This year’s Irving ISD Secondary District Teacher of the Year is Mr. Rashaad Calaham from Sam Houston Middle School, where he currently serves as the Choir Director.
Mr. Calaham found Irving ISD thanks to one of his colleagues. He recalls when his reference recommended him to the Fine Arts Director, who granted him an interview. Five years later, his role at Sam Houston MS continues to make him feel important. Mr. Calaham says, “I’m not just a person working for them, but rather, they empower me to be the advocate I need to be for children.”
Mr. Calaham’s favorite thing about being an Irving ISD teacher is the family bond he’s built with the people he works with. He describes that the workplace can sometimes be a difficult place to find that. He also appreciates how fun the students make teaching: “some of my heartiest laughs have come from hilarious moments with my students.”
So far in his journey as Choir Director, Mr. Calaham’s favorite memory was when he received news that the Houston Middle School Varsity Treble Choir was invited to perform at the 2021 Texas Music Educators Association Convention. He remembers the moment: “An invitation to this event does not come easy: recordings of the choir are sent in to a committee, and a set number of them are selected out of hundreds from across the state of Texas. When I received the phone call, I fell to the floor in tears. Many music educators desiring to be invited to TMEA sometimes spend several years preparing to do so—we were able to accomplish this in just three years.”
In the upcoming school year, Mr. Calaham looks forward to continuing the traditions and culture of success at Sam Houston MS. As we start seeing more things return to normalcy in the community as we recover from the pandemic, he hopes more in-person performances will take place next year. He is also looking forward to collaborating with the Band and Orchestra programs to establish Sam Houston’s first Mariachi program. He says, “We’ve seen mariachi be successful at other schools, particularly here in the North Texas area, and we feel that mariachi would be a great way to introduce music to our general student population, and in turn, help to benefit and grow our enrollment numbers.”
We asked Mr. Calaham: What motivates you everyday in the classroom?
“Honestly, my students do. They are some of the kindest and sweetest individuals; and ultimately, they just want an advocate. Many of our students think they don’t have anyone that believes in them. They want someone in their corner rooting for them and pushing them to be the best they can. Will they falter sometimes? Of course. But when they know they have some cheering them on, they’ll keep trucking along towards greatness, and that is MY motivation—being able to see them cross that “finish line” of Graduation.”
From the Irving Schools Foundation team, we congratulate Mr. Calaham for his great journey at Sam Houston MS and look forward to his future success as an inspiring educator.