Killeen ISD teachers celebrate milestone award

Published: May. 15, 2023 at 4:43 PM CDT|Updated: May. 15, 2023 at 6:18 PM CDT
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KILLEEN, Texas (KWTX) - Killeen ISD has chosen two teachers to be awarded Teacher of the Year from across its 52 campuses, which comes with not only bragging rights but a $5,000 check.

The award was presented to one elementary educator and one secondary teacher and comes after months of peer and student reviews as well as applications and in-person interviews.

The winners chosen this year have a combined 30 years plus experience in the classroom.

Rosabelle Montero, a bilingual kindergarten teacher at Peebles Elementary School, was selected as Elementary Teacher of the Year while Amy Key, a chemistry teacher at Ellison High School, was given the honors as Secondary Teacher of the Year.

“It was amazing. It was a shock. I just stopped shaking,” Key said. “It’s just an honor. I’m honored I work with so many amazing teachers. To be in that same category, I’m truly honored and blessed.”

That feeling was shared by fellow winner Mrs. Montero.

“I’m just honored. This is just a very humbling experience. I wasn’t expecting this but it’s an honor to represent every hard-working teacher in the district. Just know that we are doing this job because we love the kids, and we are here for them,” Montero said.

Both teachers were surprised in the classroom by school and district leaders as well as family who came with confetti in hand along with the big news.

It’s a dream come true for Montero who thought she’d spend her life in a courtroom and not a classroom but realized she had many skills that could help students succeed.

Montero grew up in Puerto Rico and later earned a bachelor’s degree in legal studies from the University of Maryland and a master’s degree in children’s literacy development from Trident University International.

She says she dreamed of becoming a lawyer, but instead followed her heart and her daughter into the classroom.

She worked as a teacher assistant at Pershing Park Elementary for one year, before beginning as a bilingual teacher, first at Pershing Park and later at Peebles.

She is now in her 17th year of teaching.

“It’s very special because I can relate to them,” she said of teaching bilingual students. “I was taught English since first grade (in Puerto Rico), but we really didn’t practice English.”

Montero said she was once self-conscious about her Spanish accent but now uses it as a tool to connect to students and their families.

“I noticed in my students they were self-conscious talking to me. I relate to them. I share with them. I still make mistakes. We are learning English every day. That has made me more knowledgeable about the process going on in their head as they learn.”

“I also relate to the parents because they are in the same situation that I was in years ago with that language barrier. It helps me open a door for them.”

Key has taught various advanced science classes at Ellison High School in her 16-year career.

She was the tennis coach for 12 of those years up until the birth of her third child.

Ellison Principal David Dominguez praised Key for her commitment to the classroom as well as her devotion to students.

“I’m just honored that I work with so many amazing teachers,” Key said. " To have been in that same category as other amazing teachers, I’m just really truly honored and blessed that the people at this campus, the parents, the students thought I was worthy of receiving his award and I’ m just amazed,” Key said.

Student Cherilyn Lara Sandoval says Key was very deserving.

“I think what makes Mrs. Key special is she takes every student’s situation into matter when it comes to teaching. She adjust her teaching to every student,” she said.

Student Landon Ledbetter agreed and said Key is not only a great teacher but a good person.

“She always asks us how our day is going and when we walk in the class she says, ‘good morning.’ She makes you feel like you’re seen,” Ledbetter said.

“That’s my goal every day,” Key said. " Just to grow my students to be the best versions of themselves.”Mrs. Key and Mrs. Montero will now compete for Region 12′s Teacher of the Year which will take place in June.