The Education Committee of the Laredo Chamber of Commerce annually takes time to honor educators.  A special recognition – the School Bell Award – is presented to those educators that are selected by their peers for their performance in and out of the classroom.

This year the Laredo Chamber will honor eleven outstanding teachers representative of the primary grades through the university level at a ceremony to be held at 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, May 4, 2017, in the Ballroom of the Student Center at Texas A&M International University.  Winners for each of eleven categories were selected from a pool of applicants by members of the Chamber’s Education Committee.  States Committee Chairman Humberto ‘Tito’ Gonzalez, Jr., “We had the privilege of reading over 60 applications submitted by outstanding teachers from all over Laredo and the difficult task of selecting only a few winners.  These teachers not only excelled in their respective classrooms, but also went above and beyond through their extensive community outreach and involvement.”

The School Bell Award winners for 2017 are:


Pilar Costilla                                          United Day                                                                   PRIVATE

Rosa Flores                                            A.T. Dovalina Elementary School                                      LISD

Kristina Sanchez                                   J.B.J. Muller Elementary School                                         UISD


Linda Jessica Yelderman                     United Day                                                                        PRIVATE

Jessica Talamantes                               M.B. Lamar Middle School                                                 LISD

Gilbert G. Cuellar                                 Clark Middle School                                                          UISD


Robert M. Lopez                                  Vidal M. Trevino School of Fine Arts                                       LISD

Rebeca Martinez                                  J.B. Alexander High School                                                  UISD


Betsy Abastta-Santos                           Harmony Science Academy


Orlando M. Patricio, Ph.D.,                 Instructor of Physics


Marcus Antonius Ynalvez, Ph.D.        Assoc. Prof. Sociology/Director of Sociology Prog.

Recipients of the School Bell Award will also receive a special award from Family Chevrolet.  The local auto dealership has embraced the event wholeheartedly and is committed to making sure that selected educators realize that the business community is firmly behind them.  Hosting the School Bell Award ceremony/reception along with the Laredo Chamber and Family Chevrolet, will be the College of Education of Texas A&M International University.  Under the guidance of Dr. James G. O’Meara, TAMIU’s College of Education continues its commitment to excellence in the educational field.  Dr. O’Meara forms part of the Chamber’s Education Committee along with other educators and members of the business community.

The School Bell Award is the brainchild of two former Laredo Chamber of Commerce Education Committee members — Candy Hein, former V.P. for Institutional Advancement at TAMIU, and Elia Gonzalez, a telecommunications executive.  Hein and Gonzalez, in 1992, decided that the Laredo Chamber should find a way to recognize local exemplary teachers.  With the full support of the Chamber’s Board of Directors, the two organized a plan to raise funds and to institute the first awards program.  The School Bell recognition was born.  Originally, the School Bell Awards were presented at regular monthly Chamber board meetings.  In 2001, the Chamber’s Education Committee took the initiative to create the School Bell’s own event.  In 2005, Paul Young, a local auto dealer, decided to grow the event further and instituted a program for monetary reward for each of the honorees.

Over the years, the Laredo Chamber has made education one of its priorities — the leadership of the Chamber being cognizant that a trained workforce is key to economic development.  Aside from the annual recognition event for teachers, throughout the year the Laredo Chamber Education Committee supports and actively participates in school-related activities, e.g., support for anti-bullying campaign.

In addition, other Chamber committees award scholarships to local high school seniors annually.

Note that seating at the event is reserved for School Bell recipients and their guests. For information on the School Bell Awards event call the Laredo Chamber at (956) 722-9895.

Fuunded in 1915, the Laredo Chamber of Commerce is Laredo’s and Webb County’s longest running business organization.  It represents approximately 700 businesses of the local community.  The Laredo Chamber of Commerce is accredited by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce with four stars.  Only 3 percent of approximately 7,000 chambers in the United States are accredited.