The University Interscholastic League is proud to recognize 16 of the top UIL sponsors in Texas as the 2012 UIL Sponsor Excellence Award winners.
The winners were selected by a panel of judges in the areas of music, athletics and academics from nominations submitted by school principals and superintendents across the state.
The award, now in its 22nd year, was created to identify and recognize outstanding sponsors who enable students to develop and refine their extracurricular talents to the highest degree possible within the educational system.
“The benefits of interscholastic competition and student performance are only possible through the hard work and dedication of sponsors, coaches and directors like these,” said UIL Executive Director Dr. Charles Breithaupt. “On behalf of the UIL, I commend these outstanding educators.”
Each winner will receive $1,000 and a distinctive trophy from the UIL in recognition of their outstanding achievements in the pursuit of educational excellence through interscholastic competition. The University Interscholastic League continually strives to strengthen and promote the role of extracurricular activities in Texas through programs like the UIL Sponsor Excellence Award.
The UIL Sponsor Excellence Award winners for 2012 are as follows:
Stacey Armstrong, Houston Cypress Woods High School
During his 14 years of sponsoring various UIL academic contests, Stacey Armstrong has lead his computer science teams to four state championships with an additional three individual state championships. Armstrong has also coached math, science, number sense, calculator applications and spelling.
“Through UIL Academics, I can provide a home and a sense of belonging for students that might not otherwise have a niche,” Armstrong said. “UIL Academics helps give students a sense of purpose, and through the group we build a family atmosphere that rewards hard work and determination.”
Tommy Brakel, North Crowley High School
Tommy Brakel has served as a boys basketball coach for 19 years and an athletic coordinator for 12 years. Brakel coached North Crowley to a boys basketball state championship in 2008 and he has coached 54 student-athletes who went on to participate in collegiate athletics.
“Athletics helps mold character in these young men and women,” Brakel said, “through core values such as work ethic, integrity, ability to work well with others, self-discipline and responsibility just to name a few.”
Nelly Cuellar-Garcia, Zapata High School
UIL Coordinator, One-Act Play and Poetry Sponsor, Nelly Cuellar-Garcia has been a dedicated sponsor of UIL activities for the past 29 years. She has led her one-act play students to the state level four times in the past eight years. Cuellar-Garcia believes the ideas and philosophies of UIL competition reflect what is best about teaching.
“UIL fosters competition that allows our students to understand that the brain and all its endeavors is the most highly prized of human tools,” Cuellar-Garcia said.
David Fulkerson, Boerne Champion High School
In David Fulkerson’s 21 years as a track and cross country coach, he has seen a lot of success. Fulkerson’s cross country teams have won five state championships in the past nine years and he has coached nine individual state champions in cross country and track events in the past 12 years.
“I think it is very important to teach the young people with who I work to be good students, good athletes and good people,” Fulkerson said. “Our athletic and academic success should never come at the cost of losing our moral compass.”
Marisa Maher, Dripping Springs High School
Marisa Maher has served as head boys and girls cross country and track coach since 2002, and has served as girls athletic coordinator for seven years. Maher coached state cross country qualifying teams in 2003, 2005 and 2010. She has also coached 16 state qualifying individuals in boys and girls cross country and track.
“As a coach, if I help to foster successful people they will build a winning tradition. Athletics is one stop along their journey,” Maher said. “But if they have learned the key elements to victory, they will continue to be lifelong success stories in whichever realm they choose to pursue.”
Leigh Ann McClure, Keller Central High School
For the past 30 years, Leigh Ann McClure has been involved in UIL Solo Ensemble Contest and sight-reading contest. Over the past six years, McClure has lead eight Keller Central High students to a Texas State Solo-Ensemble “Outstanding Performers” rating.
“The mission statement of our campus challenges us to ‘… inspire in all students the desire to learn, the courage to lead, the value of proven character…’” McClure said. “If competition helps our students achieve these worthy goals, then each of us is on the path to our destination—personal satisfaction and thus, success.”
Melonie Menefee, Buffalo High School
Melonie Menefee has served as a UIL coordinator for 10 years, but before that she started three entirely new programs, two in journalism and one in debate. Throughout her long career, she has sent several teams and individuals to state and continues to encourage her students to learn outside the classroom through competition.
“UIL has let us open a new world for some of these students,” Meneffee said, “No matter what their level of success they have all come away with new experiences to take with them as they leave high school and head out into their future.”
