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TCSS Awards, Grants & Scholarships

Billy Sills Distinguished Service Award

Mary Smith, the recipient for the Billy Sills Distinguished Service Award for 2018, has worked in the field of social studies for the past thirty-one years and continues to contribute to that field after retirement. Most of her employment and volunteer work has been in the northwest part of Houston.

Raised in Midland, Texas, she returned to her native Houston to raise her three children, Mauri, Trey, and Todd along with her husband of fifty-two years, Bennie. Influenced by both her mother and her father with a love of history, Mary graduated with a BA in history from SMU and began teaching in Arlington, Texas, and then Port Arthur, Texas. The family then moved to Washington state where they enjoyed the beautiful Northwest. After a brief move to Midland, the family moved to Houston, settling in the Cypress-Fairbanks area where Mary went to work once Todd was in kindergarten. This was her educational home for the next 28 years except for a short three year living and teaching experience in Saudi Arabia.

During this time in Cy Fair there was rapid growth in the student population and great change in our knowledge about how students learned. Cy Fair was a great district in training their teachers in these new methods. Mary began in Cy Fair teaching US history in an open concept high school and became a team leader the following year. As a new high school opened, she became the department chair. Along the way, Mary completed her MEd in Education and her Administrative certification from Prairie View University. With other individuals in Cy Fair, the Bluebonnet Council was founded which included several districts across west Houston. Eventually, the Cypress Fairbanks Council for the Social Studies was created from it.

Actively working with students interested in Model United Nations and in participating in National History Day, Mary had many interesting trips with the students to Washington, DC and even one to Qatar. Her local CFCSS awarded her the Joe Janca Award for Outstanding Service for Social Studies three times, and she received two grants to study, one a National Endowment for the Humanities grant to study the effect of colonialism on the Non-Western World and a Korean Cultural Society Fellowship for study in South Korea. Continuing her passion for National History Day, Mary sponsored anonymously the Jane McCallum Women in Texas Award (Outstanding Women in Texas) at the Texas History Day contest in Austin, Texas, 2007- 2016.

The “testing world” arrived in Texas about the same time that Mary returned from Saudi Arabia and became a coordinator. Her philosophy, along with several other supervisors, was that it was important to work for the success of the students of Texas rather than just for the success of the students in individual districts - that to improve all students would also improve the results of all districts. As a result, Mary presented the strategies being used successfully in Cy Fair multiple times at TCSS, TSSSA, NCSS, and NSSSA. She has served as vice-president of TCSS and in multiple offices for TSSSA, including president. She currently writes occasional articles for The Texan and helps proofread the magazine. She was awarded the Texas Social Studies Supervisor of the Year for 2003-4 and the Educational Leadership Award in 2006, in recognition of significant contributions to education in the greater Houston Metropolitan area, by the Houston Suburban School Chapter of TASCD.

In retirement, Mary Smith is also active in community affairs especially in the American Association of University Women (AAUW). One of the projects which captures her time and passion is the Summit program which holds a day-long seminar in lower socio- economic high schools for ninth-grade girls. It includes such topics as having healthy relationships, being safe on the internet, never giving up, taking more dual-credit courses, and more. The Summit program has increased graduation rates, increased attendance rates, reduced rates of discipline referrals, and increased the number of students taking dual credit courses. She is also active in raising money for fellowships and grants for local community charities. Six years after retirement, she continues to meet with the local council, Cy Fair Council for Social Studies, serving as their Board Representative to the state organization, TCSS.

High School Teacher of the Year

Amanda Killough, The TCSS Outstanding High School Teacher of the year recipient for 2018, has been teaching high school geography or AP Human Geography for 17 years. She knew from a very young age that teaching would be her life-long passion. Her two brothers and neighborhood friends endured “playing school” as often as they would let her. She was a prolific reader of novels growing up and would carry them on every family vacation to ensure she had a chance to finish them! During the first eight years of her career, she also coached basketball, volleyball and track in addition to being in the classroom.
Amanda Killough was born in Houston, TX and grew up in Baytown, TX, where her parents still reside. Amanda graduated from Deer Park High School where she played basketball and participated in the choir. She went on to earn a degree in history and later, an education degree from the University of Houston-Clear Lake. Amanda has taught World History and US History but her passion lies in geography, especially teaching 9th graders.

