TOY finalists named

More than 600 Dallas ISD team members gathered recently to celebrate excellence in teaching and recognize the 237 campus teachers of the year at a fun event sponsored by the Dallas Education Foundation, Dallas County, and Central Market. The nine finalists for Dallas ISD Teacher of the Year were introduced.

“Over the past eight weeks, our Human Capital, School Leadership, and Teaching & Learning teams have combed through nearly 250 essays from over 80 applicants,” said Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde. “With so many talented, dedicated educators, it wasn’t easy to pick just one. After all, I think Dallas ISD has the best teachers, so these finalists are the best of the best.”

As in past years, this year’s TOY finalists will compete for three Dallas ISD Teacher of the Year honors, and two will move forward to compete at the regional and state levels.

TOY finalists

Elementary (prekindergarten-fifth grade)

Ivan Medina, Herbert Marcus Leadership Academy

Ebony Garrett, Umphrey Lee Elementary School

Mia Witt, César Chávez Elementary School

Secondary (sixth-12th grades)

Angela Burley, Dr. Frederick Douglass Todd Sr. Middle School

Laura Treviño, W.E. Greiner Exploratory Arts Academy

Kayleigh Overman-Fassel, Emmett J. Conrad High School

Bobby Bailey, Billy Earl Dade Middle School

Choice, Magnet (all levels)

Jonatan Joshua Cruz Cardona, School for the Talented and Gifted at Pleasant Grove

Nancy Salas, Henry W. Longfellow Career Exploration Academy

In addition to celebrating the campus teachers of the year, the event also recognized 136 Teachers of Promise.

“For the first time, we are honoring our Teachers of Promise,” said Chief of School Leadership Tiffany Huitt. “We know that it’s not only the experienced teachers who make a difference. Dallas ISD has rockstar novice teachers! Teachers of Promise sought out feedback to improve their instructional practices, built intentional relationships, and made their mark on students and colleagues as novice teachers.”

Take a leap for excellence to ACE

Karla Johnson, a sixth-grade English language arts and social studies teacher, has been teaching for 35 years, and she said she still enjoys her work so much that she arrives 45 minutes early every day. 

She has seen countless student success stories at C.F. Carr Elementary School, including helping the community go from an “F” to a “B” rating as an Accelerating Campus Excellence school, or ACE, and using ACE resources to get 30 percent of her students to achieve mastery on the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) last year. 

Thanks to the open transfer period, teachers, counselors and media specialists across the district currently have the opportunity to move to an ACE campus and champion student growth alongside educators like Johnson.

The open transfer period allows eligible team members to accept a position at another campus for the following school year. During the open transfer period, current principal approval is not required, although best practice would be for the team member to inform their current principal of their desire to transfer.

To be eligible for an open transfer, team members must meet the following criteria: 

  • Hold a valid Texas Teacher Certificate or hold a valid District of Innovation Certification Waiver in the requested subject-area vacancy and meet TEA/SBEC Certification Standards for the position 
  • Must not be entering their fourth year of an Alternative Certification Program 
  • Must not be identified for non-renewal at the end of the current school year due to performance and/or misconduct

“Our students don’t mind challenges. In fact, they like them,” Johnson said. “Our job is to constantly move them forward. We figure out where they are, and we make sure they are successful.”

One of the many resources the ACE model provides is a plan to track students on a daily basis, which Johnson said has a positive impact on student success. She said she also appreciates getting to work with a group of educators who constantly go above and beyond.

“We’re really a team,” she said. “We talk, and if someone is stressed, we find a way to get them some help and make them feel happy that day. We’re all in this together, we really are.” 

If you are interested in joining an ACE team, apply online using your EAD login at using the internal openings link. The Human Capital Management team will email notifications of approval/denial throughout the open transfer period. 

Transfers are only final once an approval email notification has been sent from Human Capital Management. All notifications will be completed by May 5, 2023.

“Teaching is what you make it,” Johnson said. “If you have the heart for it—if you have the mind to change when needed—then you’ll be successful. The ACE model is a lot of work, but it’s worth it.”

Healthy habits for Stress Awareness Month

Stress Awareness Month is recognized annually in April to bring attention to the effects of physical, emotional or mental tension or strain on people. Everyone faces challenges in life that can be overwhelming and tiring, so it is important to learn healthy ways to cope with and manage stress. By doing so, you can grow more resilient in your own life while also learning to better support your friends and family members. 

