Velasquez’ Berdou a finalist in Excellence in Education

Pamela Berdou, center in glasses, poses with her family after being surprised in her classroom.

Pamela Berdou, center in glasses, poses with her family after being surprised in her classroom.

She was born to be in a classroom.

That’s what Velasquez 5th-grade reading teacher Pamela Berdou said while explaining her path to being nominated as a finalist in the HEB 2014 Excellence in Education Awards program.

The 24-year veteran – the daughter and granddaughter of teachers – is among one of only five teachers still in the running for the grand prize in the Elementary Lifetime Achievement category.

If Berdou is chosen, it will mean $25,000 for her and $25,000 for Velasquez Elementary. HEB will announce the winners May 3 in Houston after another round of interviews. Berdou has already won $1,000 and a matching $1,000 has gone to the school.

Officials from the grocery chain and the District surprised Berdou Friday in her classroom.

Velasquez principal Kera Faltysek praised her teacher’s dedication.

“If there is a new book series coming out that will appeal to younger readers, you can bet she is on the list to get the first copy,” Faltysek said. “She is always searching for ways bring a love of reading to her students.”

The Oprah Book Club has nothing on Berdou. Her students form “literacy circles” to discuss the novels they have read. Berdou admits things have changed in her 24 years in education, citing the effects technology has had in the classroom.

Except for one thing.

“The kids are the same,” she said. “As long as there is a child that needs me; not just as a teacher, but as a shoulder to cry on, the person to confide in, the one that they know they can turn to, I will be a teacher.”

Berdou measures success in her classroom by a child’s love of reading.

“I tell students on the first day of school that my goal is to find them the perfect book,” she said. “If a child leaves my room having read a book that touches their heart, connects to their life or made them laugh, then I am a success.”

And she knows where the money will go if she should win the big money.

“I’ll buy more books!” she said.

Lamar CISD has a history of success in the Excellence in Education program. The District was honored in the Large District category in 2009. Ray Elementary special education teacher Donald Clark earned the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006.

This is the third nomination for Velasquez.

Sharon Horn, who still teaches at Velasquez, was a finalist in the Leadership category in 2009 and former Velasquez principal Beth Dow was a finalist in 2008 for Elementary Principal.

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