Magda Mirelez, Bay City High School
Bay City High School has seen great success in speech, debate and one-act play, in large part because of Magda Mirelez’s contributions as a UIL Sponsor. Mirelez has led her teams to eight state championships and has coached 72 speech event state qualifiers.
“We believe that the UIL Experience allows us to empower students beyond what they ever imagined,” Mirelez said. “Like most coaches, I discovered when students find commonality in competition and passion in telling the story, they look beyond the color of their skin, past socio economic status, beyond personal preferences and differences, and see only the color of ones character, the worth of our service, and fortitude of heart.”
Weldon Nelms, Wimberley High School
In Weldon Nelms’ 33 years as a coach, including 29 years as head football coach and athletic director he has served thousands of student-athletes. Nelms has led his football team to the playoffs 22 of the past 29 years and won state championships in 2005 and 2011. Nelms says his goal is to teach pride in self, school, family and community.
“I want to excel as a positive and effective role model for student athletes, as well as instill the importance of leadership and education,” Nelms said.
Kay Owens, Arlington Martin High School
Arlington Martin High School’s music department has reached success in many areas because of Kay Owens’ dedication as a UIL Music sponsor. Owens has been a concert & sight-reading contest and solo-ensemble festival sponsor for 20 years. Each year she directs seven choirs in UIL participation.
“Competition can be a very healthy part of the educational process,” Owens said. “With that said, the overall mission in a fine arts program should be to create the love of music in our students. The UIL contest sets a standard for the students and we strive to reach the top level of that standard each year.”
Cheryl Potts, Plano High School
In her nearly 19 years as a speech and debate coach, Cheryl Potts has coached many students in Lincoln-Douglas debate, persuasive and informative speaking, current issues and events, and cross-examination debate. Potts has coached six state champion students in debate and numerous state qualifiers.
“Philosophically, I think competition is a necessary component in the educational process,” Potts said. “In UIL competition my students have the opportunity to apply knowledge and critical thinking skills to new situations.”
Kirby Rankin, Wall High School
Kirby Rankin has coached computer science for 23 years and has served as UIL Academic Coordinator for six years. Rankin has also coached computer applications for 16 years. Throughout his service, Rankin has helped qualify 14 different students in seven years for state computer science contests, including three individual state champions.
“Academic competition provides students the opportunity to expand their education beyond the classroom walls,” Rankin said. “Competition also provides students the opportunity to expand the breath of their education beyond the curriculum.”
Jonathan Robertson, Sudan High School
There are few aspects of UIL competition that Jonathan Robertson hasn’t been involved in. He served as a one-act play director for 23 years, a computer science coach for 16 years, and the UIL academic coordinator for the past 10 years. Robertson has also been influential in speech and debate, coaching cross-examination debate for 15 years with nine state teams and Lincoln-Douglas debate for 11 years.
“Competition is what gives meaning to learning. It exists and lives at the highest level of thinking skills,” Robertson said. “ It affords the student and the teacher the ability to explore life at its most successful and satisfying levels.”
Billy Talley, Amarillo Tascosa High School
Billy Talley has been influential in UIL music participation at Amarillo Tascosa High School. He directed more than 100 UIL Sweepstakes choirs in 29 years and has inspired more than 20 of his former students to become educators.
“I believe that competition brings out the best in me and in my choirs,” Talley said. “However, competition is not the goal, but the tool used to help achieve the greatest artistry possible. The great thing about music contest is that every choir can win.”
Carolyn Vandiver, Fort Bend Austin High School
In her 37 years as a UIL music sponsor, Carolyn Vandiver’s most coveted accomplishment was the establishment of a beginning high school orchestra. Vandiver’s orchestras have earned more than 100 UIL Sweepstakes awards, at least one each year since 1976.
“Competition builds confidence and self worth in kids,” Vandiver said. “I believe in building kids. It takes a lot of hours and work but no matter what I have given, they have given me back in blessings tenfold.”
Pam Wilson, Katy Morton Ranch High School
Pam Wilson has been a UIL academics and one-act play sponsor for the past 32 years. She has also coached prose, poetry, cross-examination and Lincoln-Douglas debate, and informative and persuasive speaking. Several of Wilson’s cross-examination debate teams have advanced to state along with a one-act play troupe under her direction.
“As a director, I always hope that I guide the students to do their best with grace, good manners and good sportsmanship,” Wilson said.