Incorporate these daily habits into your life to help improve your well-being and regulate your stress:

  • Breathe deeply, stretch or meditate.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Avoid smoking and tobacco products.
  • Make time for the things you enjoy. 
  • Connect with your loved ones on a regular basis. 
  • Share how you are feeling with people you trust. 
  • Take breaks from the news when you are feeling down or overwhelmed. 
  • Get involved in your community. 
  • Eat well-balanced meals. 
  • Exercise and get fresh air. 
  • Incorporate routine preventative measures like vaccines and cancer screenings.
  • Check in with your medical provider on a regular basis. 
  • Get support from loved ones and medical professionals when you are struggling. 
  • Help others manage times of stress through visits, phone calls and more.

As Mother Teresa said, “Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.”

If you recognize any habits that you would like to improve to live your life to the fullest, help is available through Dallas ISD’s Employee Assistance Program by LifeWorks. 

This confidential, secure platform has countless resources available online for free. From 24/7 on-call counselors to practical tips on subjects like managing grief, connecting with adult children and achieving work-life balance, employees can find what they need, when they need it. 

Reach out to LifeWorks at (972) 925-4000, or visit and click on Benefits Resources to access online EAP information. 

Source: CDC

Meet Master Principal Marissa Limon

More than 20 Dallas ISD principals have been awarded the Master Principal designation for the 2022-2023 school year, and Dan D. Rogers Elementary School principal Marissa Limon is proud to be among them. 

Limon was born and raised in El Paso, Texas, but spent nearly every summer of her life in Dallas. She said she always knew that as soon as she graduated from high school, she would move to Dallas. When her oldest child began school, she was inspired to complete her degree and become a teacher. She decided to make Dallas ISD her home, starting out as a student teacher at Rogers during the 2009-2010 school year. 

She was hired as a full-time teacher for the 2010-2011 school year and has been in education for 13 years now. Learn more about her journey and approach to being a campus leader. 

What drew you to education? 

Great teachers made a difference in my own childhood and inspired me from the start. However, it was my experience as a parent when my son began school that kicked me into gear and helped me find my drive to transform student lives.

What qualities make a great principal? 

A great principal is confident but has humility. They are focused on student outcomes while being empathetic to all stakeholders.

What is your educational philosophy or a motto by which you work? 

Every child CAN learn and is entitled to an education that recognizes and nurtures their talents and needs.

What inspires you about your position? 

My position allows me to see how so many people working in concert can produce a beautiful result for students. There is no limit to what we can accomplish when we work toward a common goal! Furthermore, I am inspired by what our amazing students can do when given an environment in which to flourish.

Cyber incident notifications

While Dallas ISD’s Information Technology is constantly improving cybersecurity across the district, sometimes incidents happen. The department’s security experts are there to help. 

Some of the common cybersecurity issues team members may encounter require immediate action because they could risk sensitive information getting out. These risk scenarios include:

  • An unintended disclosure of sensitive information (an employee is responsible)
  • Exfiltration of sensitive information (a bad\malicious actor is responsible)
  • Any sort of unauthorized access to Dallas ISD systems (internal or external)
  • Persistent brute force attempts to steal Dallas ISD sensitive information (active attempts)
  • UserID and password divulged during a Phishing Campaign

IT recommends that if any of these scenarios takes place, team members should immediately stop what they are doing and send an email to and copy The email should include as much detail as possible—who, what, when, where, and how.

Sensitive information that could be put at risk through cybersecurity breaches includes:

  • Student data 
  • Criminal data 
  • Healthcare data
  • Employee data
  • Financial data 

Don’t leave money on the table

Dallas ISD will pay you cash for your unused local days if you are retiring, but you must submit your intent-to-retire in Oracle Self-Service no later than noon on April 14. 

The more days you have remaining when you retire, the higher your award. Employees who notify Human Capital Management by entering their intent-to-retire date in Oracle Self-Service by the deadline can receive a flat daily rate of pay for any unused local days accrued by July 31. 

The exact rate to be paid will be determined upon calculation of all the participants’ remaining local days (calculated by July 31) for the year. There is no cap to the number of local days paid, and there is no time in service requirement.

