AUSTIN — The University Interscholastic League is proud to recognize 15 of the best UIL sponsors in Texas as the 2019 UIL Sponsor Excellence Award winners.
A panel of judges in the areas of academics, athletics, and music from nominations submitted by school principals and superintendents across the state selected the winners.
The award, now in its 29th 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 education system.
“Coaches and teachers have such a difficult job, and they go beyond the call of duty to serve as UIL sponsors, coaches, and directors,” said UIL Executive Director Dr. Charles Breithaupt. “UIL events function and thrive on the dedication and immense effort from sponsors like these. On behalf of the UIL, I commend these outstanding educators.”
Each winner will receive $1,000 and a symbolic memento from the UIL in recognition of their outstanding achievements in the pursuit of educational excellence through interscholastic competition. The 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 2019 are as follows:
Cindy Berry – Bridgeport High School
Cindy Berry has dedicated 28 years to UIL academics and has been the UIL Coordinator for the past ten years at both Bridgeport High School and Decatur High School. Berry has hosted UIL Academic District meets numerous times and serves on the inaugural All-State UIL/ILPC Journalism staff committee in 1998. She has led her teams to three state titles in headline writing and editorial writing and placed 23 students on the UIL/ILPC All-State team.
“Not only does my past UIL experiences rank high among my favorite high school memories, but my students tell me the same about their experiences,” Berry said. “It’s an incredible feeling to coach these kids to great success while creating traditions that will carry on through the years.”
Ryan Burgard, Thrall High School
Ryan Burgard has spent the past 12 years at Thrall High School as a sponsor of the school’s science team and has led his teams to 12 district titles, three regional titles, and a science team state championship in two of the last three years. He has also led his students to 32 individual district titles, 11 different regional titles, and two individual state titles.
“I can honestly say at the end of the day it is not about the number of awards you receive or the number of state championships you have,” Burgard said. “It is about developing students’ minds so that when they graduate and go off to college or the workforce, they will have the educational background and critical thinking skills that make them successful in life.”
Triva Corrales, Converse Judson High School
Triva Corrales has been head coach of the Converse Judson High School girls basketball team for the past ten years. While at the helm, she led the team to three state tournaments in the past three seasons. In 2018, Corrales led the team to a state runner-up finish before taking home the school’s first state title in 2019. She has coached two McDonald’s All-American nominees, three all-state players, ten all-region selections, and had 59 players named all-district. Over 25 of her former players have earned college basketball scholarships.
“My philosophy of athletics is centered around the coach-to-player relationship,” Corrales said. “This is a very special area for me because it is a relationship that goes beyond X’s and O’s, and one that I cherish. I enjoy teaching and guiding young people toward their destiny. To see a young person work and improve themselves is the greatest of joys for me.”
Josh Gibson, Texarkana Pleasant Grove High School
Throughout his six years at Texarkana Pleasant Grove as the athletic director and head football coach, Gibson has led the athletic program to a school record in points and final standings in the UIL Lone Star Cup. In four of the last five seasons, 100 percent of boys and girls teams have made the playoffs. As a football coach, Gibson has guided his team to two-straight state championship games, winning the title in 2017.
“Our philosophy with the extracurricular competition is to grow our student-athletes as people, students, and athletes,” Gibson said. “We will use our platform to make an impact in our school, on our teams, and in our community. The “extra” time that we get with these students gives us more time to foster the growth process and hold them accountable in their educational experiences.”
Leslie Graham, Archer City High School
Leslie Graham has been the UIL coordinator for Archer City ISD for the past 13 years. During that time, Graham has led her teams to nine district championships and one regional title. She was also the director for the district in a one-act play. Her casts advanced to the district meet eight times, the area-round twice, and the regional meet once. The regional appearance was the school’s first in its 25-year history.
“I believe competition through UIL academics and one-act play meets every point we strive to reach,” Graham said. “Our students have to be self-disciplined and motivated to put the time, effort, and energy to participate in academics and OAP. Through these activities, students develop skills of independence and self-sufficiency as they work through problems, learn new skills, and explore new opportunities. The competition is not just about winning and losing awards.”
Scott Hippensteel, Lockhart High School
Scott Hippensteel has served as the head boys cross country and track coach at Lockhart High School for the past 31 years. During his tenure, he has led his cross country teams to 23 district titles, 11 regional titles, and two state championships. His track and field teams have won 11 district titles, five regional championships and had two state runner-up finishes. Throughout his career, Hippensteel has led over 150 runners to the state cross country meet, and over 100 athletes to the state track and field meet.
“I believe that our mission is to develop student-athletes who are prepared to be our next generation of leaders in our society,” Hippensteel said.
Tana Howard, Ackerly Sands High School
Tana Howard has led the one-act play program and has been a fine arts instructor at Ackerly Sands High School for the past 14 years. Howard has directed the one-act play program to four regional meets, and one runner-up state meet finish. Her speech teams qualified for regionals in 2017 and 2019, and her number sense team won the state title in 2012.
“Winning or losing in this game is not up to you, but what you take from the journey and what you carry on with you in life is,” Howard said. “Medals will fade and tarnish, but what you leave on people’s hearts will last a lifetime, and hopefully, you can instill that in future generations to come. Be the Good, Be the Kind, and Always Shine Bright in the Spotlight on the Stage of Life.”
