Lt. Col. Michelle Hinojosa was given the Teacher of the Year award Nov. 6 from Marble Falls Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10376. The award recognizes both her 24-year career in the Texas Army National Guard and her work as a teacher and science department chair at Marble Falls High School.
“I am kind of humbled by the fact that everyone is so supportive of me and appreciative (of my service),” Hinojosa said. “It’s really an honor. I feel like I just do my jobs to the best I’ve got, so to be recognized for that means a lot.”
The post also awarded scholarships to several Faith Academy of Marble Falls students for their winning submissions in the Patriot’s Pen essay contest and the Voice of Democracy audio essay competition.
Patriot’s Pen winners (grades 6-8) are:
- 1st — Torin Rishavy
- 2nd — Halley Offutt
- 3rd — Sawyer Jones
Voice of Democracy winners (grades 9-12) are:
- 1st — Elijah Blackington
- 2nd — Ella Cozby
- 3rd — Benjamin Martin
The Teacher of the Year award, known nationally as the Smart/Maher VFW National Citizenship Education Teacher Award, is given at post, district, and national levels. Nominees are judged in four categories, including community involvement and passion for teaching. Scholarship prizes, which increase at each level, are given to award recipients.
Throughout her career, Hinojosa climbed the ranks in the Texas Army National Guard since enlisting at age 17 in 1997. Her first deployment, however, did not take place until September 2020, when she was sent to Kuwait to serve as the medical operations officer for the 36th Infantry Division at Camp Arifjan for Task Force Spartan. During her nine months overseas, she coordinated health and safety operations for units and brigades in five countries, including Kuwait, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia.
Since her deployment took place during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, she worked to create and put in place safety protocols to ensure social distancing was enforced in the barracks and that soldiers received vaccinations once they were made available.
“We were trying to keep up with all of the different and sometimes contrasting guidance put out by the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and the Department of Defense and figuring out how to adapt to that,” she explained. “How could we best lead up to deployment training in a safe manner that kept our leadership safe, our trainees safe, and how do we do it successfully? It was mainly about keeping yourself safe, being smart, and having smart practices. All those little hygiene things that you do like washing your hands, using your hand sanitizer, and wearing your mask. We used our masks pretty much the whole time we were over there.”
Marble Falls High School Assistant Principal Kelly Minor nominated Hinojosa for the award.
“Mrs. Hinojosa’s strengths as lieutenant colonel, teacher and mother are what make her the perfect candidate for this award,” Minor wrote in her nomination letter. “Not only does she strive to help students reach their goals, but she also strives to continue her own learning in both the field of education and the military.”
Having earned the local post’s award, Hinojosa’s application will move on to the VFW District 14 competition, which will be judged Saturday, Nov. 20.