The ones molding young minds in Stafford Municipal School District are being recognized for their contributions to forming the minds of tomorrow.
Maricela Diaz (Stafford Elementary), Zenikka Nichols (Stafford Intermediate), Djuna Cole (Stafford Middle School) and Nicole Herbert (Stafford High School) were recently named Stafford MSD’s campus teachers of the year.
On May 23, one of the four year will be selected as the 2018-19 Stafford MSD Teacher of the Year.
Diaz, an MSD veteran, has a master’s degree from Houston Baptist University and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Houston. She recently watched her first group of first graders graduate from Stafford High. She taught first grade for eight years, kindergarten for the past eight and also serves as the campus’ ESL/Bilingual Coordinator.
“I love my kindergartners,” Diaz said. “I love teaching them how to read and seeing that light bulb go off.”
Nichols is in her fourth year as a sixth grade Science/Social Studies teacher at Stafford Intermediate. Although she’s relatively new to public education, she said “teaching” is nothing new for her.
“When I graduated from kindergarten in Clinton, Miss., the teacher asked the students, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’,” she said. “For me, it was a teacher. I was always teaching. In Sunday school, as a teller. Four years ago, I was blessed to become a teacher in Stafford.”
She credits her faith with her move to Houston, and will soon be at the district’s new middle school campus when it opens.
She is working on a master’s degree from Houston Baptist University.
“The Lord brought me to Houston,” Nichols said. “I came here on faith. I didn’t know anyone.”
Cole is in her fourth year teaching seventh grade English at Stafford Middle School. A native of Springfield, Ohio, Cole earned a bachelor’s degree from Ohio State University and a master’s degree from Troy University in Alabama.
“I love education and learning,” Cole said. “Coming to Stafford MSD was an unexpected blessing and opportunity. I believe in the power of the written word.”
Herbert grew up in Houston, and her ties to the area – many of her cousins graduated from Stafford MSD, while her fifth grade teacher in Houston was Don Jones, who came to Stafford MSD to work as a principal – has played a key role in staying.
“Stafford MSD has given me the chance to grow personally and professionally,” she said. “We have a lot of opportunities to hone our craft and reach our students.”
After graduating from Trinity University in San Antonio, Herbert later worked for two neighboring school districts. She’s in her fourth year at Stafford High School, where she teaches freshman and sophomore English and ESL, and serves as the school’s UIL journalism sponsor.
“I want to make sure every child knows they mean something, and I try to balance accountability with grace,” she said.