Teacher At The Woodlands High School To Receive Inspiration Award From Texas A&M
COLLEGE STATION – Susan Hollier, a world history and human geography teacher at The Woodlands High School in The Woodlands, has been selected to receive the Texas A&M University Inspiration Award for Exceptional Education. Her award will be announced during the university’s commencement ceremonies Friday (Aug. 12).
Teachers selected to receive this unusual award — believed to be the first of its type sponsored by any university in Texas — are nominated by one of their former students who are set to graduate from Texas A&M.
The recipient of the award is recognized during commencement ceremonies at the university, where he or she is presented a check for $2,000. The teacher’s high school receives $1,000.
As a university known for valuing excellence, leadership and service, Texas A&M sponsors the award as a way of recognizing those values in the teachers who have inspired and challenged their students to excel, officials note.
Hollier was nominated for the award by a former student, William E. Martin IV, who will receive his degree in biology at Friday’s ceremony.
“I am honored and humbled by his nomination. All three of our children and one of our sons-in-law graduated from A&M, so we love the spirit of Aggieland. This is just one more reason why Texas A&M is such a special university,” Hollier says.
After telling his other teachers he did not want to take any advanced placement courses in high school, Martin says he thought it was a mistake when Hollier had signed him up for two of them.
“She asked me what grade I had received in her class and I said an ‘A,’”Martin says. “She then explained to me that if I could get an ‘A’ in her course, then I could get an ‘A’ in any course.”
Martin says he got an “A” in all the advanced placement classes and found his ambitions changing. He was no longer the student who listed recess as his favorite class and aspired to go to community college and instead decided on Texas A&M, where he is graduating in three years with a 4.0.
“Those words of belief that I could do anything truly changed my life. It was the first time someone other than my family had ever believed in me. No one before Mrs. Hollier had thought I was smart and certainly no one had cared that I realize it as much as she did,” he adds.
For her part, Hollier says she knew Martin would be one of those students to grow up and change the world.
“Even as a sophomore in high school, he understood the importance of giving back. He is going to medical school and will use his skills to reach every strata of society around the world – that much I know,” she says. “His reach will be broad and strong.”
Martin says the work in Hollier’s classroom extended beyond the typical.
“We would raise money as a class, and through kiva.org, we would review loan requests from developing countries’ small business owners,” Martin says. “We would loan out the money to three of them and as soon as the loan was repaid with no interest we would pick another deserving loan applicant. We would organize drives for Africa sending off supplies for entire villages.”
Martin adds that Hollier also ran an organization for everyone at the school called Citizens in Action.
“Through CIA she would secure speakers such as Mayor Giuliani, Collin Powell, Vicente Fox and many other prominent national or global figures. CIA would also raise thousands of dollars to buy anything from landmine sniffing dogs to supplies for women in Africa. Mrs. Hollier was the most selfless person I knew and a firm believer in the pay it forward theory,” Martin says.
Hollier would assign her students class homework such as doing three "nice acts" a week. These nice acts could be anything from holding the door open for a stranger to volunteering at a retirement home. She believed that one person could not change the world alone, but his actions reciprocated through others could. It is this pay it forward belief and realization of the impact that one person can have upon our lives that has been my primary motivation in service to others.
“That motivation had led me to become a counselor for eighth graders in the pursuit of higher education in underrepresented areas. It has led me to become a FLO and a Fish Camp counselor,” Martin says. “It has led me towards military service and medical school. Most importantly it has led me to becoming the man I was meant to be. Mrs. Hollier changed my life for the better through her selfless attitudes and her belief in me. She may have not changed the world yet, but eventually because of her actions and beliefs paid forward through us it will one day.”