Wednesday, July 15, 2020
For Immediate Release
Media Contact: Jennifer Marshall-Higgins
Director Customer & Marketing Services
254.709.5256 |
Temple, Copperas Cove Educators Selected as Region 12 Teachers of the Year
WACO, Texas - Out of 76 school districts across the 12-county education service area of Region 12, two outstanding educators have been selected for the top teaching award — the 2021 Region 12 Teachers of the Year. Laurie Sims of Kennedy-Powell Elementary in Temple Independent School District is the Elementary Teacher of the Year, and Misty Thomas of Copperas Cove High School in Copperas Cove Independent School District is the Secondary Teacher of the Year.
“We are extremely proud to have both of these remarkable educators serving kids in this region,” said Jerry Maze, Ed.D., Executive Director of ESC Region 12. “The time and energy they dedicate to their students, their peers, and the profession is truly an inspiration for others to follow.”
Elementary Teacher of the Year

Laurie Sims has been teaching for 44 years. She began her teaching career at Temple ISD in 1975 and after teaching at St. Francis Episcopal School from 1983-2002, Sims has been with Temple ISD ever since. Sims has served as a first-grade teacher at Kennedy-Powell Elementary for the past nine years and previously as a kindergarten teacher at Kennedy-Powell Elementary, first-grade and second-grade teacher at Carter Elementary, kindergarten teacher at St. Francis Episcopal School, a first-grade teacher at Scott Elementary, and migrant teacher at Meredith-Dunbar Elementary. 
“I cannot think of a better elementary teacher to be a regional or statewide example for other teachers than Mrs. Sims,” Dr. Bobby Ott, Temple ISD Superintendent, said. “No matter the newest instructional strategy or delivery model, Laurie assumes the role of residential master.”
Growing up in a family of educators, “playing school” was second nature for Sims and she followed her dream of becoming a teacher, attending Baylor University where she majored in Elementary Education with an emphasis in Spanish. From her first teaching assignment, Sims learned the value of meeting student needs and fostering family engagement. In her first-grade classroom at Kennedy-Powell Elementary, she creates a culture based on mutual respect and high expectations, placing a priority on building relationships with students and their families. Meeting students where they are, Sims designs and delivers instruction at a level that maximizes student strengths and provides differentiation based on need. Working closely with her team, she collaborates for the academic growth of all first-graders and the success of Kennedy-Powell Elementary.
The elementary teacher values creating lessons that allow her students to take ownership and make connections outside of the classroom walls. Sims embraced the challenge brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, giving her students the opportunity to write thank-you notes to essential workers, teaching them to make connections and express gratitude within their community--a concept that is often difficult for first-grade students to grasp.
“During COVID-19 … As I checked on students and families, I was able to encourage parents in their new role as teacher, while offering support and suggestions for instruction at home,” Sims said. “ I was delighted to know that my parents were comfortable in reaching out to me as they navigated instructing their child during this difficult time.”
  • District Teacher of the Year, 2018-2019
  • Rotary Club Teacher of the Month, January 2019
  • TISD Excellence in Education, 2018
  • Carter Elementary Teacher of the Year 2004-2005
  • Rotary Club Teacher of the Month, October 1995
Sims said that as a regional award winner, she plans to communicate the importance of student needs, classroom culture, family partnership, passion, and collaboration as basic elements of the teaching profession but all necessary to the success of the educational process, regardless of new developments in a rapidly changing world. 
“Just as a physician examines a patient to determine an ailment, the classroom teacher should follow data to meet students at their functional level and continue to build on the academic foundation that is in place,” Sims said. “New changes are always on the educational horizon. As educators, our ability to prepare students for academic success depends not on the changes in the system, but on the foundations that are established so that instruction can be delivered with fidelity.”
Sims has a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from Baylor University and also holds a Gifted and Talented teaching certification.
Secondary Teacher of the Year

