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United High School Principal Jessica Salazar to Receive TEA Leader of the Year Award

Posted Date: 05/08/2024

United High School Principal Jessica Salazar to Receive TEA Leader of the Year Award
It's not easy to surprise a principal in her own school, but that's what happened at United High School when the Texas Education Agency came to Laredo to announce a big award and honor for UISD Principal Jessica Salazar. 
Amy Johnson, on behalf of the TEA Emergent Bilingual Support Division and the 2024 Title III Symposium Committee, arrived at the school May 2 to inform Principal Salazar that she has been selected for this year's Leader of the Year Award. This award goes to an educator that supports both teachers and students along with greater community and family partners.
The official award will take place this summer, but TEA wanted to deliver the news in person, so a big surprise was planned, complete with mascot and cheerleaders.  A room full of UISD leaders, school staff, students and her family waited in the library to surprise the hard working principal, and they did.  
Johnson told everyone at UHS that came to surprise the principal, "She is a strong leader and not only advocates for her students and teachers, but regularly contributes to the field of education and shares her expertise with others impacting the larger academic community."
"I was completely surprised,' Salazar said. "It took a village.  It's very hard to keep secrets from me because I'm very proactive.  I'm always out, in the hallways.  I'm just everywhere, all the time.  That's just in my nature, I love what I do, and I care about all the students."
The process of selecting Salazar as the Leader of the Year started last summer at the Title III Symposium, a giant conference for teachers of Emergent Bilingual students, which used to be known as English language learners.  More than 1,000 teachers participate, and nominations are taken for yearly recognitions.  Salazar was nominated by Melissa Cruz, Executive Director of High School Instruction at UISD. Some paperwork was filled out, and when the scores came out, Salazar's name was on top.
The TEA representative said Salazar was competing with the "best of the best leaders" in the State of Texas. "She really stood out," Johnson added.
"Jessica Salazar is an outstanding leader," said Cruz. "She has the heart that is needed to work with students.  Overall, I think she works dynamically with her parents, her teachers, her students, with every sub population, and brings about a lot of change at the campus."
UISD leaders congratulated the principal for this outstanding recognition.  Board member for District 7, which includes UHS, Frank Castillo is overjoyed with the news.
"I very much appreciate the hard workers we have in the UISD," said Castillo.  "I congratulate Mrs. Salazar for this honor; I know she puts in a lot of work with our bilingual emergent program, which is really necessary for them to succeed in life.  It shows that our programs are efficient and effective, so it means a lot to us."
UISD Superintendents in Charge, Rebecca Morales and Mike Garza, were present to take in the exciting moment.  
Associate Superintendent Mike Garza said the honor is well deserved. 
"We're not surprised because we have great, wonderful leaders here at UISD," said Garza. "In this particular case, she was nominated and awarded this prestigious award for all the leaders in the State of Texas, so we're very excited and proud. God bless you!  UISD knows that you do a great job for us." 
Assistant Superintendent Rebecca Morales said,
"We are extremely proud of Mrs. Salazar on her selection as the state wide winner of the Leader of the Year Award for the 2024 Title III Symposium.  She has worked tirelessly in ensuring all students are receiving high quality instruction and is dedicated to making sure that learning is differentiated to meet each student's needs.  Mrs. Salazar has been a standout leader at UISD, and we are happy to see that others across the state have acknowledged her contributions to education and our emergent bilingual population.  She makes us United Proud!"
TEA said they were excited to be in Laredo to meet the principal's support staff and family because that "plays a lot into their strength".  
"I'd like to express my gratitude to everyone involved because I can't take sole credit," said Salazar. "It truly takes a community, and I'm fortunate to have a fantastic one here at United High School, including our dedicated teachers, exceptional students, administrative team, my secretaries, office staff, and everyone else. Without their support, none of this would be possible for me today."







UHS Principal Jessica Salazar receives news of award from TEA's Amy Johnson

UHS Principal Jessica Salazar and her family.

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