Annual Night of Stars Honors Teachers, Staff, Academic Teams

Oct. 6, 2022 - The Comal Independent School District hosted its annual Night of Stars banquet Tuesday evening, honoring the 2021-2022 campus teachers of the year, district teachers of the year, academic growth awards and a few surprise awards in various categories.

“This is a special night to honor the best of the best,” said Acting Superintendent Mandy Epley. “It’s important to take the time to recognize the work that our teachers and support staff do every day.”


The honorees include the following: Rookie Teacher of the Year, Mason Cardiff of Memorial Early College High School, formerly with Canyon Middle School; Educator of the Year, Leah Stephenson of Startzville Elementary; Assistant Principal of the Year, Rachel Phife of Clear Spring Elementary; Support Staff of the Year, Theresa Mayfield of Smithson Valley High School; 590 of the Year, Alyson Neal of Freiheit Elementary; Mentor of the Year, Denise Ramirez of FES; and Volunteer of the Year, Megan Goettsch, STZES.

Rookie Teacher of the Year, Cardiff, a computer science teacher, came to Comal ISD a year ago and taught at CMS, and currently, he teaches at MECHS.

“He is highly knowledgeable about computer science and creates lessons that are relatable to the real world of computer programming,” says Chelsea Quidachay, CMS principal. “He makes activities that engage students, are fun and interactive while still challenging them to think outside the box. Additionally, he makes a point to show up early to greet students with an encouraging word and positive attitude.”

As the reading instruction coach, Stephenson, who was named Educator of the Year, is dedicated to doing whatever it takes to inspire teachers.

“Her love of learning is contagious,” says Casey Calland, STZES principal. “The impact she has on our campus is truly remarkable. Her extensive knowledge of teaching children to read has helped students at all grade levels.”

Phife, who was named Assistant Principal of the Year, always puts students first. She builds positive and long-lasting relationships with students, staff and parents. She regularly seeks feedback from staff on how to better the campus’ systems and structures. She works to solve problems collaboratively, and the positive impact she has made is evident at campus events when former students run to give her hugs when they see her. She leaves a lasting impression on all who work with her.

The Support Staff of the Year honoree, Mayfield, is a paraprofessional in essential academics at SVHS. She works closely with her students to create a learning environment that is engaging and ensures success. She takes weekly lessons and spends time collecting and building tactile accommodations. For example, she built a functional dam in the classroom to demonstrate water as a source of energy. She often receives praise from therapists and service providers who notice the positive impact she has on her students’ education.

The 590 of the Year honoree, Neale, is the student records specialist at FES. She consistently goes the “extra mile” when it comes to students and their families. In fact, the grandmother of a kindergarten student nominated her for the district’s 590 award. Her grandchild was very anxious about starting school and would become upset every morning when dropped off by the grandfather. Neale stepped in and allowed the grandfather to come into the office every morning to give what became a ritual of high-fives and hugs before the student would finally wave goodbye and head to the classroom without tears.

The Mentor of the Year, Ramirez, is always willing to share her knowledge with others and makes a point to help first- and second-year teachers. She supports student achievement by supporting teachers.

“She always has such a positive attitude and her eagerness to helps is always present,” says Amanda Bryand, kindergarten teacher at FES. “She has taken me under her wing to help me and is always offering supporting solutions to any problems that arise. She has had such an impact on me, and I am grateful for her.”

As this year’s Volunteer of the Year, Goettsch is a “behind-the-scenes” volunteer who consistently steps in to help when there is a need. From buying rewards and making t-shirts to planning student and family events, her talents inspire others.

“She is always willing to lend a hand, in order to make things happen,” says Kimberly Nance, librarian at STZES. “She is a volunteer with a heart of gold.”


Academic Growth Team Awards 2021-22

The Academic Growth Team Awards recognize campuses and grade level teams that earned the highest Academic Growth Score in 2022. The Academic Growth Score indicates the amount of improvement or growth a student has made from year to year as measured by STAAR results.

This is quite an achievement as teachers navigated the post-pandemic 2021-2022 school year. Together, these team members analyzed data in order to work with students one-on-one who may have fallen behind or missed important benchmarks.

Math Academic Growth Team Awards

  • Fourth grade - tie - Indian Springs Elementary and Oak Creek Elementary
    -Indian Springs, Andrea Krueger and Tara Johnson; Principal Mary Stults
    -Oak Creek, Jennifer Mundy, Bonnie Martin and Linda Peters; Principal Valerie Harari.
  • Fifth grade - Hoffmann Lane Elementary, Kelly Carter, Kristin Vondracek and Rishanne Frech; Principal Amanda Schumann.
  • Sixth grade - Smithson Valley Middle, Alissa Lebahn, Mark Day and Julie Mergele, retired; Principal Aryn Standeford.
  • Seventh grade – tie - Danville Middle and Spring Branch Middle-
    -Danville Middle, Jaycee Gavlick and Matthew Ditta; Principal Jason Mummert
    -Spring Branch Middle, Richard Herr, Stephanie Johnson, Mandi Kelley and Shawn Kelm; Principal Sally Bratton
  • Eighth grade - Mountain Valley Middle, James Patton and Roslyn Duggan-Phillips; Principal Angela Looney.

