Somerset elementary is 1 of 5 in US in running for $50,000 teaching prize

School received $10,000 as NIET Founder’s Award finalist

Somerset Elementary School. (National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET))

An elementary school in Somerset ISD was named among the five finalists for the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching Founders’ Award — and it was the only Texas school to make the list.

NIET on Tuesday announced that Somerset Elementary School earned $10,000 for its selection as a finalist, and it is in contention for the $50,000 grand prize.

The institute helps its partner schools like Somerset Elementary School with developing teacher leaders, creating successful curriculum and building educator capacity.

The school, which implemented NIET’s initiatives in 2009, was chosen as a finalist because it focuses on the real-time needs of students and teachers and cultivates a culture of collaboration, among other factors, a news release states. It was also recently named a 2022 National Blue Ribbon School by the Texas Education Agency.

“Somerset Elementary Principal Nieves Carrales understands the importance of effective teaching to student success. True to form, she has developed a team of instructional leaders who empower teachers and students alike to reach their highest potential,” NIET Chairman and Founder Lowell Milken said the release.

The release added that partner schools have access to tools, resources, coaches and a network of educators. Partner schools have also shown greater teacher retention compared to similar schools.

NIET Co-President Laura Encalade said the model teaches professional development and leadership for long-term success.

Somerset Elementary School serves nearly 590 students in the city of Somerset, southwest of San Antonio. About 93% of students are Hispanic, and about 86% of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch.

NIET said Principal Nieves Carrales’ model helps ensure students have access to quality education.

“Our beliefs on our campus align with NIET’s idea that student success is truly tied to the quality of the teacher within the classroom,” Carrales said in the release. “At Somerset, we spend a great deal of time focusing on growing teachers, building capacity, and making sure we have instructional leaders throughout our campus because we know that, in turn, student success falls in line.”

Across the U.S., NIET has partnered with more than 9,200 schools.

The other four finalists for the grand prize include Brown County High School in Indiana; Southport 6th Grade Academy in Indiana; Logansport High School in Louisiana, and Cross County High School in Arkansas.

The winner will be announced on March 10 at the NIET National Conference in Dallas.

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Rebecca Salinas joined KSAT in the fall of 2019. Her skills include content management, engagement and reporting.