May 21, 2019 | Katherine Adams
Heather Villaloboz always wondered what it would be like to have someone knock on her door and hand her one of those great big checks, like lottery winners on TV. When she became a finalist for the H-E-B Excellence in Education award, Villaloboz, a two-time University of Houston-Clear Lake alumna, got her chance to find out.
Villaloboz was one of 1,500 Texas teachers who applied for the award. “H-E-B has no specific content area categories for the award. It’s about years of service,” she said. “So, because I have taught 18 years, I applied in the Leadership category for teachers with 10-20 years of service.”
There were three categories for teachers, including Rising Star, Leadership, and Lifetime Achievement, Villaloboz explained, and 30 teachers from elementary and secondary campuses were selected. “H-E-B was giving away more than $300,000,” she said. “Although I did not win in my category, it was a great honor to be included among such an elite group of educators,” she said.
Villaloboz, a fourth-grade language arts teacher at E.C. Mason Elementary in Alvin Independent School District, is also a campus process champion for the school’s Capturing Kids’ Hearts program. The program focuses on helping teachers build relationships with students, parents and each other, in order to help children learn. “The philosophy is that in order to capture a kid’s mind, you have to capture their heart,” she said. “So in February, when my principal said that our school would have a visit from someone regarding our Capturing Kids’ Hearts program, I assumed I’d be involved.”
She got a visit – but it was from a camera crew from H-E-B to make a video of her and to present her with the “big” $1,000 check. “I was shocked when they walked in, and I wasn’t prepared for that at all,” she said. “They compiled a video of me in my classroom and I made a testimonial of what I do. It was a complete surprise.”
In addition to the “big” check, she got a beautiful award and a trip to Austin, where a gala event was held May 3-6 to honor all the nominees and to announce the winner. “I didn’t win the $10,000 award, but they gave me the video. It was the best gift they could have given me,” she said. “I have that to keep forever.”
In 2008, Villaloboz received the Presidential Award of Excellence for Math and Science. “I have taught all subjects, first through fifth grade. I’m not afraid. I can teach anything,” she quipped.
She said she believes her success as an educator is a result of the training she received at UH-Clear Lake. “I am a product of UHCL and I am who I am because of the professors who invested in me,” she said. “I graduated years ago but my professors still remember me and celebrate my successes. I will always appreciate what was given to me there. I had powerhouse professors who were my biggest advocates.”
Villaloboz received her Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies in 2001, and her Master of Science in Curriculum and Instruction in 2009. To learn more about UHCL’s College of Education, visit www.uhcl.edu/education.