• July 15, 2020

NTO teacher named award winner - Odessa American: News

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NTO teacher named award winner

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  • Real Heroes

    New Tech Odessa's Damian Gaytan poses with his gift basket from Cinergy Entertainment Thursday afternoon after a surprise award ceremony took place in front of the school. Gaytan teaches algebra and is entering his 5th year in education at New Tech.

Posted: Thursday, May 28, 2020 5:08 pm

Damian Gaytan is a hero in the eyes of his students.

Gaytan, who teaches algebra II and geometry at George H.W. Bush New Tech Odessa is also an academic decathlon co-sponsor, received the Cinergy Hero Award Thursday. The award was a surprise.

Along with Gaytan, Principal Gerardo Ramirez said the campus had three other finalists — Bernadette Barragan, who is the other sponsor of the academic decathlon team, Angelica Gutierrez and Wesley Estep.

Gaytan said he received a season pass for Cinergy movies and a basket of goodies.

“… Today at 1 o’clock, we had a team of staff members, waiting on in Cinergy. Cinergy came through parade style with the fire truck and they announced to us that the winner was Mr. Gaytan and they gave him his season pass and his award,” Ramirez said. “I secretly told his family that he was the winner. I told them that yesterday, so then he was surprised by his family and once he was announced they came on by and surprised him and took a picture with him as well. It was neat.”

Gaytan said he was really surprised to win because the other three nominees are great teachers and very deserving.

“I’m flattered that I had a student or students (thinking enough of me to nominate me),” he said.

He added that winning makes him want to work harder.

“… I don’t like the attention toward me. But if I know that it’s coming from the students and they appreciate me then it makes me know that the job that I’m doing is a good job and that it’s worth it,” Gaytan said.

A native Odessan, Gaytan earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from University of Texas Permian Basin.

“Honestly I always thought I would teach, but I always thought I would work maybe another career first and maybe when I got older maybe teach and then retire. But when I graduated there really weren’t that many available jobs for engineering, so I started substitute teaching in fall 2015 and then Mr. Ramirez at New Tech he recommended maybe trying to be a math teacher and fill the position, so I got certified,” Gaytan said.

He said teaching is a lot of work, but it’s very rewarding because they are able to impact students. Gaytan said he also likes being able to show students from the area that they are capable of going into the STEM fields. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math.

“I’m very appreciative to my kids and I’m very honored and thankful that they nominated me for this award and I really appreciate it,” Gaytan said.

He is married to Catrina, a special education teacher at Midland High School.

Ramirez said Gaytan is “just genuinely a great person.”

“He cares about his kids …,” Ramirez added.

The Cinergy Heroes program is in its third year. The initiative was developed in 2018 as a way to give back to community heroes educating youth every day, information from Cinergy said.

“It was important to Cinergy to foster a space where we could recognize the wonderful work teachers are doing in, and often times out, of the classroom. This year, like many, we faced a challenge with COVID-19 and whether we should proceed with the contest. Ultimately, we decided that now more than ever our teachers should be recognized,” the information said.

The contest was opened in March with a call for teacher nominations.

“We are really lucky that we have a number of schools that partner with us and help to spread the word. We allow 4-6 weeks for students, parents, fellow teachers to nominate a teacher. Once we receive the submissions, we try to narrow it down to the top 3 teachers for each category. Then, we open it up for the general public to cast their votes for who will win. This year we received over 50 entries from all of our locations,” the information said.

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