• 2007 graduate Rebecca Batlan was named the 2013-2014 Teacher of the Year for Annie Purl Elementary School in Georgetown.

When she came to Southwestern, Rebecca Batlan planned to become a middle school teacher like her mother.  

But within a year, all that had changed. Encouraged by her professors at Southwestern, the 2007 graduate developed a passion for working with younger children – especially those from underprivileged families.

After doing her student teaching at Annie Purl Elementary School in Georgetown, Batlan knew that was where she wanted to end up. She liked working with elementary school children because there was more opportunity to “mold” them and she liked working at a school with a high percentage of low-income, at-risk students. 

“I wanted to get back there as soon as I could,” Batlan said.

Two years after she graduated from Southwestern with a double major in education and Spanish, just such an opportunity became available. Batlan spent her first four years at Annie Purl teaching students in the school’s bilingual education program and this past year she became the school’s math interventionist, a position that involves working with students who are having trouble learning math.

But Batlan does more than just teach her students. She also has helped organize coat drives for them, planned family involvement nights at the school and serves as a mentor through the Partners in Education program. It’s all part of her desire to be involved with every aspect of her children’s lives rather than just teaching them about numbers.

Efforts such as these are what earned Batlan the honor of being selected by her fellow teachers to be the 2014 Teacher of the Year at Annie Purl. The Teacher of the Year program is a statewide program that honors excellence in classroom education and provides a forum to showcase outstanding educators whose efforts and examples inspire students, colleagues and the local community.

Batlan and the top teachers at the other schools in GISD were honored at a May 16 luncheon at the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce.

“We are very excited to have Rebecca as the Annie Purl Elementary Teacher of the Year for 2013-2014,” said Principal Terri Space. “She exhibits so many qualities that each parent wants their child’s teacher to have – patience, a great sense of humor, the ability to see what is special in each child she teaches. Couple those gifts with a sharp mind that is always learning a better way to teach and reach children, and you have Rebecca.” 

Batlan said she was surprised to receive the honor since she just completed her first year in her new role. But she is glad that her co-workers appreciate the work she is doing.

Batlan isn’t the only Southwestern graduate to be named a Teacher of the Year this year. Alvin Jackson, who graduated in 1994, was named Teacher of the Year at Abraham Lincoln Middle School in Port Arthur, where he serves as the band director. Terrenee Knight, who graduated in 2007, was named Teacher of the Year for Lakeview Centennial High School in Garland, where she teaches English and is head coach of the girls track team. And Rebecca Nolen, who graduated in 1999, was named Teacher of the Year at Pickett Elementary School in Georgetown.

Several other Southwestern graduates also have received the honor within the past few years. Batlan’s best friend from Southwestern, Cassandra Ashby, was the 2012-2013 Teacher of the Year for Forestridge Elementary School in the Richardson Independent School District and 2008 graduate Alicia Jumonville was named the 2011-2012 Teacher of the Year at Palo Alto Middle School in the Killeen Independent School District.