July 25, 2012 — Joan Gilliland of Casa de Esperanza Academy, Houston, has been selected from a pool of national nominees to receive the 2012 Outstanding Elementary School Teacher Award from the Curry School of Education Foundation. The award is presented annually to an exemplary graduate of the University of Virginia's Curry School of Education.
Gilliland taught special needs students in various schools for 10 years in the 1970s and '80s, then left the workforce to care for her young children. She began volunteering at Casa de Esperanza de los Niños, Inc., a Houston-area nonprofit agency providing residential services for abused and neglected infants and young children, where she established a small developmental preschool.
In 1997, she founded Casa de Esperanza Academy to educate children of all ages who are now in permanent adoptive homes but unable to succeed in other schools. She directs the academy and continues to teach as well.
"Joan's loving and caring approach to teaching enables children who have serious medical and emotional problems to thrive in this more intimate setting," Kathleen Foster, director of Casa de Esperanza, said. "She has a gift for recognizing the incredible potential in each student and helping them to discover their own unique gifts and potential."
Gilliland received a bachelor of science degree in elementary education from the University of Virginia in 1974.
She is invited to attend a dinner and receive her award at the Curry School of Education on Oct. 25.