(DEL VALLE, Texas) On Wednesday, March 8, Del Valle Independent School District principal Jeni Bristol was named a finalist for the 2017 H-E-B Excellence in Education Awards, spotlighting her as one of the best educators in Texas.

Hillcrest Principal Jeni Bristol, front right, receives a check for being named a finalist for the H-E-B Excellence in Education Award.

Bristol, the principal at Hillcrest Elementary School, was presented with a $1,000 check and a $2,500 check for her school. As a finalist in the Elementary Principal category, Bristol has the opportunity to compete at the statewide level against four others in her category for a cash prize of $10,000 for herself and $25,000 for her school.

Bristol was honored by the recognition she received from H-E-B, saying, “Thank you H-E-B, but more than anything else, thanks to all of the teachers, staff and students at Hillcrest Elementary. You all make me look good. Every single day, every one of our students and all of those fabulous teachers, they are the reason that I’m receiving this award. So thank you so much!”

H-E-B’s Excellence in Education is the largest monetary awards program for educators in Texas, and among the largest in the nation. The honor was kept a surprise from Bristol, who learned she was a finalist when H-E-B representatives surprised her with balloons, treats, and cash prizes in front of a school-wide assembly.

“Some people stand on the sidelines, while others allow their passions to propel them to create their own experiences. Jeni Bristol is a fervent leader with robust ideas who strives to create an environment which encourages student success,” said Hillcrest Elementary Assistant Principal Elizbia (Liz) Tamez. “In her mind, problem-solving and creating solutions as a team supersedes all perceived barriers. Each year that Ms. Bristol has served as principal of Hillcrest Elementary, the bar has been raised and our students have reaped the benefits. Hillcrest is a place where ‘You Matter.”

Bristol with Hillcrest Elementary students.

Bristol is in her fourth year as principal at Hillcrest Elementary. She started as a teacher in 1988 with United Independent School District in Laredo, Texas. In addition to being a teacher, Bristol has served as a school support team specialist, an Assistant Principal and has even served as the Director of the Center for Professional Development and Teaching at Texas A&M International University.

All H-E-B finalists are invited to Austin on May 6-7 to compete on a statewide level for larger cash prizes totaling $430,000.

About the H-E-B Excellence in Education Awards

H-E-B launched the Excellence in Education Awards program in cooperation with the Texas Association of School Administrators in 2002 as a positive way to support public education in Texas. It has become the largest monetary program for educators in the state, spotlighting best practices and celebrating the passion and creativity of Texas educators.

H-E-B asks customers, Partners (employees) and community members to nominate teachers, principals, districts, early childhood facilities and school boards in Texas. Each nominee is sent an invitation to complete an application online and is asked about their professional experiences, educational philosophies and achievements both in and out of the classroom.

A team of judges reviews the applications, narrowing the field to semi-finalists. From that pool, five regional judging panels comprised of former winners, administrators, and university and community leaders not affiliated with H-E-B select 40 teacher and principal finalists. Finalists and their schools receive a cash prize of $1,000 to $2,500, depending on category.

Three separate panels select eight school districts and five early childhood facilities as finalists, awarding $2,500 to $5,000 in cash prizes. Up to five school boards may also be recognized, and awarded $5,000 towards the district they serve. Additionally, one or more school boards may receive a special judge’s award totaling up to $25,000. Site visits are conducted to determine winners.

Teacher and principal finalists are invited to Austin, May 6, 2017 to compete on a statewide level for larger cash prizes totaling more than $400,000. A statewide panel of judges, not affiliated with H-E-B, conducts a personal interview with each finalist to select winners.

Eight winners — two principals and six teachers — will be announced along with two school districts, one large and one small, a public school board and an Early Childhood Facility, at a celebratory dinner on May 7, 2017.

Each winning principal—one elementary school and one high school—will each receive $10,000 in cash for themselves and a $25,000 grant for their schools. The winning large school district will receive a $100,000 cash prize and the winning small school district will receive $50,000. The winning Early Childhood Facility will receive $25,000 and a school board could be awarded up to $25,000.

The six winning teachers will include one elementary and one secondary teacher in each of three categories:

The Rising Star Award — honors exceptionally promising teachers with less than 10 years of experience. These winners will each receive a $5,000 check for themselves and a $5,000 grant for their schools.

The Leadership Award — honors teachers with 10 to 20 years in the classroom. These winners will each receive a $10,000 check for themselves and a $10,000 grant for their schools.

The Lifetime Achievement Award — salutes teachers with more than 20 years of experience. These teachers will each receive $25,000 in cash for themselves and a $25,000 grant for their schools.