Cooperative Program Office announces 2023 Baptist educator award recipients

by Texas Baptist Communications on October 31, 2023 in News

DALLAS—The Texas Baptists Office of Cooperative Program Ministry announced recipients of its 2023 Baptist Educators Serving Texans (B.E.S.T.) Award on Thursday, Oct. 26.

The B.E.S.T. Award is given annually to honor a teacher or administrator who lives out their faith in the service of students. Recipients must be an alumnus of a Texas Baptists educational institution, a member of a Texas Baptists church and serve in a Texas public school.

One winner from each of the nine universities that relate to Texas Baptists was selected. The B.E.S.T. Awards recipients for 2023 are:

Josias Hernandez, a graduate of the Baptist University of the Americas and high school Spanish teacher in La Grange ISD;

Liz Hagins, a graduate of Baylor University and middle school instructional coach in Midway ISD;

Lori Rapp, a graduate of Dallas Baptist University and superintendent in Lewisville ISD;

Dori Ballard, a graduate of East Texas Baptist University and PK-2 tech educator and instructional technologist in New Boston ISD;

Darby Isereau, a graduate of Houston Christian University and elementary school teacher in Cleveland ISD;

Judith Ozuna, a graduate of Howard Payne University and high school principal in Early ISD;

Jimmy Pogue, a graduate of Hardin-Simmons University and high school English teacher and student council sponsor in Abilene ISD;

Mark Fitzwater, a graduate of the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor and director of Media Services and Tiger Media in Belton ISD;

and Sarah Silva Wallace, a graduate of Wayland Baptist University and elementary principal in Plainview ISD.

Christian character in the classroom

Bruce McCoy, director of the Office of Cooperative Program Ministry, extolled the contributions of the educators chosen.

“Texas Baptists celebrates these graduates, who live out their Christian character daily in their classrooms and schools through the love and support they show to their students,” McCoy said.

As “salt and light” in the classroom, these educators are being the presence of Christ to many children who may never step foot inside a church.

McCoy noted that of the more than 350,000 public school educators in Texas, approximately 6-8% are graduates from the nine universities who receive financial support through the Texas Baptists Cooperative Program.

Focus on Christian education

Since its inception in 1886, Christian higher education has remained a focus of Texas Baptists.

Per its constitution, the object of the convention reads in part “to awaken and stimulate among the churches the greatest possible activity in evangelism, missions, Christian education and benevolent work and enterprises.”

Today, approximately 800 new public educators are prepared for teaching and administration each year through Texas Baptists universities.

The B.E.S.T. Award, started in 2020, aims to recognize the substantial impact of Texas Baptists universities on the public school system, celebrate educators and administrators who live out their faith to students served and remind churches that their Cooperative Program giving prepares tomorrow’s educators for the mission field of the classroom.

Visit to learn more about the award and view past recipients.

Texas Baptists is a movement of God’s people to share Christ and show love by strengthening churches and ministers, engaging culture and connecting the nations to Jesus.

The ministry of the convention is made possible by giving through the Texas Baptists Cooperative Program, Mary Hill Davis Offering® for Texas Missions, Texas Baptists Worldwide and Texas Baptist Missions Foundation. Thank you for your faithful and generous support.

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