In turn, each of the 17 students were allowed to honor one of their teachers as a “distinguished educator.”

The following students, in no particular order, were honored according to the program from the night’s Gala.

Cody Matsler

Cody Matsler, the sone of Mary and Jeff Matsler, is involved in his church youth group at Denton Bible Church in Denton, the church’s college Bible study, took a senior mission trip to Panama and serves as a technical advisor with First Baptist Church.

His leadership positions include serving as president of the 4-H Shooting Sports Club.

His academic and extra-curricular activities include varsity football and National Honor Society.

He is taking dual-credit and correspondence college-level courses.

“I am awaiting acceptance to the United States Air Force Academy where I will study aeronautical engineering, computer science and political science,” he said. “If I do not attend the USAFA, I will attend Texas AandM to study linguistics, then go to seminary.”

Phil Young, a Gainesville High School coach, was Matsler’s chosen distinguished educator.

“Coach Young was an excellent model for me during school. He was also a great listener when I had a problem,” Matsler said. “He was a strong hold for me during football season and when times were tough he was always there to encourage me to continue, on and off the field. He was willing to help anyone with their schoolwork when they came across something that they could not understand. He helped me further understand the feeling of success in helping other people instead of being selfish. He also held me accountable for my actions and when I did something wrong, he would confront me about it and when I did something good, he congratulated me.”

Olivia Martin

Olivia Martin, GHS class salutatorian and the daughter of Cindy and John Martin, is president of the French Club and a senior class officer.

Her academic and extra-curricular activities include: National Honor Society, Mini-Mentors, “G” Club, UIL Academic Team, principal dancer with the Denton City Contemporary Ballet, principal dancer with Denton Youth City Ballet and attending Denton Dance Conservatory five to seven days per week. Martin has been dancing since the age of four, she said.

Future plans include attending the University of Oklahoma majoring in Ballet and English.

“After college, I plan to dance professionally. After my dance career, I would like to incorporate my English degree with the art of dance; possibly becoming a dance critic,” she said.

She named Gordon Smith GHS French teacher, as a distinguished educator.

“Mr. Smith has taught me for three years in a row; or should I say, put up with me for three (long) years in a row,” Martin said. “Along with French class at the high school, I also had the privilege of being part of his English course at NCTC. I would like to think we have developed a rare teacher-student friendship. I have truly enjoyed all of his classes.”

Monica Colunga

Monica Colunga, valedictorian of the senior class, is the daughter of Francisca and Jose Colunga.

Her community service efforts include monthly reading trips to GISD schools and involvement in the “Littlest Angel” program 2005.

Her leadership positions include: Vice-president and reporter, Reading Red Book Club; parliamentarian, Student Council (three years); treasurer, French Club; and secretary, Students Against Drunk Driving.

Her academic and extra-curricular activities include: National Honor Society (two years) and UIL Lincoln/Douglas debate, accounting and social studies.

“I plan to attend Wellesley College where I shall pursue a major in political science,” she said. “After college, I plan to attend law school.”

Leslie Nichols was named Colunga’s distinguished educator.

Nichols is a Lee Intermediate English as a Second Language teacher.

“During my first year in the United States, Mrs. Nichols was among the first to believe firmly in my potential,” Colunga said. “She encouraged me, she challenged me, and she helped me in any way she could. She opened doors for me and broadened my horizons.”

Bailey Hancock

Bailey Hancock, the daughter of Dawn Hancock and Paul Hancock, was a cheerleader her 9th and 10th grade years.

She served as a class officer her 9th,10th, and11th grade years and was in National Honor Society, serving as vice-president this year.

Her other academic and extra-curricular activities include: “G” Club, LEO Club, Spanish Club, Health Careers Club, National Honor Society.

She received the Ceramic Award her 9th,10th and11th grade years and was in the Top Ten Percent of her class for two of those years.

“After high school, I plan to attend NCTC for one year, then transfer to a university,” she said. “I plan to major in business and later own my own business.”

Barbara Hunt was named Hancock’s distinguished educator. Hunt is a Lee Intermediate fifth grade teacher.

“Mrs. Hunt’s class was one of my favorites,” she said. “She proved to treat all her students equally. Mrs. Hunt inspired me to carry on with efforts to make good grades and do the best I could.”

Vanessa Llanas

Vanessa Llanas is the daughter of Maria and Jose Llanas.

Her leadership positions include: Serving as an officer in the Leo Club, Health Careers Club, National Honor Society and SADD; chairman of TEED; and Student Council Parliamentarian for the junior class.

Her academic and extra-curricular activities include: Working as a student athletic trainer in soccer; GHS Mentor Program; Cross Country Track Team; and UIL informative speaking, current events and One-act Play.

She was also named to the Top Ten Percent of her class and is in National Honor Society.

“After high school, I plan to attend the University of Texas in San Antonio. I plan to major in Nutrition and become a dietician,” she said.

Chris Uselton was named her distinguished educator. Uselton is a Gainesville High School, agriculture teacher.

“In the few months I have known him, Mr. Uselton, my informative speaking coach has taught me the importance of believing in other people and myself,” Llanas said. “He has always believed in me and always tells me that I can do whatever I set my mind to. He has also taught me the importance of a smile and how a smile can go a very long way. Always believing in myself and other people will not only benefit me, but everyone else around me as well.”

Jessica Aston

Jessica Aston is the daughter of Dorian Aston and Jeff Aston.

Her community service activities include membership in the Downard-Fair Plains Community Club.

Aston also serves as parliamentarian of the junior class.

Her academic and extra-curricular activities include: National Honor Society (three years); Health Careers Club; French Club; and Electric Red Dance Team.

“I plan to pursue a degree in nursing and eventually become a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist,” she said.

Her distinguished educator is Dana Dudenhoeffer, a Chalmers Elementary fourth grade teacher.

“Mrs. Dudenhoeffer taught me a lot as a young teen,” she said. “Her teaching was always interactive and full of her own humor. She made learning a fun and enjoyable experience. At 10 years of age, I was growing into a young lady, and she taught me alot about how important life, friends, and family are. She helped me open my eyes to education and started my success.

“I would like to thank her so much for her dedication to her students; I’m sure she had a lasting effect on many. Mrs. Dudenhoeffer is a spirited and delightful educator that holds a strong hand in the education of GISD students.”

The Gainesville ISD Education Foundation was formed in 2003 as a non-profit organization to raise funds for GISD classroom projects and to encourage better performance and creativity among teachers and students. The foundation accepts donations. Each of the 17 tables at Monday’s gala were sponsored by business, individuals and civic clubs.

For information contact Schmitz at 665-0255.

On the Net:

Reporter Andy Hogue may be contacted at

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