Though she has taught at four schools throughout Texas, she has found a home at Flower Mound High School. She had the privilege of starting the AP Human Geography program specifically for 9th graders. This course is attached to English and is offered as a humanities course, which allows for collaboration for both the students and the teachers. Amanda has a love for creating lessons that foster relationships within the community. Her innovative lessons allow students to view the world beyond her classroom, while creating opportunities for students to serve others.

Amanda is heavily involved in a number of clubs on campus for various groups of students. One of her favorite organizations is the Humans of Flower Mound club. Started by a former student, this group shares the voice of ordinary students on a social media platform. In addition, she coordinates her former students into leading organized study sessions. These meetings serve a dual purpose: as instructional reviews for her current AP students, as well as fostering opportunities for upperclassmen to perform a needed service for the school. Professionally, Amanda has led numerous sessions for campus and district in-services. On a larger scale, she has presented at TCSS and NCGE on various geographic topics. Amanda was recently honored from NCGE in Quebec, Canada at the International Conference for Geographic Education as the 2018 K-12 Distinguished Teacher, an award honoring her dedication to geographic education.

Betty Barringer Middle School Teacher of the Year

Will Waghorne, the TCSS High School Teacher of the Year recipient for 2018, teaches middle school U.S. History at Canyon Vista Middle School in Austin, Texas. This group of motivated students, collaborative colleagues, and supportive administrators contribute to a fantastic pubic school that supports social sciences and innovation in all respects. Will has the pleasure of heading up the Social Studies department, as well as Junior Historians, Geography Club, Makerspace, and more! His honors also include the Texas State Historical Association David C. DeBoe Award as leader of the Canyon Vista Middle School’s Junior Historian chapter.

Originally from a tiny Texas town on the Gulf Coast called Seadrift, Texas, Will Waghorne has made Austin home for 20 years, including 11 in Round Rock Independent School District. After graduating from St. Joseph HS in Victoria, TX, Will moved to Austin to attend the University of Texas, graduating with a B.A in American Studies, and later from Texas State University with a M.Ed. in Secondary Education. Round Rock ISD has supported an environment that included participation in numerous district and statewide conferences; multiple grant opportunities, and social studies curriculum cadres. As a lifelong learner, Will’s interests include educational technology, personalization of student learning and transformational leadership. He also volunteers for Gateway Church leading a high-energy production for elementary students.

Elementary Teacher of the Year

Frederika Jesus, the TCSS Elementary Social Studies Teacher of the Year recipient for 2018, has been teaching elementary Social Studies for 26 years, but she has had a heart for all forms of teaching from a young age. Traveling to Mexico as a teen, she taught Vacation Bible School to 7 and 8 year olds. There was singing and crafts, friendships were fostered and young students returned yearly to visit, assist and help. She journeyed there each every summer for eight years. Even though Frederika only spoke some Spanish, a special bond was there. Eventually she met families and was invited to celebrations, and high school graduations. This is when she knew she was a teacher.

Frederika Jesus was born in Houston, Texas. Her family moved and eventually settled in Austin, Texas. She graduated from Crockett High School and earned a Bachelors Degree in Applied Learning and Development from the University of Texas. She minored in Geography. She became an elementary school teacher in Bastrop and Austin ISD where she taught grades 2nd through 5th. After several years in the classroom, Frederika went back to graduate school and earned a Masters degree in Advanced Literacy from Texas Concordia University. Frederika has a special love for creating unique lesson ideas and teaching methods. Thus, she was chosen to help write Social Studies Curriculum for Austin Independent School District. She also shares her love for social studies as she is part of the TIP (new teacher) Training Program for second grade in her district.

