October 2, 2015
Oct. 2, 2015—Retired Cypress Woods High School teacher Candace Tannous was recognized on Oct. 1 as a recipient of the Humanities Texas 2015 Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award.
Humanities Texas presents the awards annually to Texas social studies and language arts teachers who have made exemplary contributions in teaching, curriculum development and extracurricular programming. More than 450 teachers were nominated for the 2015 awards, and Tannous was one of 11 winners named statewide.
District 7 State Sen. Paul Bettencourt and Chase Untermeyer, Humanities Texas board member and former ambassador to Qatar, presented the award to Tannous at the Cypress Woods staff meeting on Oct. 1. Tannous was given an additional $5,000 prize, while Cypress Woods won $500 to purchase instructional materials.
Sen. Bettencourt praised Tannous, who retired in June, for her outstanding application. He said he was particularly impressed that she brought in Holocaust survivor Walter Kase to speak with students.
“She was exceptional at taking historical events and bringing them to life for the kids,” Sen. Bettencourt said. “It’s so cool to see that she reached out and found a Holocaust survivor to give students a firsthand account of history. She effectively passed down those teachings to a whole new generation of students. Her unique style and use of firsthand witnesses just jumped out at me.”
Tannous’s colleague, Cypress Woods teacher George Villamagna, nominated her for the award last fall.
“She is the epitome of what a Texas teacher of the humanities is,” Villamagna said. “We were in the same room together for eight years, teaching a book called American Studies, which is junior English AP with AP U.S. history. We taught to a double class worth of students and we have a unique close working relationship.”
After being nominated by her good friend Villamagna, Tannous completed the application and required essays for the award.
“It’s sort of validation for all the things that I believe in as a teacher,” Tannous said. “I believe that we can become better human beings by studying history, by seeing how literature reflects history, by seeing how music and art lift us up as human beings. A good day in our classroom was some music, some art, talking about history, talking about literature and talking about good writing. To me that was the best day. So, to win this award validates all that I believe in as an educator.”
Following the presentation, Cypress Woods student leaders announced to Tannous that the school had officially earned No Place for Hate status by the Anti-Defamation League, and signed a “Resolution of Respect” banner to confirm the goal that Tannous had targeted for the school.
“Ms. Tannous models a pure sense of kindness that I wish for every student at Cypress Woods to absorb and use throughout life,” said Gary Kinninger, Cypress Woods principal. I cannot think of anyone more deserving for this award than Candace.”
Sen. Bettencourt cited Tannous’s award as evidence of the success of public schools in Texas.
“It’s very important to me that, when I see a success story in public education, I talk about it,” Sen. Bettencourt said. “Quite frankly, the nightly news is full of all the negative, so part of my job is when I see something overly positive, I go and recognize it. Candace was an exceptional teacher at a public high school doing a great job, and her students may likely find out that her teaching was the same as they will get at a university.”
Tannous, who taught 31 years in CFISD at Hamilton Middle School and Cypress Woods, said she was honored to accept the award in the environment she loved the most.
“High school is the best place on earth,” she said. “Everybody talks about the real world. This is the real world. Everything after high school is an imitation of high school. We’ve got the whole world in this place—we’ve got auto tech, culinary arts, history, the richness of music and theatre, orchestra, band. Competition and sports are here. Math is here, science is here, literature is here. And the spirit of wanting to know the discovery, of watching students come alive and find out who they are. Self-actualization is here.
“This is the most exciting place in the world to work, a public high school,” Tannous said. “I’ve loved every minute of it.”