Donna High School Principal Nancy Castillo presents Certificate of Commendation to teacher Juan Carmona.

A Donna High School faculty member is being touted as one of the best history teachers in the state of Texas.

Juan Carmona, a U.S. History and Mexican-American Studies teacher at DHS, was awarded a certificate of commendation from the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA) for outstanding achievement in the preservation and advancement of history in Texas.

Carmona was awarded the honor for his involvement in the Texas History Day Program, a highly regarded academic program for students in grades 6-12. He also received a letter from TSHA Director of Education Services Mary Katherine Marshall commending him for his support of the study of history.

“Juan Carmona has demonstrated great commitment to the Texas History Day Program by providing students the opportunity to excel in the study of history, thereby earning much deserved recognition as one of the top history teachers in the State of Texas,” Marshall said. “According to your local Regional Coordinator, Michael Faubion, ‘Mr. Carmona has, in a very short time, made his school competitive at the regional level and has taught his students the value of primary research in history.’ ”

Students gather around teacher Juan Carmona.

Carmona credited his students for his recognition. “Awards like this are more about the students because they are the ones who produce all the work. I just guide them through it.”

The Texas History Day Program encourages students to choose historical topics related to a theme and conduct extensive research at libraries, archives, museums and historical sites. They then create a plan and present their findings at regional, state, and national contests. Carmona was instrumental in getting his students to participate for the first time last year. They competed in the documentary category. “Last year was our first year doing it and we won first place at regionals with our documentary about the Edcouch-Elsa Walkout of ’68.”

This year, Carmona was able to get more students to participate and compete in three categories. The topics they selected were the Porvenir massacre, the 1971 Pharr riots and La Matanza 1915. “My history teachers would always tell me ‘don’t write me a normal paper. Don’t write that George Washington was the greatest president in the world. Tell me something different.’ So, when we look for stories to tell at Texas History Day, we look for something that stands out. We look for something that isn’t normally in the history books. I tell my students, ‘that’s what’s going to get you recognized at competition.’ ”

Students Araceli Zamora and Alondra Chapa were among the students who received a Certificate for Distinguished Achievement.

This year, some of his students received certificates for distinguished achievement. “I’m grateful not only because we got recognized but also because we got to represent a topic that’s not talked about,” Araceli Zamora said. “Mr. Carmona’s recognition is very well deserved. He’s here very early and stays very late all for our success and he does a lot for us.”

Student Alondra Chapa echoed Zamora’s sentiments. “The whole achievement was very well deserved. We were so excited to share everything that we learned because without Mr. Carmona we’d be lost, honestly. He’s the one who kept us on track and focused.”

Carmona’s hope is to get more students to appreciate the study of history. “I love the subject. I left healthcare after 15 years to pursue my study of history. History is about our stories, how we got here, why we are here. I’m especially passionate about the untold stores. I find it endlessly fascinating.”