Ark. superintendent, Calif. teacher selected as 2012 Outstanding Young Educators

ASCD celebrates the Outstanding Young Educator Award's 10th year.

At ASCD’s 67th Annual Conference and Exhibit Show in Philadelphia, Pa., Matt McClure, superintendent of Cross County Schools in Cherry Valley, Ark., and Liliana Aguas, a teacher at Leconte Elementary School in Berkeley, Calif., were announced as winners of the association’s prestigious 2012 Outstanding Young Educator Award (OYEA).

This year marks the 10-year anniversary of the OYEA program. ASCD created the OYEA program in 2002 to recognize creative and committed teachers and administrators under the age of 40 who are making a difference in children’s lives. A panel of diverse education professionals selected McClure and Aguas as the 2012 OYEA winners from a large pool of candidates nominated by educators across the globe.

The winners will each receive a $10,000 cash award and an ASCD Institutional membership. ASCD’s OYEA program provides winners and a cadre of honorees with opportunities for leadership skill building, professional development, networking, and best-practice sharing with one another and the ASCD community.

As superintendent of Cross County Schools, Matt McClure has tackled the challenges of a rural school district and instituted an effective school turnaround program focused on the whole child. During his time as superintendent, McClure led a school revitalization process that effectively improved student achievement by turning around all the schools in his district from School Improvement Status to successful schools that focus on teaching standards that are relevant to students and have a real-world connection. In addition to improving district academics, McClure has instituted daily physical fitness classes, homework help, student tutoring, and enrichment activities that keep learning fun and students engaged.

During his time as superintendent, McClure also opened Arkansas’s first New Tech school and oversaw the opening of a medical facility on a school campus built to serve both students and community members. The Arkansas Department of Education has recognized McClure’s district as a Coordinated School Health district, and each weekend schools send home backpacks full of healthy foods to families in need. The district also offers an after-school program with cooking classes so the students can prepare and serve healthy snacks.

“I’m honored and grateful to be recognized for the tremendous work being done by the faculty and staff of my school district to meet the needs of the whole child,” said McClure. “Furthermore, we understand that we must prepare our students to be critical thinkers, in an environment that is safe and nurturing while forcing them to apply their content knowledge to solve real world problems.  ASCD’s focus on the whole child is perfectly aligned to our mission of insuring all of our students are equipped with the knowledge, skills, and habits of mind to compete in an ever changing flat world economy.”

The second winner of OYEA, Liliana Aguas, is a 2nd grade dual-language immersion teacher at Leconte Elementary School in Berkeley, Calif. Aguas is committed to educating the whole child by promoting a genuine sense of community where students learn cooperatively, are intellectually challenged, and where their learning needs are met through differentiated instruction. Aguas’ students participate in activities that promote self-discovery, such as creative writing, reader’s theater, and multicultural literature exploration. Aguas also creates a classroom environment that promotes student discovery of surrounding culture, bilingualism, and social justice.

Aguas’ classroom is a living environment designed for project-based learning, featuring a native plant garden and a tadpole and caterpillar habitat. Recently, Aguas held an international fair for her students and parents with poster presentations and a potluck, featuring dishes and music from the different countries the students researched. Aguas establishes strong partnerships with her students’ families and hosts “cafecitos,” or coffee time, with her Spanish-speaking parents.

“I am both humbled and honored to win this award,” said Aguas. “My philosophy of education involves engaging students in an exciting, hands-on, minds-on learning environment where the whole child is given the opportunity to explore the world on his or her own terms, awakening their sense of wonder and amazement. I address my students’ needs for autonomy, community, competence, and fairness by creating a safe learning environment where students flourish academically and socially.”

“Both of the educators selected for the award this year make incredible contributions in their school and their local communities,” said Dr. Gene R. Carter, executive director and CEO of ASCD. “Each works hard each day to dedicate their career to educating the whole child, and they continue to inspire greatness in the lives that they touch on a daily basis.”

ASCD is currently accepting nominations for next year’s award. To nominate someone or learn more about the OYEA program, visit

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