Spring Branch ISD Featured News

Spring Branch ISD 2021 Teachers of the Year announced


An amazing special education teacher and an innovative social studies teacher were named Spring Branch ISD’s Elementary and Secondary Teachers of the Year during surprise campus announcements on Tuesday, April 27.


Named as the 2021 top district educators are Hunters Creek Elementary Special Education teacher Kayla Gibson and Spring Branch Academic Institute (SBAI) Social Studies/Language Arts teacher Katie Wood-Sponsel.

The two winners were surprised by Superintendent Dr. Jennifer Blaine at their respective campuses on Tuesday.

Joining Dr. Blaine were Board of Trustees President Chris Gonzalez, Principal Robye Snyder of Hunters Creek Elementary, Director Patricia Kassir of SBAI, and Sterling McCall Group’s Pete DeLongchamps, SVP Manufacturer Relations, John Lukehart, Marketing Director, David Feshmire, Regional Vice President and Mike Sullivan, Director of Governmental and Public Affairs.

The special surprise for both Gibson and Wood-Sponsel at their campuses was filled with joyful moments which included flower bouquets and balloons, loaner keys to a new Hyundai and Toyota, and two big yard signs for the campus proclaiming that two SBISD Teachers of the Year teach there.

As SBISD’s 2021 Teachers of the Year, they also received a trophy-style Golden Apple award, plus a cash award provided by First Community Credit Union.

Both teachers will also enjoy the perks of the Going the Extra Mile Award, sponsored by Sterling McCall Group. This special award includes a complimentary, summertime loaner of a new Hyundai Santa Fe for Wood-Sponsel and a new Toyota Rav4 for Gibson.

Dr. Blaine greeted both teachers, both surprised, with flowers, huge smiles and simple words of praise. “We’re so proud of you and grateful you have chosen Spring Branch ISD as your home!” she told both winners on behalf of the district and the Teacher of the Year Committee, which interviewed seven finalists.


Kayla Gibson: APPLE (Autism Program Preparing Learners for Excellence) teacher, Hunters Creek Elementary

Elementary Teacher of the Year Kayla Gibson is an APPLE teacher at Hunters Creek Elementary, dedicated to advocating and raising awareness for her students. 

A product of the district, Gibson is a proud Memorial High School graduate. She joined Spring Branch ISD as a teacher in 2019, after moving back to the Houston area to make an impact in the school district that impacted her throughout her childhood. 

Gibson has a younger sister who is currently enrolled in SBISD’s T.O.P.S. (Transitioning Onward Promotes Success) program. T.O.P.S. is a work-based learning program for students between the ages of 18 and 21 with disabilities. It is focused on supporting students’ postsecondary transition goals in becoming productive members of the community by developing the skill sets necessary for employment.  

She describes her sister as having been her biggest light and influence in understanding her calling to teach Special Education, a career Gibson finds extremely rewarding. 

Prior to working in Spring Branch ISD, she taught in Leander ISD for four years where she grew in her abilities to provide engaging instruction and opportunities for her students. Her time in Leander ISD gave her the experience and knowledge to understand what is best for her students, even when it isn’t the easiest path.

“The quality that really puts Kayla over the top as a great teacher is her compassion for her students,” Hunters Creek Principal Robye Snyder said. “She understands that she is teaching the whole child – and sometimes teaching their parents as well. She helps parents understand how to help their child learn at home and ensures that parents see the strengths in their children. She draws parents and kids into her circle and then never lets them out.”

Gibson received her bachelor’s in special education from the College of Charleston where she also competitively sailed at the national level on the sailing team. 


Katie Wood-Sponsel: Social Studies and Language Arts teacher, Spring Branch Academic Institute (SBAI)

Secondary Teacher of the Year Katie Wood-Sponsel is 6th-8th grade social studies and language arts teacher at SBAI, focused on creating an environment for her students that is engaging, transformative and connected to a broad global context.

With more than  18 years of experience as an educator, all of them in Spring Branch ISD, she has gained experience in every area of curriculum and creates a wealth of unique, engaging experiences for her students which instills in them a true love of history.

For 16 years, Wood-Sponsel was an 8th grade teacher and yearbook advisor at SBISD’s Cornerstone Academy. After going to SBAI in 2019, she expanded her curriculum repertoire, now teaching World Cultures & Geography, Texas History and English Language Arts, in addition to her traditional subject, U.S. History. The opportunity to meet the unique needs of SBISD’s highly gifted students at SBAI has been engaging, intellectually challenging, and full of professional growth opportunities for Wood- Sponsel.

“At SBAI, Mrs. Wood is committed to excellence in all she does: working with students, collaborating with her colleagues, and supporting parents. She is consistent in her teaching and is a true professional,” SBAI director Patricia Kassir said. 

“When I think of a teacher that is creative and willing to take risks, she immediately comes to mind. She is a savvy instructional leader on our campus, and eagerly shares her ideas and teaching methods with her colleagues. She is ahead of the innovation curve and is always eager to try new techniques and jump into the water feet first.” 

She holds a bachelor’s degree in communications with a minor in political science from San Diego State University. Upon graduation, she moved to Houston and began her professional journey towards becoming an educator after completing an Alternative Certification Program.

To further her own understanding of our nation’s history, Wood-Sponsel recently embarked on a master’s program in American History through Pace University. Her expected completion date is May 2022.

Looking Ahead: Regional Competition

As newly named Teachers of the Year, Gibson and Wood-Sponsel will soon represent the district in regional competition. If successful, they will then compete at the state and the national level.

Campus Teacher of the Year candidates are first nominated by the district’s students, parents, teachers and interested community members. SBISD Teacher of the Year Committee members read and reviewed all Teacher of the Year applications, including candidate-submitted videos.

The committee named seven Teacher of the Year finalists. In addition to Gibson and Wood-Sponsel, the SBISD elementary finalists were Brandy Boza of Wilchester Elementary and Laura Miller of Terrace Elementary; secondary finalists were Alex Romo of Spring Oaks Middle, Raymond Karlowicz with Academy of Choice and Valarie Nappier with Northbrook High School. All five finalists will each receive a $250 cash award.

View this year’s Teacher of the Year surprise announcements: