A Cinco Ranch Junior High instructor recently received national recognition, earning a "Top Teacher" award from the ABC talk show "LIVE with Kelly and Michael" for her efforts teaching children with autism.
Hosts Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan awarded Suzette Steward with the honor of "LIVE 2013 Top Teacher" via satellite May 7 after considering and narrowing down hundreds of teacher nominations across the nation. An online public vote determined Steward as the winner.
After Steward learned she was a Top 5 finalist, a camera crew visited Cinco Ranch Junior High to film a segment of her interactions with students in the classroom. She was flown May 2 to the set of the ABC television show in New York.
Steward received a 2014 Ford Escape, a trip to Tahiti and $25,000 for Cinco Ranch for winning the award.
Steward has demonstrated a commitment to her students both inside the classroom through the Junior High Children with Autism Program (JCAP) and outside with social interactions and events. After beginning her career nine years ago at Exley Elementary, Steward came to Cinco Ranch in 2010.
Katy ISD features four JCAPs, with Steward helping head the program at Cinco Ranch. Steward said she has taught one of her 14 students graduating from eighth grade for nine years and a few other students for seven years.
"I see a lot of progress (in my students) out in the community," Steward said. "You see them grow and see them start making the connections they haven't made before. It's so exciting to see that growth, and it makes you want to branch out and try new things."
Steward's average day consists of helping students with learning skills in areas such as fine motor, typing, math, money management, science, vocational, socialization and reading. Steward said she takes community-based instruction trips twice a month to allow her students to learn how to grocery shop and apply their skills learned in the classroom, as well as take part in entertainment activities such as going to the park, mall or movies.
In addition to teaching students during regular school hours, Steward teaches an afterschool program, offers "Weekend Respite" to help out parents. She also organizes an 11-week summer event called "Camp Journey."
"I want them to have everything I could ever possibly give them," Steward said.
Katy residents Bill and Peggy Bain hosted a congratulatory party May 18 for Steward with about 215 guests from the community. Bill Bain said he and his wife make available their lake to Steward and her students during the summer for activities and swim lessons.
"She's just a real special person," Bill Bain said. "They recognized her for her honesty and willingness, and there is no pretension about her."