AUSTIN— The University Interscholastic League is proud to recognize 15 of the best UIL sponsors in Texas as the 2016 UIL Sponsor Excellence Award winners.
The winners were selected by a panel of judges in the areas of academics, athletics and music from nominations submitted by school principals and superintendents across the state.
The award, now in its 26th 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 2016 are as follows:
Shawn Bruns – Flatonia High School
Shawn Bruns has been a teacher and coach for 26 years and has led teams to three UIL Baseball State Championships and another three baseball state tournament appearances. Bruns has led teams to the baseball playoffs 21 out of the past 25 years. “Character and integrity are usually revealed during athletic competitions,” said Bruns. “The teamwork, social and cooperation skills that kids gain from competitive athletics is invaluable for later in life.”
Todd Craft – D’Hanis High School
During his 21-year coaching career, Todd Craft has served as an athletic director, baseball coach and basketball coach. As head girls basketball coach, his teams made five consecutive trips to the regional tournament. He also led both a baseball team and a girls basketball team to the UIL State Tournament.
“I believe that competition is vital to both athletic and academic success,” Craft said. “When young people learn how to really compete it’s a game changer. Kids begin to find things inside themselves that they didn’t know they had.”
David DeVoto – Allen High School
David DeVoto has dedicated 20 years to UIL orchestra and music. In 2016 he led Allen High School to 6 sweepstakes orchestra awards. DeVoto currently leads approximately 800 Allen ISD middle school and high school students who perform at UIL orchestra competitions.
“UIL contests serve two purposes for our orchestras, structure and inclusion,” said DeVoto. “The UIL contest requirements help us to build a curriculum and daily structure to help our students meet these performance goals at the highest level possible.
Jamie Dornak – Moulton High School
Throughout her 27 years as a coach of UIL Academic events, Jamie Dornak has coached journalism, spelling, ready writing, literary criticism, informative and persuasive speaking, prose, poetry, and debate. Dornak has led students to the UIL Academic State Meet 22 of her 27 years coaching. She has coached students to five individual gold medals, 11 individual silver medals and three team journalism championships.
“Through athletic and academic contests, students have the opportunity to reach their full potential, discover new talents, understand the value of hard work, dedication, teamwork and character, and realize that preparation and sportsmanship are more valuable than winning or losing,” Dornak said.
Adrian Gallardo – Rankin High School
Adrian Gallardo has been actively involved in UIL Academics and One-Act Play since 2005. Since then, she has coached poetry, extemporaneous speaking, debate and one-act play and has led several students to the UIL Academic State Meet.
“Learning to speak properly, think critically, research effectively and maximize one’s imagination are skills that will help students in high school, college and beyond,” Gallardo said. “Overall, competition in schools not only supports other classes but it also provides the opportunity to learn the important soft skills necessary to succeed in life.”
Beverly Herrera – Laredo Alexander High School
Beverly Herrera has coached a variety of UIL academic activities, including journalism, ready writing, current events, literary criticism, and has also severed as an academic coordinator. Herrera has led many students to the UIL Academic State Meet throughout the course of her 28-year career.
“Every student has the potential to be the best in something,” Herrera said. “ Academics offers a delineated plan, but UIL provides different ways to demonstrate mastery of educational objectives.”
Tim Johnston – Huntsville High School Tim Johnston has been a one-act play director for 40 years, served as academic coordinator for 33 years and has also coached speech and computer science. One-act plays have advanced to state once and region twice under his direction.
“UIL competition provides opportunities for students to learn to work as a team to achieve high goals,” Johnston said. “Theatre is a collaborative art form, requiring students to work together to succeed, to demonstrate leadership, and to be responsible for their own education.”
Kimberly Kass – Argyle High School
Kimberly Kass has been educating students in science for more than 30 years. Over the course of her career she has coached 10 science team state champions, six individual science state champions and led 38 students to top six placements at the UIL Academic State Meet.
“Students who participate in competitive events have an enriched educational experience, learning valuable skills that will benefit them throughout life,” Kass said. “Competition encourages students to reach farther and work harder as they dedicate themselves to attaining their goals.”
Lee Neel – Knippa High School
In his 30 years of teaching and coaching, Lee Neel has served as academic coordinator and has been a coach in both academics and athletics; including number sense, calculator applications, math, extemporaneous speaking, cross examination debate, congress, one-act play, golf, basketball and cross country. He helped lead Knippa to become the Conference 1A Academic State Champion in 2016 and has coached many students in the UIL Academic State Meet over the years.
“As a coach I find it extremely rewarding to see my kids excel both in the classroom and at UIL competitions,” Neel said. “Anytime we can show students the value of what we do in the classroom, the more likely they will become lifelong learners and be a positive contributor to society as a whole.”
Mark Melton – Longview Pine Tree High School
Mark Melton has been a high school band director for 29 years. He has led bands to three UIL State Marching Band appearances, and 25 consecutive UIL Sweepstakes Awards. As Fine Arts Administrator at Longview Pine Tree High School he also oversees choir, music memory and theater students, many of whom have received UIL medals.
“The discipline and rigor involved in high-level competition drive students to be the best possible in all endeavors, including academics, athletics and the arts,” Melton said. “By achieving these goals and learning the discipline necessary to do so, students graduate with skills necessary to be successful in high education and as an employee.”
Cheryl Ryne – Friendswood High School
Cheryl Ryne began coaching UIL speech and debate events in 1976. Throughout her career, she has led many students to the UIL Academic State Meet, including nine individual state champions and six second place finishers.
“I had the privilege of having an outstanding speech coach who changed my life,” Ryne said. “I have spent the last forty years trying to pay that forward. I am very proud of my students’ big successes but I am equally proud of the small quiet successes that I have witnessed students achieve.”
Hugh Sandifer – Abilene Wylie High School
Throughout his 38-year career, Hugh Sanidfer has served as head football coach for 31 years, a head basketball coach for 13 years, a tennis coach for seven years, and a golf coach for one year. Sandifer has 10 UIL state champion teams as athletic director including a football state championship in 2004.
“Our athletic program is based on respect,” Sandifer said. “Respect for the game you are playing, the opponent you are playing, your teammates, and most importantly respect for yourself.”
Andy Sealy – Lewisville Hebron High School
Andy Sealy has been involved in UIL music competitions for 31 years. During that time he directed bands to the UIL State Marching Band Contest 10 times, coming away with five top-ten finishes, one gold medal and three silver medals. He has also led students to many outstanding performer awards at the UIL Texas State Solo and Ensemble Contest.
“Competition causes us to push one another forward and aspire to a standard that is often beyond the ordinary,” Sealy said. “We use music to create exceptional students through shared communal goals, and the discipline and dedication required for the mastery and enjoyment of music.”
Brenda Slatton – San Antonio Lee High School
Brenda Slatton has been a dedicated journalism coach for 27 years, and has coached many students in news writing, feature writing, editorial writing, headline writing, current events, spelling, and ready writing.
“I have always felt that competition teaches kids of all ages to accomplish things on a level they never knew they could reach,” Slatton said. “UIL Academics teaches team work and personal challenge prepares them for a successful life after graduation.”
Laura Smith – Canyon High School
During her 13 years as a journalism coach, Laura Smith has coached 17 UIL Academic State Meet medalists, and led yearbook students to 16 ILPC All-State Journalists awards. Smith is also a one-act play assistant director and coaches current issues and ready writing.
“UIL competition allows students to strive for greatness, to think critically, to learn from mistakes rather than condemning themselves as failures, to value teamwork and to stretch while reaching for the next goal,” Smith said.