Center, Inc. are honored to make their yearly recognition of distinguished educators from Lubbock County. This year, seven outstanding educators were recognized, and two of the individuals received the LCU Award for Excellence in Teaching at a reception on Tuesday, April 16, 2024, on LCU campus.

The award is presented annually to remarkable educators in recognition of their diligent efforts in educating tomorrow’s generations and as encouragement for the tangible impact they make through the long hours and dedicated commitment to their students. Growing challenges in recent years have made the need to appreciate and encourage teachers more important than ever.

Area superintendents nominated a teacher to represent their districts. These individuals responded to reflective questions addressing practice and service to their students, campus, and district. Among the nomination criteria were student performance, knowledge of the subject matter, instructional resources and technology, leadership in the school and the school district, professional development, and community service.

The 2024 Distinguished Educators of Lubbock County and LCU Award for Excellence in Teaching Finalists were:

  • Roel Sanchez, Frenship ISD, 6th-8th Band
  • Casey Clements, Lorenzo ISD, 9th-12th English
  • Caitlin Zahn, Lubbock ISD, 5th grade Reading/Language Arts
  • Valerie Flores, Lubbock-Cooper ISD, 1st grade self-contained
  • Sharla Powell, Roosevelt ISD, 1st-5th Reading Resource
  • Doug Davis, Shallowater ISD, 8th Math
  • Debra Salas, Slaton ISD, 1st-5th Dyslexia

A community panel reviewed the responses and selected the top two recipients for the LCU Award for Excellence in Teaching. The awardees were Caitlin Zahn, of Lubbock ISD, and Roel Sanchez, of Frenship ISD.

Caitlin Zahn earned a bachelor’s degree at Texas Tech University in Political Science and History and a master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction at Texas Tech University.  She has been teaching 5th grade for the past nine years at Miller Elementary in Lubbock ISD.  Zahn has mentored Ready, Set, Teach high school students interested in a career in teaching and was named the Ready, Set, Teach Outstanding Mentor Teacher. She also works with Texas Tech clinical teachers each year. Zahn was the 2022-23 Elementary Teacher of the year for LISD.

Zahn’s principal, Kelli Archer, stated, “Mrs. Zahn is a phenomenal instructional leader and gifted educator. She works hard to plan and implement quality instruction that is engaging and student-centered. On any given day, you will see incredible learning in action as students engage in high-level thinking and discussion.”

Roel Sanchez completed his bachelor’s degree in Music Education at Texas A&M University – Kingsville and earned a master’s degree in Music Education at Texas Tech University. He began his teaching career working with 6th through 12 grade students as an Assistant Band Director in Roma ISD. He spent a year as Assistant Band Director at Lubbock High School and served seven years as the Head Band Director at Cavazos Middle School in Lubbock ISD. Currently he is the Head Band Director at Terra Vista Middle School in Frenship ISD. In order to improve his teaching and serve as a role model to his students, Roel learned all the instruments in his band, which meant taking lessons in flute, clarinet, trumpet, and French horn.

Sanchez’ principal, Cale Bridges, commented, “From scratch, through the covid era, and by grinding every day alongside his students—even playing fun songs such as the Star Wars theme song in the hallway to attract students to the band program on their way to lunch—Mr. Sanchez has built a program where students are wildly successful and ready to compete in the Frenship High School Tiger Band. The success and accolades of our band students are consistent, clear, and important; however, I also think it is safe to say that Ro would consider one criteria above all others as his main accomplishment—that he leads a band program where students’ lives are changed.”

Director of Graduate Education for LCU, Dr. Sam Ayers, shared, “I treasured my time working as a public-school teacher and administrator in San Antonio and the Lubbock community. It remains a great privilege to honor these outstanding educators who represent the best of teaching and learning in the Lubbock area.”

The speaker for the reception was Sixtus Atabong, President and Founder of Purpose Medical Mission in Cameroon, West Africa. Immigrating to the United States in 1995, he pursued studies at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, earning degrees in Clinical Laboratory Sciences and Physician Assistant Studies. With 17 years' experience as a Neurosurgery Physician Assistant, Atabong currently manages Grace Clinic Spine Care Center in Lubbock, Texas. He uses his life experiences to inspire others through speaking engagements on topics such as purposeful living, achieving the American dream, financial independence, and racial harmony.

The recipients of the LCU Award for Excellence in Teaching for 2024 each received $1,000 and all nominated teachers received $100 and an engraved brass teacher handbell. HEB was the corporate sponsor for this event.