Every year, the Texas Association of School Administrators selects a Teacher of the Year at the elementary and secondary levels.
This year, Christian DeBerry, a special education teacher at William P. Hobby Middle School, is one of three finalists in the secondary education category.
DeBerry was honored Wednesday at a ceremony at the school. The entire student body was treated to ice cream in her honor.
DeBerry was not on the road to becoming a teacher. A special needs child she encountered in college altered the path of her life, she said.
"I met this awesome little girl named Fiona. She has autism, and while I was in college, I was working on my business degree, and I met Fiona (while I was) baby-sitting, and she was amazing," said DeBerry. "I realized I wanted to work with students just like Fiona. She was special. She really really touched my heart and made me really feel needed for the first time in my life."
DeBerry has moved up from local and regional competitions to reach the finals in Austin this Friday. She was initially nominated for the honor by her piers at the school.
"The things she does with our special needs population is absolutely amazing," said Tracy Tietze, principal at Hobby Middle School. "Those kids have progressed and each day is a celebration with some of the things that they've accomplished."
Whether she takes the top prize or not, DeBerry is pleased with the recognition.
"I'm just very thankful that people are acknowledging teachers and that they are acknowledging my work with special needs kids," DeBerry said.