Revathi Balakrishnan

DALLAS (TIP): The talented and gifted specialist at Sommer Elementary School learned in late August that she was named one of three finalists for 2016 Texas Teacher of the Year, an award given by the Texas School of Administrators.

Earlier that same month, Balakrishnan learned she was the 2016 Region 13 Teacher of the Year. That bit of news came a few months after she was picked as 2016 Elementary Teacher of the Year in the Round Rock school district. And before that, Sommer Elementary picked her as its 2016 Teacher of the Year.

Receiving the bevy of honors made Balakrishnan’s summer a little brighter.

“It was a surprise,” she said. “I’m really honored and of course I will try to do my best at the state level and bring a name to Round Rock ISD.”

As a finalist for 2016 Texas Teacher of the Year, Balakrishnan is seen alongside her peers throughout the state. A panel of judges composed of representatives of Texas teacher associations and teacher finalists from last year selected Balakrishnan and two others from the 40 Texas Regional Teachers of the Year.

The panel will select two state-level winners as elementary and secondary teachers of the year and designate one to represent Texas in the national Teacher of the Year program. Winners will be announced Oct. 16 at the Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin.

Balakrishnan has been an educator for nine years, six of which have been at Sommer as a founding staff member. Education is her second career, and she said she’s doing what she loves.

“I don’t think I’m going to have a third career, this is the final one,” she said. “I have kids and a great set of teachers to work with. I opened Sommer, so this is my school.”

Balakrishnan has a passion for after school clubs that grow minds and challenge students to
think, Sommer Principal Nancy Varljen said. She heads the chess, coding and robotics programs and most recently led the Region 6 Chess Tournament, which brought 650 competitors to the event hosted at Sommer. She also serves on multiple district-level committees.

“Revathi always goes above and beyond to help students and fellow teachers,” Varljen said.
“She is always professional and creative and challenges us all to think creatively and continue to grow as educators.”

Balakrishnan said she was raised to take education seriously, but to also put effort into giving back to the community, ideals that she strives to instill in her students. Her classroom is defined by the “Four R’s: Rigor, Relevance, Resilience and Relationships,” which ensure her students are thinking critically about things that matter in an environment where mistakes are welcome and friendships are made.

“I encourage my students to discuss everything from the stock market to Tiananmen Square and learn why a concept works in math rather than memorizing facts,” Balakrishnan said. “They work long and hard to develop the stamina needed to sustain rigorous learning. After all, education is a marathon and a lifelong endeavor, not a sprint.”

Her students are encouraged to participate in humanitarian projects through Students Rebuild, a nonprofit organization that tasks students to create handmade items like bookmarks or beads to raise funds for world issues.

“It is my responsibility to ensure that they receive a well-rounded education, which empowers them to become compassionate world class citizens,” Balakrishnan said.

As an individual, Balakrishnan has partnered with the Rotary Club in India to empower girls in education and has started an all-girls robotics team at Sommer. Additionally, she has joined Soroptimist International, a volunteer organization that works to improve the lives of women.
Balakrishnan has a passion for after school clubs that grow minds and challenges students to think, Sommer Principal Nancy Varljen said. She heads the chess, coding and robotics programs and most recently led the Region 6 Chess Tournament, which brought 650 elementary students to the school. She also serves on multiple district-level committees.

“Revathi always goes above and beyond to help students and fellow teachers,” Varljen said.

“She is always professional and creative and challenges us all to think creatively and continue to grow as educators.”