Gulf Coast Educators FCU started the Appreciated Teacher Award program in 2012 to help honor the work of dedicated educators who make a difference in our community. The winners are announced each year during Teacher Appreciation Week. In 2012 when the program was first put in place, only educators in Harris, Galveston, and Brazoria Counties were eligible. Recipients received a $100 honorarium and a $100 donation to their school.

Since then, the credit union expanded their field of membership to the greater Houston area, and just as of last year, to the entire state of Texas. 2021 was our first year to include all educators within the state of Texas, so we knew that some changes had to be made and that this year’s Appreciated Teacher Awards had to be bigger and better than ever before.

The credit union decided to select 5 finalists, and let the public decide which of those should be awarded the “2021 Appreciated Teacher of the Year” title. The finalist with the most votes received a $2,500 grand prize and the remaining 4 finalists each received a $500 honorarium.

The credit union received 1,300 nominations from over 167 school districts across the state of Texas. A committee composed of credit union employees read through each nomination and selected 5 finalists. The finalists were displayed on our website during Teacher Appreciation Week and the public was allowed to vote on their top choice for the 2021 Appreciated Teacher of the Year.

In total, the credit union received 3,194 votes. Mr. Akash Patel received 1,187 of those votes and has been named Gulf Coast Educators FCU’s 2021 Appreciated Teacher of the Year. Congratulations Mr. Patel!


2021 Appreciated Teacher of the Year – Mr. Akash Patel

This year we received 1,300 nominations from over 167 different school districts across the state of Texas. Among all the nominations Mr. Patel’s made it to the top five, ultimately winning him the title of GCEFCU’s Appreciated Teacher of the Year!

Mr. Patel is the Spanish/World Languages/LPAC Chair at Ignite Middle School. He was selected by our committee for his distinguished accomplishments. He is a well-traveled Spanish teacher that has visited over 50 Countries and speaks a total of five languages, very impressive! As an educator that teaches at a Title 1 ACE, 100% low socioeconomic middle school, he works with students that come from challenging backgrounds and most have never traveled outside of the country. However, through his travel and life experiences, Mr. Patel has been able to enhance his teaching methods and provide valuable content for his students when designing his lesson plans.

In his first year as a teacher, he was recognized by the State Department of Education and the Multicultural Education Institute as the January 2015 Educator of the Month and the 2015 Multicultural Teacher of the Year. This recognition was earned by Mr. Patel for his achievement in promoting global citizenship and accomplishing a successful academic turnaround. Not only this but he was also inducted into the International Literacy Association’s 30 Under 30 list and was previously selected as one of the World’s Top 50 Teachers and shortlisted as a finalist for the $1 million Global Teacher Prize. Additionally, last June, Mr. Patel was elected to serve the 2020-2022 term on the National Council of the United Nations Association of the United States of America (UNA-USA).

Mr. Patel’s passion to be able to connect his classrooms with people and professionals worldwide is evident in his accomplishments. What started off through social media and virtual platforms later transformed Mr. Patel to become the founder of Happy World Foundation, a Texas-based global education non-profit. This organization promotes global citizenship education, citizen-to-citizen diplomacy, and cross-cultural understanding in schools and communities worldwide.

Mr. Patel strives to be an exceptional teacher and serves as a mentor to both his students and colleagues. He speaks at regional, national, and international conferences on his classroom experience, and has also trained over 40K educators to use the Global Connect database and other multicultural programs. Thanks to Mr. Patel’s accomplishment and through Happy World Foundation’s global education programs, thousands of American children travel to countries worldwide. Please help us in congratulating Mr. Patel for this outstanding achievement and going above and beyond what is required in the classroom to provide these resources for his students.


Congratulations to our 2021 Appreciated Teacher Finalists