A Borger High teacher has received one of the highest honors in the Borger Independent School District.
Elizabeth Hernandez-Forrest was named as the recipient of the Root/Gillespie Foundation Award for 2011. She has been teaching in Borger ISD for eleven years. Five of these years were at Borger Middle School and the past six have been at BHS.
The family of Velma Freeman Gillespie established the Velma Freeman Gillespie and Zelma Freeman Root Foundation to honor a deserving teacher at the end of each school term. Gillespie and Root were twin sisters who taught in BISD, each for over 25 years.
The award is given to a deserving teacher in the academic field who possesses the following:
•A concern for students and the capability to inspire them
•The ability and willingness to work cooperatively with colleagues
•A drive to initiate activities that improve instruction for students
•An ability to work effectively with different groups in the community
•The desire to stay informed of current educational theories and practices
•An ability and willingness to make meaningful contributions in education
•Examples of innovations started in the nominees’ classroom
Hernandez-Forrest was nominated by a committee within BHS. According to her nomination form, she has been a valuable asset to BISD for her entire teaching career.
She was raised in Borger and said that her dream of first going to college and then pursuing teaching was cultivated by her Borger High teacher Mrs. Neas. She came to Borger as a sophomore and was raised in a migrant farm working family who traveled to the states of Wyoming and Washington each spring and summer. Graduating from college and and becoming a teacher was a lifelong dream of hers.
Nominating Hernandez-Forrest was something the BHS committee wanted to do early on due to her major contributions both in and out of the classroom.
Her philosophy on teaching is “to inspire, to challenge, and to direct students and colleagues in language acquisition, language methodology, and culture. To teach in ways that cause students to open their eyes and minds to multicultural and multilingual aspects of our world and to show how foreign language is vital in our global economy and society.”
She is described as someone who has a concern for students and the capability to inspire them. She has taught bilingual readying, bilingual English, bilingual math, E.S.L. and Spanish I, II, III, and IV.
Her background as a migrant farm worker as well as her training as a bilingual and ESL teacher gives her insight and sensitivity to the needs of her students, both as minority students, but also as economically disadvantaged students, according to the nominating committee.
“She uses phone calls, home visits, and email to stay in contact with her students and her families,” the committee said. “The students KNOW beyond a shadow of a doubt that she cares. She makes it a point to attend at least one event of every sport that her students are involved in. With usually 150 students in her classes this is quite a challenge! But she does it because she wants them to know that she cares about their outside interests.”
This past year, Hernandez-Forrest had students who were not living at home and were estranged from their parents. She went beyond what was normally required as an educator to keep the parents informed of the students’ progress as well as encouraging the students to try to reconcile with their parents.
“Mrs. Forrest shows that teaching many times goes beyond the subject area,” the committee said.
She was also nominated for her ability to work cooperatively with colleagues, and is described as having a personality that shows that she can and is willing to see other people’s perspectives as well as being open to suggestions and opinions.
“She is helpful, hardworking, and encouraging on every committee she serves on,” the committee said.
Hernandez-Forrest is a member of the attendance committee, LPAC committee, TELPAS committee, campus improvement committee, and is the Spanish Department representative.
“The past five years, she has taken her mentoring of new Spanish teachers very seriously and goes beyond and above to help them succeed,” the committee said. “She has also helped the past three E.S.L. teachers both at Borger High and Borger Middle School with lessons, activities, resources, and most importantly, her time. She is always willing to help her fellow teachers, which is a great trait in a professional teacher!”
Another quality highlighted in Hernandez-Forrest’s nomination application is her drive to initiate activities that improve instruction for students. Over the past five years, she has spearheaded the effort to collaborate and teach across the curriculum in regards to foreign language instruction.
She meets continually with all the other teachers in the foreign language department to keep instruction on level and to assist with any problem areas in order that instruction can be continually improving.
“She used word walls before they were in vogue, as well as using realia, special speakers, and numerous hands-on projects to make her subject area come alive to her students,” the committee said.
Also highlighted in her nomination application was Hernandez-Forrest’s ability to work effectively with different groups in the community. She works with the elementary schools to cultivate appreciation of Cinco de Mayo. She spearheaded a piñata event where her Spanish students make 30+ piñatas for elementary classrooms as well as helping them with various games and events on that day.
Hernandez-Forrest also works with West Texas A&M University to take students to the Annual Foreign Language Fair, giving them exposure to college opportunities as well as ideas for fields where foreign language is an asset.
She also helps Frank Phillips College by having Hispanic students and their families come by their classroom so she can help them fill out their FAFSAs. She attends all parent meetings at Borger High in order to serve as translator for Spanish speaking parents.
Hernandez-Forrest has been hugely involved in First Baptist Church of Borger’s Adopt-a-Student Program where families adopt FPC students by being a “home away from home” for them while they are students at FPC. She also has taught a Sunday school class for the college ministry at FBC.
She teaches Spanish classes to teachers during her summers as well as to groups of individuals who are traveling to Spanish-speaking countries on mission trips.
Hernandez-Forrest was also nominated for her ability to stay informed of current educational theories and practices. Each year, she attends the annual Foreign Language Training offered through Region 17, the Foreign Language Collaborative at South Plains College).
She also attends the Advanced Placement conferences in order to stay in tune with the teaching practices of preAP and AP classes, and stays in contact with fellow Spanish teachers in the surrounding areas such as Pampa, White Deer, and Canyon in order to grow and learn as an educator.
Another quality highlighted in Hernandez-Forrest’s nomination application is her ability and willingness to make meaningful contributions to education. She has been a mentor teacher to both E.S.L. and Spanish teachers for the past ten years. She also served as a presenter for the breakout groups at last year’s inservice.
She is known for being invaluable as a resource person for the district in regards to translating at meetings and translating documents for the districts. She planned and sponsored a group of 29 Spanish/French students and teachers to Spain and France this past summer with the goal of helping students connect their learning to real life.
Hernandez-Forrest was also nominated for her examples of innovation used in the classroom. Such examples are as follows:
•Using math in the foreign language classroom (cross curriculum - students have to formulate their own math word problems in Spanish when learning numbers in Spanish)
•Using health concepts in the foreign language classroom (teaching the food pyramid when students are learning food items in Spanish)
•Using geography in the foreign language classroom (students have to place and tell position of countries when learning directions in Spanish)
•Using Texas events and dates in the foreign language classroom (piñatas, Cinco de Mayo, Día de Los Muertos)
More on the Root/Gillespie Foundation: Root came to Borger in 1944. Gillespie came to visit her from Arkansas in 1946 and never went back. Gillespie taught in Borger Junior High for 25 years, with Root teaching at BHS for 26 years. Both retired in 1971. After retiring from BISD, Root taught at FPC for five years. Gillespie had two sons, Dr. Hamp Gillespie and Dr. Mike Gillespie, who both graduated from Borger Independent School District. After Gillespie passed away in October of 1994, her sons wanted to honor their mother and aunt by establishing the foundation.