Remember, retiring employees must enter their retirement date in Oracle Self-Service no later than noon on April 14 to be eligible for the award. Those who do not enter their separation date in Oracle Self-Service by the deadline will not be eligible for the award.

If you have additional questions, contact the Benefits Department at (972) 925-4300.

Striving for the yes in Dallas ISD’s Service Centers

In Dallas ISD, there is a place where salvageable and reusable furniture and other compatible assets await a second life anywhere in the district or go for recycling. And Orbelin Rodríguez is one of the team members who manages these items. 

Kiest Warehouse, located at 3616 E. Kiest Blvd., oversees the removal and disposal of unusable items from district properties. Capital asset items such as computers, printers and other technical equipment are sold to a recycle vendor, and the money is placed in the district’s general funds.

The efficient flow of the center’s objectives is due to the great team members employed at the Kiest Warehouse, but “Obie,” as the warehouse team affectionately calls him, goes one step beyond to serve their customers. 

Maria C. Esparza, Service Centers team member, said his flexibility in meeting the department’s needs and adapting to a unique environment are impressive. She said he steps up to deliver small and high demand items to their customers upon request. He is a pleasure to be around and has the best response to any compliments people give him or to anyone who tells him thank you: He says, “No problem.”

“We are not only fortunate to have Orbelin as an exceptional employee with the district, but we also have someone who models outstanding customer service for us all,” Esparza said.

Keep an eye out for contracts

Human Capital Management is preparing to disseminate contracts for the 2023-2024 school year. Electronic contracts will be available for signature for all contract-eligible employees via Oracle Employee Self-Service by April 17. All contract-eligible employees will receive an email from containing instructions on completing the acceptance process once contracts are available.

According to Texas Education Code (TEC), contract-eligible educators are provided a penalty-free resignation deadline 45 days before the first day of instruction of the coming school year. The resignation deadline for this year is June 30, 2023. 

Dallas ISD has approved a retention incentive of up to $5,000 for all eligible staff who return for the 2023-2024 school year. The incentive will be paid to eligible employees in three installments and includes an additional $1,000 for team members who have been with the district for at least five years. Learn more by clicking here

Additional information, frequently asked questions, and instructions may be found on the contracts home page If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Human Capital Management at 

Beepings eggs and other enrichment programs through Vision Department

Recently, 10 students participated in a sensory focused day with activities tailored for multiple impaired visually impaired students, including a beeping egg hunt.

Dallas ISD’s Vision Department offers students enrichment activities and programs like this one throughout the school year. As in past years, teachers saw firsthand the impact that these kinds of activities have on the students, and finished the event with a celebratory walk around the track. 

“It’s been my mission and passion in this job to provide as many experiences as possible for kids,” said Lisa Gray, a teacher of students who are visually impaired. “We practice all these things in classes. We teach them all the skills, and they know them, but until they put it into action and see success, it doesn’t have as much meaning. That’s why these enrichment programs are important.” 

Dallas ISD’s Vision Program, which is under the umbrella of Special Services, offers specialized instruction and related services for students up to 22 years of age, who have visual impairments. A variety of services, according to the needs of each student, are provided in the home, the classroom and in the community.  

Last year, the program took students to Space Camp for Interested Visually Impaired Students (SCIVIS), a week-long international camp in the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala. 

“There are these ‘aha’ moments the kids have when they face their fears and accomplish their missions,” Gray said.

According to Gray, programs like the camp and the beeping egg hunt empower the students. 

“We have had students who are strong academically and have attended college all over the United States,” she said.  “We serve students who are low vision and totally blind and everywhere in between. It’s a huge spectrum of vision impairment.”

Katie Granados, lead teacher for the Vision Program, believes that enrichment activities further develop their social skills. 

“We take in so much of our environment, experiences, and interactions with others using our vision. Our students with visual impairments miss out on so many visual cues and concepts in their world that many things need to be taught intentionally,” Granados said.

Another enrichment opportunity is the vision summer program, which is offered directly through the district. The focus of this summer program changes from year to year. Last year, the focus was independent travel and safety in the community. 

“Programs like space camp, orientation and mobility community lessons, the vision summer program, the beeping egg hunt, and the Dallas Museum of Art give our students the opportunities to learn concepts, practice skills they’ve learned in the real world, meet other students just like them, and be empowered as they try new activities that they may have never been exposed to or are afraid to try,” she said.