Ryan Lovell, Amarillo Tascosa High School
For the past six years, Ryan Lovell has led UIL academics at Amarillo Tascosa High School. Lovell has had 17 qualifiers and two finalists at State Congress, two qualifiers for State Debate, one qualifier to State Speech, and led four teams to State CX Debate. During his tenure, Lovell has grown the academic program from a team that scored 36 points at the district meet in his first year to a team that amassed nearly 400 points in this past year’s district meet.
“My basic philosophy is that students learn and achieve best when teachers can tap into the students’ passions,” Lovell said. “UIL contests provide frameworks in which students can pursue excellence, and are the driving force attracting students to the competition, and a chance to explore their passions.”
Jacki Maenius, Mason High School
For over 30 years, Jacki Maenius has coached nearly every aspect of UIL academics. She has advanced numerous teams and individuals to the regional and state meets. In the one-act play, Maenius led her casts to four-straight state titles from 2013-2016. She has also led multiple prose and poetry participants to district championships and appearances in the regional tournament.
“I believe competition is a motivation best utilized in education when it is employed internally rather than focusing on the defeat of another person or team,” Maenius said. “Personal and artistic growth is the ultimate goal that comes from the continual drive to be better, and to hone skills in one craft.”
Sandra Peek, West Hardin High School
Sandra Peek has been a UIL academic coach for the last 20 years. She has coached journalism, speech, and a one-act play, as well as being the schools’ UIL Academic Coordinator for the past eight years. During her tenure, she has led her teams to three state championships in congress, and a state title in CX debate, Lincoln-Douglas debate, and persuasive speaking. Her OAP casts have qualified for regionals twice.
“Most of my success stories aren’t top-three state medalists,” Peek said. “The reality is that the children who struggle with competition events often turn out to be the best college students and lifetime leaders. My unproven hypothesis is that in UIL competition, they developed determination and perseverance. These are both vital to life success. Academic, fine arts, and sports competition should always be a part of a school’s mission.”
Rebecca Plumley, McDade High School
Rebecca Plumley has been involved with UIL academics for the past 21 years, with the past six years as UIL Academic Coordinator at both Round Rock Stony Point High School and McDade High School. During her career, Plumley has led her teams to numerous district and regional championships and two state championships in feature writing and headline writing.
“Unlike some aspects of public education, competition doesn’t focus on the minimum,” Plumley said. “Instead, it pushes for its competitors to do more for themselves and others. By providing its participants the chance to look for and push beyond what they know, competition, such as that provided by the UIL, fosters educational excellence.”
Gloria Ramirez, Langham Creek High School
With over 38 years of service, Gloria Ramirez has spent the past 17 years as the Director of Bands at Houston Langham Creek High School. Ramirez has led numerous individuals to honors in the State Solo and Ensemble, State Wind Ensemble, and sight-reading contest. The Langham Creek Marching Band has received a 1st Division rating every year for the last 30 years and has advanced to the State Marching Band Contest four times.
“Competition plays a vital role in our school’s basic educational mission statement as we strive to help students reach their maximum potential,” Ramirez said. “I have always believed that skills, such as learning to be independent thinkers, problem solvers, and learning what it means to be a team player, are much more important than winning or losing.”
Jolene Taylor, Plains High School
Jolene Taylor has been involved in UIL academics since 2005. Taylor has led almost all academic events at Plains High School and has been the UIL Academic Coordinator and the District Academic Coordinator for the past six years. She has guided her teams to 20 district titles, two regional championships and state championships in headline writing and ready writing.
“I am passionate about student success, whether in UIL competition or in my classroom,” Taylor said. “Success to me is not simply passing a class or winning a plaque, medal, or ribbon. Success is helping a student see the potential he or she possesses and helping them reach that potential.”
Evelio Villareal, Plano East High School
Evelio Villareal has led the Plano East Senior High School marching band since 1996. Villareal guided Plano East to a UIL Sweepstakes award in each of the past 15 years and five appearances in the State Marching Band Contest. He has also produced numerous students that have won gold medals in the State Solo and Ensemble Contest. Villareal has also directed the school’s concert band for the past 16 years.
“The approach to competition can be invaluable in teaching life lessons to students,” Villareal said. “As members of an ensemble, they learn the value of teamwork to achieve a common goal. Along the way, they learn about the individual responsibility and commitment needed to achieve that goal. It is never about winning or losing but giving their best effort in everything they do.”
Sami Womack, Hereford High School
A 15-year coaching veteran, Sami Womack, has participated as a sponsor in almost every UIL academic contest. She has spent the last 11 years as the UIL Academic Coordinator at Hereford High School. She has led her teams to three academic, regional championships, three regional speech championships, and a state title in speech and debate in 2007. During her tenure, she has guided over 50 individuals to appearances in the State Academic Meet.
“I believe that all extracurricular activities provide every student opportunity not available in a regular classroom environment for the “real world” application of the skills in our school’s vision statement,” Womack said. “I believe that all students become empowered to become effective communicators, ethical individuals, critical thinkers, and leaders within their circles of influence.”