The Heart of Education Award & a Teacher’s Ongoing Journey

Israel Ramirez receives the Heart of Education Award


Principal Tam Larnerd (left) and teacher Israel Ramirez (right) Photo credit: @GrizzliesSvhs on Twitter

Gisell Ponce, Staff Writer

The Heart of Education Awards is a teacher awards program that annually honors and celebrates Clark County School District teachers. The program was launched in 2016 by The Smith Center of Performing Arts and The Rogers Foundation, and is managed by community leaders, and supported by CCSD. The program is funded by a variety of sponsors, and the Las Vegas community. 

Twenty-three Spring Valley High School teachers were finalists for the 2021 Heart of Education Award. 

Israel Ramirez, who is a College Prep Math teacher, learning strategist, and graduate advocate, at Spring Valley, is a 2021 winner of the Heart of Education Award. Ramirez is one of  twenty CCSD teachers who received this award. 

“It’s such an honor, I’m very humbled to be someone at Spring Valley High School that was nominated for the Heart of Education Award, knowing that there, are a lot of teachers that also deserve it,” Ramirez said. “I know my colleagues, they work so hard, and they really care about students as well.”

Ramirez shared that his award goes to Spring Valley, including his students, colleagues, wife, kids, and overall family. 

“I’m very grateful to be a part of such a great school because without having great students, without having great colleagues, without having a great family that supports you, and friends, I don’t think I would’ve been able to accomplish this award,” Ramirez said. “I needed everybody to support me.” 

Teachers are recognized by the Heart of Education organization through nominations done by students, CCSD staff, and the community. Nominators must present a written recommendation to nominate a teacher. Via email, nominated teachers are notified of their nominations. 

“It was really, really nice to see what students and colleagues of mine said about me, about my ethics of work,” Ramirez said. “It was great to see their comments, and them saying thank you to me, and then, of course, I say thank you back to them because I gotta be grateful.”

After nominations are submitted, teachers are asked to write an essay describing their work as teachers. Community leaders, education experts, and sponsors narrow down the nominations to finalists. 

Ramirez values students gaining self-confidence in mathematics. Ramirez shared that many of his students have expressed that they detest math, but through his teaching, he wants students to gain a different vision and perspective about math, and overall enjoy themselves.

Past students look back on their time in Ramirez’s class, with positive takeaways. 

“I really enjoyed being a part of Mr.Ramirez’s class because of how he always managed to put a smile on our faces, “ junior Valeria Santibanez said. “I can honestly say he created a caring and safe environment in the class for his students, and that’s one of the reasons why I liked going to his class.” 

For over a year, the pandemic has unprecedentedly transformed schooling through social distancing and online learning, especially during the 2020-2021 school year. Ramirez shared his feelings on receiving an award during a mostly distant learning school year, along with knowing the difficulties and struggles that families at Spring Valley and students have experienced due to the pandemic. 

“Going through this pandemic, I know, it’s been really, really hard. It means a lot because even though we’re socially distant, we can still accomplish great things, and this is a great example, thanks to everyone’s support,” Ramirez said.

Ramirez shared the significance of having support and the importance of community. 

“Great things happen to great people that have great teams nearby,” Ramirez said. “We have a great team, at Spring Valley High School, and I have a great team at home too, with my family.”

Ramirez shared that with his medical struggles, he feels the support of the entire Spring Valley high school community, and his family. 

“I’m doing okay, thanks to their support,” Ramirez said. 

Ramirez shared that students, Spring Valley staff, and family support, along with kind words of encouragement and love have “been a great shield.” 

“It’s protected me from giving up from feeling even worse. And as you can see, I’m feeling strong,” Ramirez said. “I want my students to know that, yes, I have good days, I have bad days because of my chemo and my radio surgeries.”

Assuring that every student has the same opportunities to become academically successful, and providing the best high school experience to students is one of Ramirez’s goals in teaching. 

“I remember he not only cared if I was passing his class but he also offered to help with the classes I wasn’t doing so well in,” Santibanez said. “ It goes to show how much he truly cares about his students.” 

Ramirez shared that in addition to instructing students through math problems, teaching mental and social intelligence, and communication and interpersonal skills is also of great importance. 

Ramirez describes teaching as a “beautiful career,” because it provides a chance to learn from students, colleagues, professionals, and students’ parents when they communicate concerns. 

“I just want my students to know that I’m so grateful, to be part of their lives as their teacher, as their mentor, as their instructor, and then eventually, hopefully, as their friend, in the near future,” Ramirez said. “Alumni students who graduated, now they’re a part of my family.”