One of the best teachers in the greater Houston region resides on Galveston Island.
Tammy Heffernan, a 22-year veteran of Galveston Independent School District and third-grade teacher at Oppe Elementary School of Coastal Studies, is one of five nominees for the Region IV Teacher of The Year award. Heffernan will be honored along with the other four nominees selected from nearly 50 school districts at a dinner Aug. 6 in Houston. This is the first time in recent memory a Galveston teacher has made the final five.
“Through the whole process, my students, the class and the pride they’ve shown, they are just so excited,” Heffernan said. “They’ve been saying ‘We’re so good, we won because we’re an awesome class.’ Families, parents and the community — everyone is so tickled and I’m so thrilled for them.”
Heffernan faced a long road on the way to being named one of the final five nominees. First, Oppe staff named her campus teacher of the year. She won districtwide elementary teacher of the year honors at the GISD Teacher and Employee of the Year celebration May 19.
Following her district win, Heffernan had to submit five essays on a variety of subjects, including her educational philosophy, her influences, her community involvement, her message to fellow educators should she win teacher of the year, and one on a current issue in education. She then went before an interview panel with former Texas teachers of the year.
Heffernan grew up in Galveston and graduated from O’Connell High School before attending Galveston College and University of Houston at Clear Lake for her bachelor’s in early education. Her two children, son Blaine and daughter Riley, now attend Austin Middle School and Oppe Elementary, respectively.
A variety of great teachers and her grandmother were the main reason she became a teacher. An only child, her grandmother Ruth Taylor encouraged her to do what she loved and pushed her to consider college. Ironically, her since-passed grandmother’s birthday fell on the night she picked up her district teacher of the year award.
“I loved my teachers, they were just amazing,” Heffernan said. “They made me feel smart, loved and so special. Then to work with some of those teachers, those were people I admired and looked up to.”
A big basis of Heffernan’s philosophy of education centers on building relationships with families and community partners to help provide a quality education. She has been heavily involved with school programs such as DARE, a math game night and the annual Oppe Carnvial and Ocean Discovery Night. Through the Galveston Junior League, she worked with the Ronald McDonald House, the Books Alive program at the Boys and Girls Club, and presents fire safety demonstrations at community fairs.
“Children must know we are a team working together,” Heffernan said. “That child has to have the goal set, know where they are going, and be a part of their own learning and progress to be able to reach their full potential. The message needs to be that it’s not us alone, it’s all of us.”