“Many of our students do not leave their neighborhoods so their world is very small. The vision team works hard at getting our kids out there and showing them and their families that they can do so much on their own when given the opportunity,” Granados said.  

For more information on the district’s vision program, visit

Women’s History Month profile: Rebecca Sanchez

Dallas ISD offers programs that promote girls entering the fields of science, math, and technology, and Rebecca Sanchez, director of IT Business Services for the district, hopes they will empower more and more women to pursue careers in these fields. 

“It’s remarkable how it’s changing every year, but there needs to be more women in the technical and scientific community, and I love to see it grow,” she said. “With the district having programs like STEAM and STEM, it’s very encouraging and inspiring to see students interested and hopefully working in these fields in the future.”

Her advice for women who want to go into this field is to stay the course.

“Don’t let one event, one person or one contract bring you down. Don’t let one event define you. Stay focused on your goals and you’ll get to where you want to be,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez, whose love of math began at an early age, always knew she was going to have a career where she put these talents to work. She attended the University of Mary-Hardin Baylor where she received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business administration.

Sanchez, who’s been with Dallas ISD for almost seven years, first came to the district as a comptroller to work on the technology bond program. In her current role as director of business services, she leads a team of 10 who work on a variety of items such as contracts, procurements, E-rate funding, and asset management. 

“My role is facilitating all of the contracting needs of IT,” she said. “We are very much like maintenance operations and construction services because we handle several districtwide contracts. We help get devices into the hands of kids and team members.” 

Among the many responsibilities her department handles are making sure that applications, such as Oracle and PowerSchool, are renewed in a timely manner. 

“They require a lot of negotiation,” she said. “We also maintain different funding streams that pay for these products and services.”

 What accomplishment are you proudest of?

For me, it’s been building a team that really helps the underlying fabric to make a department a success. I’m proud to have a team that does incredible work building relationships with vendors and internal and external customers. We really try to streamline processes.

What advice or words of encouragement would you give your younger self?

I would tell myself to be sure of your knowledge, and to be sure of yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. It’s okay not to know everything. I remember that there was a commercial that said that Barbie (the doll) hated math, and I remember as a kid  thinking that it was the opposite of me. I loved math, and even then, I thought it was so horrible to pigeonhole girls to not want to work in that field. I think that it’s very important to say that it’s okay to like science and math. It’s okay to be that person because the world needs more women in these roles. If you think about it, even now there are very few business women in this kind of field and even in IT, but the world is changing, and I’m encouraged that more and more women will take on these roles. 

What helps you persevere during challenging moments?

Deep breaths, stepping away for a minute, coming back and evaluating the challenge helps. Looking at it from a different view and relying on competent and knowledgeable staff to work together as a team to achieve whatever we need to get done in a timely manner is important.

During challenging times, humor is also one of the things that helps me. I have a calendar that says “You had one job” and it helps because I jokingly tell myself “you’re doing good. You didn’t paint the wrong stripe on a road.” They say if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry, so why not try laughter? Laughter is good medicine. It can help you regain focus. 

What drew you to the education field?

My initial job with the district, as comptroller, got my foot in the door and it felt like it was made for me. I love helping to achieve a common goal. I love that education opens the door to that realm in a different way possible. It is in the public sector but it’s its own niche. Every day I am learning something new. 

I love that ultimately the goal is to help students become adults, to be able to do amazing things. It’s really encouraging to be even on the ground floor, where through my department, I’m making sure they have a Google or Microsoft product on their computer. I was a part of that process to make sure that it got done timely enough to where that student can learn how to do something on Google Sheets, or Microsoft Excel, or any product they used or things like a teacher using their time clock. It’s amazing how doing this one little thing can impact so many people. When you step back and look at it, it’s very fulfilling because you see the direct impact.

What is your favorite memory at Dallas ISD?

I have so many great memories, but they all merge into the fact that I love the relationships that I’ve built, and the positive cohesiveness that we’ve built. It’s great to see all the different people that have progressed in the district. They’re not where they were when I first met them, but we are still able to work together and help each other out and bounce questions off each other. Through these relationships, we’re still able to help each other, and cultivate even better memories.