SFA Middle School robotics teacher Naveen Cunha was named The Texas Secondary Teacher of the Year! Out of approximately 370,000 total teachers in the whole State of Texas, Mr. Cunha was selected as the top secondary teacher in the entire state by the Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA).
Mr. Cunha began his career as an educator more than 30 years ago and has been at SFA Middle School since 2007.
The exciting announcement came at the TASA conference in Round Rock on Oct. 20. This is the first time Bryan ISD has had a teacher receive this prestigious award, and it also marks the first time Region 6 has had a teacher receive this statewide honor. We are so proud to have Mr. Cunha represent Bryan ISD so well!
Mr. Cunha was named the Region 6 Secondary Teacher of the Year on Aug. 4 during Bryan ISD’s Convocation. Then in September, it was announced he was one of the top three finalists for the state Secondary of the Year award.
In addition to serving as a robotics teacher and growing the program, Mr. Cunha is also the coordinator for the Bryan ISD Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Academy. He also helped start Bryan ISD’s Odyssey Academy and expand Advanced Academic offerings throughout the district.
He graduated from the University of Texas in Austin with a geology degree, but a few years later turned his attention to education. He said education is a great way for him to keep learning also, and he brings that passion and interest to the classroom.
“If I’m not interested in what I teach, then the kids are not going to be interested in what I teach,” he said. “If I can instill a passion for learning in my students, then all we have to do is aim them in a direction and off they go.”
Kyle Esco, a freshman at Bryan High School, said having Mr. Cunha as a teacher in eighth grade helped him become more organized and become a better listener and problem solver.
SFA eighth grader Lillian McInnis said Mr. Cunha is there to help students, but allows them the space to explore their ideas and solve any problems that arise on their own.
Esco said Mr. Cunha did not put limitations on their projects and would tell them the sky is the limit to do what they chose for an assignment.
Mr. Cunha was a teacher, Esco said, but he was also a mentor to his students. He compared Mr. Cunha to Obi-Wan Kenobi from the Star Wars franchise, pushing his students to their best.
About 12 years into his teaching career, Mr. Cunha was awarded the Presidential Award and then became an Einstein Fellow working with NASA in Washington, D.C.
“Those set of three or four years really opened up about what was out there, available for my students,” Mr. Cunha said. “When I came back here, that really got the ball rolling for the Odyssey Academy and to help out with the Advanced Academics program here in Bryan ISD.”
He considers education a “we” thing, instead of a “me” thing, where the focus is on benefiting students.
“The more options and opportunities they have, the more they realize they can impact the world and they can make an impact on their lives and those around them.”
He said it brings him a lot of joy when he sees former students who tell him they never considered a career in engineering or robotics until taking his class.
“That just, it makes my day,” he said.
Bryan ISD Superintendent Ginger Carrabine said Mr. Cunha epitomizes the district’s motto of “Children First. Always.”
“He’s an extraordinary teacher. He makes learning fun, relevant, and challenging, and his impact goes beyond the classroom,” she said.
In addition to helping his students, he has also become a resource for his colleagues, she said.
SFA Middle School Principal Kimberly Giesenschlag said he brings “a wealth of knowledge and resources” to the campus with the organizations he is involved in from the local to international level.
“He’s so thoughtful and intentional in what type of assignments he puts in front of his students,” she said. “They become the learners 100%. What he’s teaching them now are things they’re going to use forever.”
“On behalf of the Bryan ISD Board of Trustees and the entire Bryan ISD community, we are thankful for Mr. Cunha,” Mrs. Carrabine said. “We appreciate all that he’s done to add value to the lives of our children, and we are proud.”
Mr. Cunha will be recognized at the Oct. 23 Bryan ISD School Board Meeting at 6 p.m.
Children First. Always.