Dec. 18, 2020 - Two well-deserving teachers were named the 2019-2020 District Teacher of the Year for the Comal Independent School District this week for their work in the classroom. Both are known for making personal connections and lasting impressions with their students, and they have done so by teaching subjects which often become passions and lead to careers, art and agriculture.
The Comal ISD Elementary District Teacher of the Year is Jessica Coleman who teaches art at Freiheit Elementary. The Comal ISD Secondary Teacher of the Year is Canaan Dreibrodt who taught agriculture science at Smithson Valley High School during the 2019-2020 school year and is now an assistant principal at Canyon Lake High School.
Coleman and Dreibrodt are among 30 campus teachers of the year who were up for the district teacher of the year titles. All 30 were to be honored during an annual fall banquet, Night of Stars, hosted by the district in October. Due to COVID-19, the banquet has been postponed, but district leaders wanted to make sure that these teachers were celebrated for their achievement.
“Each of these campus teachers consistently go above and beyond in their classrooms to ensure that every student is successful,” said Superintendent Andrew Kim who surprised Dreibrodt and Coleman this week with their awards. “Now, more than ever, their work should be recognized.”
Coleman, who has been teaching art for 16 years, four with Comal ISD, was very surprised.
“I have never imagined not wanting to be a teacher,” said Coleman, who has a master’s degree in art education with a concentration in museum studies. “I always wanted to make a positive impact on others and receiving this award is an incredible honor. I always had big ideas, but I never had the canvas to paint them on until I came to Comal ISD. Now I have an excellent canvas on which to paint.”
For Dreibrodt, the honor caps off a year that truly challenged him both professionally and personally. The day before school started in August 2019, he was diagnosed with cancer. Earlier in the summer, he had a mass in his salivary gland surgically removed and it turned out to be cancerous. He began radiation treatments in December, flying daily to the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston through Jan. 13 of this year. He continued to teach throughout that time.
“My rough year kind of coincided with the world’s rough year, and I think that this award is a culmination of being able to get through it,” said Dreibrodt, who taught for six years, three at SVHS, before moving into his current administrative role at CLHS. “To achieve something like this after going through cancer, is humbling.
“As an educator, I believe living through a hard experience such as this one allows me to better empathize with my students who may be experiencing a hardship themselves. It has shown me what really matters in life and for that, I am a stronger person.”
In the last three years, both of these teachers grew their programs. While Coleman was transforming the art program at FES, Dreibrodt was growing the agriculture program at SVHS.
In her first year at FES, Coleman obtained grants to fund a sensory area for the campus’ diverse population which includes 35 percent special education students. For her second year, she established student art shows, an art club and the Comal Creates Summer camps through the district’s Community Education department. In her third year, she organized an event for the community called the Merry Texamas Extravaganza. She increased the art club’s membership, helped establish the district’s art curriculum for remote learners and created a digital art show for students.
“My goal is to expose children to other cultures and other points of view through art,” she said, “and to expand their minds to see other perspectives and to use art as a tool to do this. Art by nature is something most children enjoy. I believe every student can create some kind of art, and students who are often not successful in traditional classroom settings thrive in the art room.
“Art can be cathartic and something students can use to help them work through whatever is bothering them. It is an extra tool that they can take with them in life.”
In his role as an agriculture teacher at SVHS, Dreibrodt increased FFA student membership; opened and operated a new animal facility; piloted a new program for incoming ninth-grade students to become involved; provided opportunities for students to meet industry professionals and establish relationships with them for possible future opportunities; increased industry-based certifications; implemented ‘SVHS Ag Day;’ and served as the Career and Technical Education (CTE) chair as well as the lead agriculture teacher.
“CTE programs are becoming increasingly important for students,” Dreibrodt said. “The expansion of our industry-based classes is a good thing. It’s our role to make kids aware of these opportunities.”
Often, students discover their passions and their careers through CTE programs such as agriculture.
“That’s what ag did for me,” said Dreibrodt, who attended Canyon High School and followed in the footsteps of teachers who influenced him including his mother, Linda Dreibrodt, who taught social studies in the district for more than 25 years. In fact, after attending Texas A&M University and earning a degree in animal science, he returned to earn his master’s degree in education along with a teaching certificate.
“I found my passion in ag as a student and through that passion, I found ag education,” Dreibrodt said. One of his former ag teachers and mentors, Glenn Grimm was on hand when Dreibrodt received his award this week. A full circle moment for both former student and teacher.
Today, both Dreibrodt and Coleman help guide students to their passions every day.
“I don’t want to do anything else,” Coleman said. “I have the best job ever. When little kids tell me that they want to be an art teacher, I tell them, ‘It’s the best job ever. You won’t be disappointed.’”
-Pictured from left is Comal ISD Board of Trustees President David Drastata, Freiheit Principal Shelly Crofford, Elementary District Teacher of the Year 2019-2020 Jessica Coleman and Comal ISD Superintendent Andrew Kim.
-Jessica Coleman was named the Comal ISD Elementary District Teacher of the Year for 2019-2020 school year this week.
-Pictured from left is Comal ISD Board of Trustees Secretary Michelle Ross, Comal ISD Secondary Teacher of the Year Canaan Dreibrodt and Comal ISD Superintendent Andrew Kim.
-Canaan Dreibrodt was named the Comal ISD Secondary District Teacher of the Year for 2019-2020 school year this week.
-A list of the Comal ISD 2019-2020 Teachers of the Year by campus.