Outstanding education students plan to impact young learners

Lori Maurer knew she wanted to be a teacher since the fifth grade, and now the math and science instructional coach at WoodCreek Elementary School in Katy hopes to move up into an even larger role thanks to her degree from the University of Houston-Victoria.

Lori Maurer

Maurer, a Katy resident, recently was named the Fall 2018 Outstanding Graduate Student for the UHV School of Education, Health Professions & Human Development. Emmelynn Junek of Richmond was named the school’s Outstanding Undergraduate Student.

Each semester, professors from UHV’s three schools select outstanding graduates to be honored during commencement. UHV will hold its fall commencement at 11 a.m. Dec. 15 in the Leonard E. Merrell Center, 6301 S. Stadium Lane in Katy. A live-streaming broadcast of the ceremony will be available at

Fred Litton

“Lori and Emmelynn are two excellent students who showcase the best qualities in the teaching profession,” said Fred Litton, dean of the school. “It is an honor to see them take these final steps and receive their degrees after all their exceptional work. They will be outstanding educators, and I know they will have a positive impact on many future students.”

Maurer’s desire to teach grew from her own experience with an excellent teacher in fifth grade. She watched her teacher establish relationships with the kids in her class and help them grow, and Maurer wanted to do the same. With that in mind, she earned her Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies in early childhood to sixth-grade education in 2012 and began teaching.

Now, she has been an instructional coach at her current school for three years, and she wants to continue her growth so she can have a positive impact on more students. At commencement, Maurer will receive her Master of Education in administration and supervision with an emphasis on principalship.

“I’ve always had a love for learning, and I want my students to experience that as well,” Maurer said. “I consider myself a lifelong learner, and seeing me take this step will be a good example that my own children – Wesley, Terri, Maddi and Jordan – can carry with them in the future.”

Part of the requirements for her degree included an internship, which Maurer was able to complete at her own school. Her school’s assistant principal encouraged her to pursue her master’s degree, and the entire school supported her.

“I had the best support system from my colleagues,” Maurer said. “My principal, assistant principal and my colleagues were so encouraging. There even was support from the district level, because the school district wants its employees to grow and improve.”

Emmelynn Junek

For Junek, the desire to be a teacher has grown out of a love for children and a desire to teach English overseas. Although her desire to travel did not work out, she intends to turn her passion toward helping English as a Second Language students in the Houston area.

Junek will receive her BSIS in early childhood to sixth-grade education with an English as a Second Language certification later this month and plans to work as an ESL teacher. She is doing her student teaching in a third-grade class that includes ESL and special education students at Cora Thomas Elementary School in Richmond.

“I’ve learned so much from it,” Junek said. “This experience has really helped boost my confidence as a teacher and given me some important practical knowledge that I can take with me into my future classrooms.”

As she earned her degree, Junek enjoyed working with friends and classmates, especially when it came to helping each other learn different elements of the teaching profession. She also appreciated that UHV’s professors were interested and invested in their students’ success.

“I enjoyed being able to get to know and work with so many wonderful people,” she said. “The professors were so personable and accessible. And my fellow students and I had the opportunity to teach each other, just like we’ll be teaching our own students.”

In addition, Junek had a strong support network from her family and friends. But most of all, she could not have completed this achievement if not for her relationship with God, she said.

“My faith has given me so much strength to make it through this process,” she said. “There were some tough situations that came up in the midst of this, but by the grace of God, I was able to finish my degree and move forward.”

Maurer is appreciative of her family, especially her husband, Chris, who always supported her decision to pursue more education, and their four children. She also is grateful for the excellent instruction she received from her faculty mentor, Roselia Alaniz, a UHV associate professor of educational leadership.

“I learned all about being a good leader from her,” Maurer said. “Because I was in a master’s program, she expected nothing less than master-level work. She grows great leaders.”

The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region since 1973 in Victoria, Texas, offers courses leading to more than 80 academic programs in the schools of Arts & Sciences; Business Administration; and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus, as well as an instructional site in Katy, Texas, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. UHV supports the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Opportunities for All initiative to increase awareness about state colleges and universities and the important role they have in providing a high-quality and accessible education to an increasingly diverse student population, as well as contributing to regional and state economic development.