Press Releases


Mark Leita, Marketing/Public Relations
Firstmark Credit Union
(210) 308-7899

Teachers Awarded $5,000 for Innovation Helping Local Children
Credit Union Recognizes 10 Bexar County School District Educators

SAN ANTONIO, TX (May 24, 2016) – For over 83 years, Firstmark Credit Union has modeled its philosophy around supporting the needs of its founders, educators. Nathanael Tarwasokono, President/CEO of Firstmark, has announced the winners of the credit union’s annual Educator Award program. Ten Bexar County teachers will receive a total of $5,000.00 along with a certificate of recognition.

The 2016 Firstmark Credit Union Educator Award winners are: 

Analisa Spicer
Ruiz Elementary, SAISD

Saleta Gomez
Price Elementary, SSISD

Natalie Stuart
Colby Glass Elementary, NISD

Carl Dickerson
Sky Harbour Elementary, SWISD

Ruby Salazar
Boone Elementary, NISD

Lisa Brand-Avila
Lamar Elementary, SAISD

Yvette Engstrom
Camelot Elementary, NEISD

Roxanne Gutierrez
Nimitz Middle School, NEISD

Donna Walker
Elrod Elementary, NISD

Grace Jabonsky
Colby Glass Elementary, NISD

The Educator Award program was designed with full-time, K-12 grade teachers in mind. It is intended to support educators who have innovative ideas they want introduced in their classroom, but who lack the necessary funds to implement them. During the application process, educators are asked to outline their project, and explain how it would benefit their students and be supported by the school principal.

“Reaching a child’s full potential in today’s age of techonology can require outside the box thinking,” said Tarwasokono. “It is important that we continue to embrace inventive thinking in an effort to educate our future.”

This year, project ideas include the creation of a book club, the launch of an interdisciplinary “Kitchen Cooks” program that incorporates fun lessons in reading, math and science, and the construction of a butterfly  garden to support studies in biology and evolving ecosystems.

To be eligible for an Educator Award, applicants must be a credit union member and an educator for grades K through 12 within Bexar County or any of the 12 surrounding counties.

Lisa Brand-Avila, kindergarten teacher, and Brian Sparks, principal at Lamar Elementary

Ms. Avila’s idea is to introduce an interdisciplinary program called “Kitchen Cooks.” This program brings children’s literature (Stone Soup, Runaway Latke, Strega Nona, etc.), math (measurements), social studies (cultural and celebration) and science (cake batter to cake) to life by providing a mobile mini-kitchen and book series.

Saleta Gomez, K-5 teacher, and Florinda Castillo, principal at Price Elementary

Ms. Gomez plans to create an outdoor laboratory in the school courtyard that can be used to support authentic student research on the interactions that occur between organisms within an ever-evolving ecosystem. The first phase will be a caterpillar/butterfly garden.

About Firstmark Credit Union
Firstmark Credit Union is committed to giving back to our community and making a difference in the lives of others. Founded in 1932 by educators, Firstmark is San Antonio’s oldest state-chartered credit union, managing over $1 billion in assets and serving members throughout Bexar County and many surrounding counties in southwest Texas with sixteen locations. Firstmark is a not-for-profit, member-owned financial institution, dedicated to meeting the needs of our members with innovative products, competitive rates and personal service. For more information, visit or call (210) 342-8484.