Algebra I Academic Growth Team Awards

  • Middle school - Mountain Valley Middle, James Patton; Principal Angela Looney
  • High school - Davenport High School, Shelley Beck and Rachel Kunkel; Principal Matthew DeLoach
  • High school of choice - Memorial Early College High School, Stephen Hudson; Principal Joseph Murguia

Reading Academic Growth Team Awards

  • Fourth grade - Specht Elementary, Amy Youngblood and Caelan Ward; Principal Tausha Nickleberry
  • Fifth grade - Rahe Bulverde Elementary, Leticia Gonzales-Echt; Principal Sunshine Barker
  • Sixth grade - Smithson Valley Middle, Anna Laura Castello and Taylor Rognerud; Principal Aryn Standeford.
  • Seventh grade - Pieper Ranch Middle, Katy Hannas, Taylor Blank and Alban Benitez; Principal Scott Hammond
  • Eighth grade - Smithson Valley Middle, Wendy Clark and Yvonne Hines; Principal Aryn Standeford

English II Academic Growth Team Awards

  • High school - Smithson Valley High School, Laurissa Dennis, Amanda Pippert, Patrick Hubbard, Marilyn Mickey and Jimmy Wilson; Principal Michael Wahl
  • High school of choice - Memorial Early College High School, Brittany Fenich and Francine Sallese; Principal Joseph Murguia

Highest Overall Academic Growth Award

  • Elementary - Bill Brown Elementary; Principal Ashley Jackson
  • Middle school - Smithson Valley Middle; Principal Aryn Standeford
  • High school - Smithson Valley High School; Principal Michael Wahl, Academic Dean Stephani Alvardo
  • High school of choice - Memorial Early College High School; Principal Joseph Murguia

Highest Increase in SAT Average Score 

  • Memorial Early College High School; Principal Joseph Murguia

Highest Percentage of Students Meeting AP Criteria 

  • High school - Smithson Valley High School; Principal Michael Wahl, Academic Dean Stephani Alvarado
  • High school of choice - Hill Country College Preparatory High School; Principal Julie Wiley.

2021-2022 Campus Teachers of the Year


  • Arlon Seay ES – Erin Young 
  • Bill Brown ES – Amanda Perez
  • Clear Spring ES – Suzanne Campos
  • Freiheit ES – Laura Clifton
  • Garden Ridge ES – Kathryn Guerra
  • Goodwin Frazier ES – Christi P. Garcia
  • Hoffmann Lane ES – Adam Voglewede
  • Indian Springs ES – Christa Scogna
  • Johnson Ranch ES – Danielle Tapp
  • Kinder Ranch ES – Alma Joers
  • Morningside ES – Jennifer Hays
  • Mountain Valley ES – Amber Hanson
  • Oak Creek ES – Whitney Oefinger
  • Rahe Bulverde ES – Anna Castello
  • Rebecca Creek ES – Jennifer Horne
  • Specht ES – Kaitlyn Howerton
  • Startzville ES – Tracey Buxkemper
  • Timberwood Park ES – Katie Tyler 

Secondary Middle

  • Canyon Middle – Kiera Craft
  • Church Hill Middle – Kristi Lindsay
  • Danville Middle – Beth Norman
  • Mountain Valley Middle – Ronald J. Fey Jr.
  • Pieper Ranch Middle – Anna Multach
  • Smithson Valley Middle – Allison Hallmark
  • Spring Branch Middle – Mitch Odom

Secondary High

  • Canyon High – Tanya Livingston
  • Canyon Lake High – Rosalind Witcher Belyeu
  • Comal Academy Discipline Center – Alishea Cuellar
  • Davenport High – Megan Schaffer
  • Hill Country College Preparatory High – Jennifer Fey
  • Memorial Early College High – Jeffrey Trott
  • Pieper High School – Spencer Cox
  • Smithson Valley High – Dena Saunders

2021-2022 Elementary District Teacher of the Year 

  • Danielle Tapp - Johnson Ranch Elementary

2021-2022 Secondary District Teacher of the Year  

  • Jennifer Fey - Hill Country College Preparatory High School





-Comal ISD 2021-2022 Campus Teachers of the Year

-2021-2022 Rookie Teacher of the Year Mason Cardiff

-2021-2022 Educator of the Year Leah Stephenson

-2021-2022 Assistant Principal of the Year Rachel Phife

-2021-2022 Support Staff of the Year Theresa Mayfield

-2021-2022 590 of the Year Alyson Neal

-2021-2022 Mentor of the Year Denise Ramirez

-2021-2022 Volunteer of the Year Megan Goettsch



Read more Comal ISD news here.