2DHS Social Studies and Mexican-American Studies Teacher (center) poses with his students.

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

Juan Carmona, a Social Studies and Mexican-American Studies teacher at DHS, received the prestigious 2018 James F. Veninga Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award from Humanities Texas. According to Humanities Texas, more than 700 teachers from across the state were being considered for 16 different awards. Carmona was awarded the highest honor.

“I was in my classroom when I was looking over my mail and saw a huge envelope from Humanities Texas,” Carmona said. “That right away got me thinking that I had won because why would they send me such a big envelope for a denial. I opened the envelope and sure enough I had won. I was so proud. This award represents the hard work of me and my students. I wouldn’t be recognized if they weren’t out there accomplishing great things.”

Carmona was given the award for his role in advocating to create a Mexican-American Studies (MAS) class for high school students across Texas. He travelled to Austin numerous times to testify before the Texas State Board of Education in support of the new course. After several hearings and compelling testimony from Carmona and other Texas educators, the Board of Education approved a MAS class and eventually named it “Ethnic Studies: Mexican American Studies.”

1Pictured left to right are Nancy Castillo, DHS Principal; Terry Canales, State Representative District 40; Juan Carmona, DHS Teacher; Dr. Hafedh Azaiez, DISD Superintendent; and Marissa Kessenich, Humanities Texas Representative.

Carmona said it was a huge victory and opportunity for students to learn about the important contributions Mexican-Americans have made and continue to make in our society.

“My students are surprised to learn that many of the college professors we see when we attend MAS conferences were activists in the 1960s,” Carmona said. “One thing that was always on their list of things they wanted to see was a Mexican-American Studies class or Chicano Studies program in our schools. That was in the 60s but today we’re proud to finally say that we’re getting what we fought to accomplish for years.”

Carmona’s students were excited to hear the news about their teacher. “I’m so happy for him,” DHS senior Briana Alvarez said. “He’s an amazing teacher and wonderful person. I’m really happy that I’m in his class.”

“He is the number one teacher for Humanities in Texas and it’s so exciting to have him here with us at Donna High School,” DHS senior Amanda Valle said. “I really appreciate him as a teacher but also as a person who pushes us to be the best we can be.  He’s always there for the students and always wants to see us succeed in the classroom and beyond.”

3DHS Teacher Juan Carmona receives a Texas flag from State Representative Terry Canales.

Carmona was honored recently before administrators, colleagues and students at DHS. Also on hand was Terry Canales, State Representative for District 40. He applauded Carmona’s efforts in helping make it easier for every school in Texas to have the opportunity to offer a Mexican-American Studies class.

“His efforts have been crucial to the approval of a Mexican-American Studies class with curriculum and eventually state-selected textbooks,” Canales said. “This effort will hopefully lead to a new generation of Texas Hispanics who have a newfound way to learn of the rich contributions of Mexican-Americans.”