Wednesday, Feb. 19, was quite a day for MacArthur High School teacher Eva Lanczos.

MacArthur foreign language/ESL teacher Eva Lanczos, center, poses with MacArthur High School Assistant Principal Maria Bauhs, Principal Heather Peterson, Assistant Principal Jason Babcock and H-E-B mascot HEBuddy at a presentation naming Lanczos one of five state finalists for H-E-B’s Excellence in Education Leadership Award.

It was on that day that Lanczos, a foreign language/ESL teacher at MacArthur, was surprised by representatives from H-E-B who named her one of five state finalists for H-E-B’s Excellence in Education Leadership Award.

The Leadership Award honors teachers with more than 20 years of experience. The overall winner, who will be announced in San Antonio May 2-3, will receive a $10,000 check for themselves and a $10,000 grant for their school.

By being named a finalist, Lanczos was presented with a $1,000 check on Feb. 19 when H-E-B representatives, along with mascot HEBuddy, visited the Aldine ISD campus. In addition, MacArthur High School also received $1,000 from H-E-B.

H-E-B’s Excellence in Education Awards is the largest monetary award program for educators in Texas, and among the largest in the nation. The honor was kept a secret from Lanczos, who learned they were finalists when representatives from H-E-B visited their classrooms and presented them with cookies and flowers.

Representatives from H-E-B surprised Lanczos during her fourth period ESL class and surprised she was.

“I can’t believe it,” she said, when she was told of the good news. “It’s an unbelievable experience. I’m so happy to do this for my students and I’m glad they could share in this positive experience.”

Lanczos added she is happy to share her good news with her students.

“This is just as much a part of their work as it is mine,” she said.

Lanczos has 30 years of experience as a foreign language and ESL teacher and taught in Dabas, Hungary, and Ames, Iowa before moving to Houston and joining Aldine ISD in 2001 where she has taught ESL, reading and German.

MacArthur High School principal Heather Peterson, who has served as MacArthur’s principal for the last three years, said Lanczos richly deserves to be a state finalist.

“Over the last few years I have observed her work closely with a myriad of students,
Peterson said. “She continuously goes the extra mile to support students in class and during after-school tutorials. She is constantly advocating for our students who are new to the country.

“Mrs. Lanczos is charged with the task of teaching students from other countries to speak the complicated English language with the hopes of graduating with a diploma in four years. Imagine that task. It would require having a very strong bond with students, compassion and empathy for their situation and the ability to empower students to believe in their own abilities.”

Peterson said Lanczos is well respected among her peers because of her commitment to education.

Eva Lanczos poses with members of her ESL class after she was named one of five state finalists for H-E-B’s Excellence in Education Leadership Award.

“She has a wonderful rapport with students, parents and colleagues,” Peterson said. “She works tirelessly to find ways to continually engage students in the classroom and increase teacher productivity in her department. Her initiative, ingenuity, and tenacity all make her a valuable asset to our staff and students at MacArthur High School. She is the exemplar for excellence in education!”

H-E-B asks customers, Partners (employees) and community members to nominate teachers, principals, districts, early childhood centers and school boards in Texas. Each nominee is sent an invitation to complete an application online and is asked about their professional experiences, educational philosophies and achievements both in and out of the classroom.

A team of judges reviews the applications, narrowing the field to semi-finalists. From that pool, five regional judging panels comprised of former winners, administrators and university and community leaders not affiliated with H-E-B select 40 teachers and principal finalists.

Lanczos is one of five finalists from across Texas in contention for The Leadership Award. She has been invited to compete on a statewide level for larger cash prizes totaling more than $400,000. A statewide panel of judges, not affiliated with H-E-B, will conduct a personal interview with finalist to select a winner.