Joe Paneitz and Francesca Rathke proudly show off their trophies naming them Teachers of the Year.

Joe Paneitz, a robotics teacher at the Career and Technical Education Center, is the Humble ISD and Secondary Teacher of the Year. Paneitz won a $10,000 cash prize sponsored by Robbins Chevrolet at the Humble ISD Education Foundation Gala April 12.

Paneitz has shifted the culture in his classroom by providing students the opportunity to use their engineering and problem-solving skills both in and outside of the classroom. He challenges his students to come up with solutions for real-world problems, transforming engineering concepts into tangible products. He recently challenged his students to create an assistive device for a retired Humble ISD teacher who was diagnosed with ALS. His students built devices that would make everyday life a little easier for the retired teacher.

“The gravity of the lesson pulled in 100% of the class because it was more than just a lesson,” Paneitz said. “It was a purpose that all kids can feel and a practical pathway to prosperity.”

Francesca Rathke, first-grade teacher at Whispering Pines, is the Elementary Teacher of the Year. Rathke received a getaway trip to a home in the Florida Keys donated by Kathleen Monahan and Christian Eldringhoff and a first-class, round-trip flight for two donated by United Airlines.

From left, Tiffany Curtis, Cinthia Ureta, Anita McKeague, Joe Paneitz, Francesca Rathke, Sarah Hill, Michael Blayney, Allison Janes, Kristen Lynam and Lisa Sonnier were named the finalists for Humble ISD Teacher of the Year.

Rathke works to create a classroom environment where her students feel empowered each day. Rathke credits her Foster Elementary second-grade teacher, Mrs. Spiegelmire, for inspiring her to make learning fun and memorable. She hopes to leave the same impact on her students at Whispering Pines.

“My hope is that my students will look back on their first-grade year and feel just as empowered, inspired and confident as I did in Mrs. Spiegelmire’s class,” Rathke said. “I want these memories to last forever.”

District Teacher of the Year finalists were: Paneitz; Rathke; Anita McKeague-Elm Grove Elementary, fourth grade; Allison Janes-Fall Creek Elementary, music; Lisa Sonnier-Maplebrook Elementary, Kindergarten; Tiffany Curtis-Oak Forest Elementary, fifth grade; Michael Blayney-Riverwood Middle School, health; Sarah Hill-Ross Sterling Middle School, world cultures; Cinthia Ureta-Timberwood Middle School, RELA; and Kristen Lynam-Kingwood Park High School, biology.