Frederika is very involved with her community. Frederika teaches second grade at Cowan Elementary School in Austin. She currently serves as the Social Studies Advocate for her school. She participates in book studies writing curriculum on topics such as immigration, social justice, and slavery. She is a regional and state level judge for Texas History Day. Frederika works as an educational consultant with the company, Social Studies School Service. She was a contributor to their elementary online textbook program and a classroom fellow. In her spare time, Frederika enjoys fishing, reading, and travel. She loves spending time with her husband of 25 years and two boys.

NOVA Teacher of the Year

Traniece A. Brown-Warrens, the TCSS NOVA recipient for 2018 has been teaching 8th grade U.S. History for the last 3 years. Her knack for teaching stems from her natural ability to make connections between the real world and the content. She has coined the term Hip-Hop History for the way in which she infuses music, movies, YouTube clips, meme’s and Social Media in class to bring a once “boring” subject to life. Her students have fallen in love with the idea and have even started to make connections of their own.

Traniece A. Brown-Warrens was born and raised in Sacramento, California. She graduated from California State University-Sacramento with a Bachelors in Psychology and Liberty University with a Master’s in Education-School Counseling. Her love for travel and adventure has allowed her to travel all over the world. She has visited 3 different Continents, over 20 different Countries and almost half of the States in America. These experiences have allowed her to bring the world to her students and open their minds to the endless possibilities of life outside of their neighborhoods.

Traniece is very involved with her school and community. She is currently Edison Middle Schools Social Studies Department Chair, HISD Social Studies Teacher Leader, and HISD Instructional Excellence Coach. Through these roles, she has the opportunity to mentor teachers and expand her educational toolkit. Among her leadership roles she is also the Girls Basketball Head Coach at Edison Middle School. Traniece is also the Vice President of Southeast Council for the Social Studies (SECSS). She works hard at setting a positive example for her students and being the spark of energy her students need to excel.

When she is not motivating students in class, Traniece likes to attend sporting events, read, paint, and travel. She also dreams of opening her own Café someday. Traniece currently resides in Houston, TX.

Stalwart Grant Recipients 


Nicole Vickerman is Department Chair and Geography team leader at Clark High School in Plano ISD. (21 years teaching experience)

Nicole has been selected to participate in the Brussels Study Tour with the Center for International Studies at The University of Pittsburg in June of 2018. She will use the grant money to help offset costs not covered by the center. She plans to extend her tour to see more of Belgium while there so she can write a larger variety of geography lessons.

Samuel J. Ayers is an Associate Professor at Lubbock Christian University-School of Education. (33 years teaching experience)

He will author a reference book that will bring a much needed resource for teachers and students that will highlight the lives, contributions and achievements of over fifty African Americans from the Lubbock community. He will provide the completed hardcover resource free of charge to school libraries in the school district, as well as to charter and private school libraries in the area, and to the four public libraries in Lubbock. He intends for the project to be completed by Spring 2019.

Traniece Brown-Warrens is an 8th grade US history teacher at Edison Middle School in Houston ISD. (3 years teaching experience)

Traniece wants to transform her classroom into an inquisitive hub where students have an opportunity to take ownership of their learning experience by purchasing Breakout EDU Escape Room activities that will help students become investigators who can propose and answer level 3 and 4 depth of knowledge questions. Breakout EDU escape room activities will be used for review sessions and Saturday Tutorials. The purpose will be to help students enhance their 21st century skills of collaboration, critical thinking, teamwork, creativity, imagination and problem solving.

William Waghorne is a 6/7 grade teacher at Canyon Vista Middle School in Round Rock ISD. (10 years teaching experience)

William will use the grant money to obtain a Theta S camera for students to capture and share 360° images. These images will help students understand their surroundings in the context of the world at large. Students will primarily use the materials to collaborate on social studies projects in grades 6-8. They will place their captured images in the context of the rest of the state, and world, with tools like Google Earth and Stratologica. Teachers will work closely with IT and library staff to utilize the requested materials and to incorporate research into their products.

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