SVHS Teacher receives award

By Richard Zowie

Times Guardian Staff Writer

P.C. "Cricket" Ingraham, a tenth-grade English teacher at Smithson Valley High School, finished second recently in the H.E.B.'s Excellence in Awards program that paid $25,000 to the winner and $25,000 to their school.

The teacher was specifically nominated in the Lifetime Achievement category, which honors teachers with more than 20 years of experience. She has taught for 30 years, 14 of them at SVHS.

Ingraham learned she'd become a finalist on May 7 when H.E.B. officials and H.E.B. Buddy surprised her with a visit to her classroom. They presented her with $1,000, flowers, a cake and balloons. SVHS also received a $1,000 grant from the South Texas grocery chain.

"[The school visit] was very surprising," recalled Ingraham, who also teaches and sponsors the Peer Assistance Leadership class. "I had forgotten all about it. It's a long time between sending in paperwork. I honestly someone had put a drug in my Diet Coke. It had been a very long Friday."

The H.E.B. Excellence in Education Awards, which recognizes principals and teachers, began in 2001. With $420,000 in cash and grants, it's the largest monetary awards program for educators in the state.

As a finalist, Ingraham also received an all-expenses-paid trip to Austin. There, she stayed at the Four Seasons Hotel, spoke with a statewide selection committee, participated in an education forum, attended a reception in her and other teachers' honors at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum and also met H.E.B. chairman Charles Butt.

"I was so impressed with his commitment to education," said Ingraham. "Mr. Butt was very unassuming and cordial, and I was also impressed with the people who worked under him. Everything first class, and it was a phenomenal experience."

Ingraham described her class as one that focuses more on writing. The students read short stories of Ray Bradbury and the poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay, responding to the readings through writing. She said the PALs program focuses on mentoring and service projects. Of about 600 juniors and seniors nominated, about 45 make the final cut.

Kari Hutchison, CISD spokesperson, said Ingraham is known among peers and parents for going the extra mile.

"In addition to typical classroom duties, she arrives early and stays late at school to tutor students," Hutchison said. "Fellow educators call her the 'teacher of teachers.'"

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