Celebrating excellence among TOYs and POYs

The districtwide 2023-2024 Teacher and Principal of the Year winners were announced at the recent State of the District event presented by Linebarger Attorneys at Law. For a third year, the Dallas Education Foundation secured Reliant as a title sponsor for the POY and TOY recognition and honored the finalists and winners with awards ranging from $1,500 to $5,000.


Principal of the Year winners


Alicia Iwasko, Annie Webb Blanton Elementary School

Alicia Iwasko was born and raised in Mexico, the daughter of two educators. Prior to relocating to Dallas in 2008, Iwasko served as an English as a Second Language teacher for various school levels. In Dallas ISD, Iwasko served as a fourth-grade math and science teacher at Silberstein Elementary School before becoming an instructional coach. After serving the first cohort of ACE campuses at Annie Webb Blanton Elementary School, Iwasko was promoted to the role of assistant principal at Edward Titche Elementary School. During her tenure, Titche went from an F school to a B school in only one year. In 2018, she graduated from Southern Methodist University with her second master’s degree in education and returned to Blanton Elementary as principal. Iwasko is a dedicated educator committed to equity and excellence. She believes in education because she knows it is the best way to empower students with the determination to work hard for their goals and maximize their potential regardless of their cultural background, socioeconomic status, or zip code. She is committed to enhancing the trajectory that statistics may have set as expectations for the students and educators in her charge. Daily, she strives to live up to the school’s motto: Labor Omnia Vincit, which translates to “Hard Work Conquers All.”


David Lee, Hector P. Garcia Middle School

David Lee has been part of Dallas ISD for 17 years and is in his fifth year serving as principal of Hector P. Garcia Middle School. A graduate of Baylor University with a Bachelor of Arts in biology and minor in asian studies, he started his career as a an alternative certification intern in 2007. At Franklin D. Roosevelt High School, Lee was a science teacher, department chair, and master teacher before taking on roles as TTIPS grant coordinator at A. Maceo Smith High School and assistant principal at Justin F. Kimball High School. He was able to transform Kimball’s STEM Magnet program in partnership with the Mountain View College engineering department, allowing students to take 30 hours of dual credit courses, and obtaining their level 2 certification in mechatronics. This Kimball program later developed into the Kimball E-Tech collegiate pathway in mechatronics. As principal at Hector P. Garcia Middle School, Lee has been part of the school’s transformation that has taken Garcia from a C to a B state-rated campus with three TEA distinctions. Lee has turned-around school culture, increased parental involvement, and transformed Garcia into an International Baccalaureate choice school and the first comprehensive IB Middle Years Programme in Oak Cliff. Garcia Middle School now ranks among the top middle schools in MAP growth in both reading and math, and the school climate ranks in the top 10 among secondary schools in the district. Lee was honored with master principal designation for his accomplishments. Lee reminds his students everyday of Garcia’s core beliefs: high expectation, respect, and his favorite, kindness.


Derek Thomas, SOLAR Preparatory for Boys at John F Kennedy

Derek Thomas is a product of Dallas ISD who grew up in Pleasant Grove and graduated from Skyline High School. He went on to receive his Bachelor of Business Administration from The University of North Texas and worked as a supervisor in the financial industry and as a business owner before pursuing his passion for being an educator. As a teacher, Thomas first served as a sixth- and eighth grade math educator at Fred F. Florence Middle School. While there, he was part of a team of educators that accelerated math passing percentage scores by 28% in one year.  After four years of teaching at Florence, he became a math instructional coach at Lenore Kirk Hall Elementary School before returning to the Young Men’s Leadership Academy at Fred Florence in a coaching role. After completing his master’s degree in education leadership at Southern Methodist University, Thomas served as an assistant principal at Annie Webb Blanton and SOLAR Preparatory for Boys before being named principal at Adelle Turner Elementary School. While at Adelle Turner Elementary, he was able to secure a $50,000 grant toward STEM development on the campus as well as receive the honor of being the adopted campus of the Dallas Mavericks.  One year later, he would return to serve as the principal of Solar Preparatory School for Boys. Thomas believes in building scholars academically but has a major focus on character, culture, and community. He understands that one person may start a movement, but a community maintains it. He is looking forward to building a community of scholars, educators, parents, and business partners that are about developing the whole child and ensuring that all scholars can be successful, no matter their backgrounds. 



Teacher of the Year winners


Chantrelle Lovett-Andrews, Umphrey Lee Elementary School

A teacher at Dallas ISD since 2002, Chantrelle Lovett-Andrews is an early childhood special education teacher at Umphrey Lee Elementary School. She currently serves as the Special Education Department chair, is a member of the campus Curriculum Instructional Leadership Team and works as a curriculum reviewer of the Amplify reading materials for the Texas Education Agency. Lovett-Andrews is currently in her 27th year of teaching and has earned both the Dallas ISD Master Teacher and State of Texas Master Teacher designations. Lovett-Andrews believes education, understanding, and acceptance of everyone’s differences are important values. She believes the most effective teachers establish genuine relationships and create dynamic learning environments contributing to student achievement and growth. Lovett-Andrews views teaching as a fulfilling career and provides her with a sense of purpose. Her goal is to prepare students for a life of intellectual discovery, engagement, and purpose while developing the unique talent and potential in each student. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in criminal justice from Texas Woman’s University, earned teaching certifications while studying at Louisiana State University, and holds a Master of Education from Grand Canyon University.


Cristian Gallardo, Sam Tasby Middle School

Cristian Gallardo is an art teacher at Sam Tasby Middle School, where he began his career in education over 18 years ago as a teacher assistant. After several years assisting teachers, Gallardo entered Dallas ISD’s Alternative Certification program and was hired as an eighth-grade science teacher. After five years of engaging his students with creative and innovative science lessons, Gallardo followed his passion and began teaching art to all grade levels at his campus. In addition to Gallardo’s role as teacher, he has also served his school as a member of the campus leadership team, Language Proficiency Assessment Committee member, testing coordinator, asset management representative, textbook custodian, and mentor to novice teachers. Gallardo holds a Bachelor of Art in Art and Performance from the University of Texas at Dallas.


Amanda Ashmead, School of Science and Engineering at Yvonne A. Ewell Townview Center

Amanda Ashmead has been teaching in Dallas ISD for over 20 years. She currently teaches Advanced Placement English language and composition, AP macroeconomics, and AP U.S. government at the School of Science and Engineering, where she has also served as the department chair for humanities for the last 10 years. As department chair, Ashmead has initiated or overseen a variety of major programmatic changes: she redesigned the college access program and integrated it into academic classes, leading to a dramatic increase in college funding offers received by graduating seniors; she integrated social studies and English into a single department centered on an emphasis of academic writing, including adding the AP capstone program; and in recent years, she has led several initiatives designed to help re-establish school culture in the aftermath of pandemic disruptions. Ashmead was a member of the inaugural group of distinguished teachers under the Teacher Excellence Initiative; she was recognized as an Exemplary Teacher and has kept that designation since. She is also recognized as a Master Teacher under the Texas Teacher Incentive Allotment. Ashmead has made significant professional contributions beyond Dallas ISD, as well—he has been involved with the College Board in AP Reading for many years and serves as a consultant, and she has presented at a variety of national forums including the AP Annual Conference on equity-focused topics such as expanding access to Advanced Placement courses. She has also published two articles in Social Education, the journal of the National Council for the Social Studies. Ashmead earned a Bachelor of Arts in English at the University of Alabama in Huntsville and received a Masters of Education from Lamar University.


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