Amy Cortez was named Southeast Elementary's Teacher of the Year, and was also honored as the Elementary Teacher of the Year for Sweetwater ISD.
Cortez teaches Kindergarten and has been teaching for a total of eight years. Two of those years have taken place at Sweetwater ISD.
She attended Howard Payne University and Texas Tech University, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and a minor in Biology. She has been involved with the Texas Coaches Wives Association, as well as the District Council from 2012-2014.
Cortez participates in a wide variety of community activities after school almost on a daily basis. Most of the activities revolve either around her two children, a fifth grader and a second grader, or the children of the community.
While she helped keep the books and clock for the basketball team at Sweetwater Middle School, she also kept the books and clocks for the city-wide basketball league while helping her husband manage the team he coached. In the city's baseball league, she kept the books as well.
Cortez's involvement in the math textbook committee allowed her to attend workshops for the adoption of a new math curriculum. The committee would meet after school to discuss the best curriculum for the school district.
Additionally, she is involved in the Kindergarten TELPAS (Texas English Language Proficiency Assessment System). Along with her husband, she participates in various activities within her church, Emmanuel Fellowship, and helps with the Salvage Yard youth group when needed.
Furthermore, Cortez is part of the team that manages the concession stands for the school district. Proceeds from the concession stands benefit various organizations within the district.
Cortez's philosophy of teaching is built upon a quote by Carl W. Buechner that states, "They may forget what you said, but they will not forget how you made them feel." She thinks about one of her teachers, Mrs. Pope, when she thinks about her purpose as an educator.
Cortez recalled being a talkative student and was told she had a hard time listening. But, she said that she loved school because of the way it made her feel safe and secure and was an escape from her life at home.
"My father was an alcoholic and took out a lot of his frustrations on my mom and uncles that lived with us," she recollected. "When my mother finally had the courage to leave, my mom, brothers and I left with a suitcase full of clothes and never looked back."
She was nine years old when she walked into Mrs. Pope's class during that difficult time of her life. However, Cortez said that her teacher took care of her in the midst of her chaotic life when she didn't have anything.
"I looked forward to going to school because I knew I was safe and that my teacher loved me," she said.
Now as a teacher, Cortez looks back to that year of her life and when she faces behavior issues in her classroom, she reminds herself that a student's home life affects their performance at school.
"Not only do I need to get to the root of the problem but also reassure that student that they are always safe in my classroom," Cortez explained. "I realize that before learning can ever occur, a child must feel safe and valuable."
She desires for every one of her students to feel like "the most amazing child in the world." She remembers the way Mrs. Pope built a relationship with her, made her feel safe and secure and instilled in her that she could do anything she set her heart on.
"I would have done anything for her," said Cortez. "She provided me a confidence I couldn't find at home."
She said that Mrs. Pope taught her that to be an effective teacher, she must build meaningful and loving relationships with her students and make her classroom feel like a family.
"I want each student to know he plays a role, to realize that his actions affect all of us, and that we must work together to help each one become the best five-year-old in the whole world."