A first-grade language arts teacher and Katy resident has earned the Ashley Red Apple Award for her commitment to at-risk students.
Jacquelyn Sollars, a teacher at Carmichael Elementary in northwest Houston, was recognized as a standout Houston-area educator. From her home in Katy, Sollars makes an hour-long commute to the Aldine ISD Title 1 school where up to 40 percent of the students are from low-income families and considered at-risk for school achievement.
As much as she loves teaching and watching her students grow as learners, Sollars acknowledges it’s been a tough year. “Students have had to adjust to going back to school after virtual learning. This is especially difficult in 1st grade because kindergarten is not a requirement in Texas. Some were kept home during the worst part of the pandemic, and some have huge gaps in the learning as well as social skills.”
Sollars says she’s focused as much as half her day on teaching social skills to help rebound from the loss of in-person instruction during COVID. “I try my best to promote positivity and just want them to grow up to be kind and intelligent human beings,” she says.
Sollars is now in her fifth year in teaching and was nominated for this award by her mother, Raquel Sosa. Sosa said of her reason for putting Sollars’ name forward, “Jacquelyn is a remarkable young woman and a teacher with a true heart of an educator. She thought this first job would be experience for her to move to another school closer to home. However, over the years every class at this school has impacted her heart.”
Sollars had no idea her mom had nominated her. “The Red Apple Award is incredibly special, and I feel honored to be chosen out of the hundreds of teachers that were nominated,” she says. “I get to represent my school and my students and show them that hard work and effort do get recognized.”
Her colleagues at the school commented on her ability to go above and beyond for her students. On one occasion, when a student insisted on reading while sitting under Sollars’ desk, instead of a confrontation Sollar sat with the child and they read together under her teacher’s desk.
“Each learner is so unique and I really just try my best to find ways to connect with each of them,” Sollars says. “As an educator you have to be able to meet students’ needs with patience and understanding. For example, I am currently working with a student who I make and print tons of supplemental phonics worksheets and handwriting pages for because they need that even this far into the school year. I have others whom I give blank books to and they create little masterpieces in their spare time. It’s incredible and it makes my heart happy to see them enjoying themselves. I like to adjust lessons and activities to make them more engaging, hands-on, and memorable for the students.”
Along with her Red Apple Award, Sollars received a $250 Ashley gift card. Brittany Stone, Partnerships and Community Specialist for Ashley, said, “She believes every child should receive a fair, high-quality education. It’s an honor to recognize teachers like Ms. Sollars.”
In addition to teaching, Sollars is drawn to technology and is considering pursuing an advanced degree in curriculum and technology or specializing as a digital learning specialist.
Until May 19, voting is open for the Red Apple Teacher of the Year Award, of which Sollars is a finalist. The winner will receive a $10,000 gift card to Ashley HomeStore. Vote here.