Misty Thomas, Ph.D. has been teaching for 12 years, with the last eight as a chemistry teacher at Copperas Cove High School. Before joining Copperas Cove ISD, Thomas taught U.S. History, Texas History, World History, and Language Arts in Killeen ISD. Previous to her teaching career, Thomas served in the U.S. Army as Captain of the Signal Corps at Fort Hood, Texas; Baghdad, Iraq; Camp Red Cloud, and South Korea as well as Lieutenant of the Chemical Corps at Fort Drum, New York.
“Copperas Cove ISD is very excited to learn that Dr. Misty Thomas is being recognized as ESC Region 12’s Secondary Teacher of the Year,” Dr. Joe Burns, Copperas Cove ISD Superintendent, said. “ She is very deserving. Dr. Thomas works continually developing and expanding her professional knowledge base and skill set in order to better serve those in her classroom. She then uses these skills to make sure her students succeed in light of all of the variables that impact them. Dr. Thomas possesses all of the talents and skills you want to see in a great educator. CCISD is very proud that she is being recognized for her commitment to students and the teaching profession.”

As a teacher, Thomas uses the global perspective she gained as a soldier. She ensures a safe and secure environment for students in her classroom. Thomas shares her educational journey with her students to inspire and motivate a love of learning.
Thomas teaches her students with experiences of real-world problems and provides a method to solve the problem. “I try to make chemistry accessible to all students by presenting real-world chemistry through investigative experiences … Many students enter my class with the misconception that chemistry is just for ‘smart kids’ and leave my classroom understanding that chemistry is for all students.”
To inspire lifelong learning and responsible citizenship, Thomas deliberately connects her students with the community through community service. As the Copperas Cove High School National Honor Society sponsor, Thomas facilitates volunteer opportunities such as judging elementary school science competitions and engaging in environmental conservation.  
“I utilized community service to connect students with science and lifelong learning,” Thomas said. “The service presented opportunities for my students to encourage learning with our younger students and promote community service. When a student becomes a lifelong learner, he or she is afforded opportunities that would not exist. The community service events promote responsible citizenship and foster meaningful learning for all students of Copperas Cove ISD.”
Thomas utilizes her love of learning, leadership abilities, and innovation both inside and outside of the classroom to provide a safe and inclusive learning environment for all students. 
“Students must have a safe learning environment where they can take academic risks without fear of failure. I ensure my class is a safe place where the seeds of knowledge are planted and curiosity is cultivated.” Working as a member of the Copperas Cove High School Security Team has allowed Thomas to share her expertise in public safety and emergency management to address safety issues and ensure the safety of her students.
  • Copperas Cove Secondary Teacher of the Year, 2020
  • The Army Commendation Medal, 2008
  • The Army Commendation Medal, 2005
  • The Army Achievement Medal, 2003
  • The Army Commendation Medal, 2001
Thomas said that as a regional award winner, she will emphasize the importance of public education in our society. “Teaching is an incredibly challenging yet rewarding career that is a calling for those with the largest hearts, unquestionable work ethic, and understanding of the enormity of the mission … we are making a difference every day,” Thomas said. “It is my honor to be here as a representative of teachers and students sharing my message of respect and understanding of the immense responsibility that we have.”
Thomas has a Bachelors of Science in Chemistry from Cameron University, a Masters of Science in Health Science from Touro University International, and a Doctorate of Philosophy in Public Safety from Capella University. Thomas is also a current learner at Lamar University in Educational Leadership through the Principal Certification Program.


Since 1969, the Texas Teacher of the Year (TOY) Program has honored excellence in classroom education and provided a forum to showcase many outstanding educators whose efforts and example have inspired their students, their colleagues, and the communities they serve. Texas Teacher of the Year is the highest honor that the State of Texas can bestow upon a teacher. Facilitated by the Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA), the program annually recognizes and rewards teachers who have demonstrated outstanding leadership and excellence in teaching. Regional winners are considered for the Texas Teacher of the Year in a selection process completed in September by TASA.

Education Service Center Region 12 focuses on helping schools save money and leverage resources into the classroom. One of 20 regional education service centers statewide, ESC Region 12 offers training and expert assistance to educators and school personnel in order to increase student achievement. ESC Region 12 offers effective, economical programs and services through professional development, expert assistance, direct services and alternative educator certification. Based in Waco, ESC Region 12 serves 77 school districts and 12 charter schools in Bell, Bosque, Coryell, Falls, Freestone, Hamilton, Hill, Lampasas, Limestone, McLennan, Mills and Navarro counties.
ESC Region 12 | 254-297-1212 | |