Tarleton State Honors Educators with Crystal Apple Awards

STEPHENVILLE, Texas — Tarleton State University recognized 12 distinguished educators last week with induction in the Crystal Apple Society.

In 2012 the College of Education, under the leadership of Dr. Jill Burk, established an award to honor educators who make a positive impact on students. Since then, Crystal Apple Society Award winners have been identified annually.

This year’s honorees are Bret and Monica Barrick, Dalta Ann Coulter, Jody Fain, Kevin Ferguson, Max Glauben, Dr. Russ Higham and Debby Hopkins-Higham, Dr. Beck Munsey, Diane Pokluda, Dr. Beth Riggs and Michel Wimberly. 

“These 12 outstanding educators are making a positive impact across our great state!” Tarleton President James Hurley tweeted after the ceremony.

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Tarleton recognized a dozen area educators with induction into the Crystal Apple Society at a recent campus ceremony. They are, top row from left, Jody Fain, Mr. Michel Wimberly, Kevin Ferguson, Bret Barrick, Diane Pokluda, Dr. Russ Higham, and Phil Glauben. Bottom row from left, Dr. Beck Munsey, Dalta Ann Coulter, Monica Barrick, Dr. Beth Riggs, and Debby Hopkins-Higham.

Bret Barrick

A Tarleton graduate, Barrick coached and taught in the Mineral Wells Independent School District and is now transportation director. In his nomination form retired Tarleton Associate Provost Dwayne Snider and student Connor Spencer lauded Barrick’s encouraging coaching style. Spencer said Barrick’s personable approach as a baseball coach helped ease his transfer to Mineral Wells High School as a junior, and observing his passion for the job encouraged Spencer to pursue coaching. Dr. Snider said Barrick’s recognition of players not just for being the best but for their willingness to work hard and improve is something all teachers should do.

Monica Barrick

Also nominated by Dr. Snider, Monica Barrick teaches mathematics at Mineral Wells High School and taught his niece. Dr. Snider praised Barrick’s patience and positive attitude as well as the effort she makes for each student, which helped his niece navigate transferring to a new high school as a senior and feel supported from the outset.

Dalta Ann Coulter

Coulter graduated from Tarleton with an education degree and taught for 34 years in Breckenridge, Moody, Killeen and Bruceville-Eddy schools. At BEISD she started Preschool Programs for Children with Disabilities and taught special education for 29 years before retiring in 2015. She was nominated by Jo Ann Kern, who noted that Coulter was not only a passionate advocate for her students with special needs but skillfully advised their parents on overcoming difficult challenges.

Jody Fain

Stephenville health science teacher Jody Fain was nominated by four of her students, who touted the positive impact her cheerful, caring nature and active communication had on them, even inspiring one to go to medical school.

Kevin Ferguson

Ferguson has taught sixth-grade science since 1992 at Gilbert Intermediate School in Stephenville, where he is lead teacher and department head. He has taught two generations of the Ken Howell family, who nominated him. His passionate teaching style make him stand out as an educator, said the elder Howells, while both daughters agreed that although science was not necessarily their favorite subject, Ferguson made it fun.

Max Glauben

Glauben was nominated by the Tarleton Department of Psychological Sciences for his contributions to education and humanity. As a teenager Glauben survived the Nazi invasion of Warsaw, five concentration camps and a death march from the Flossenbürg concentration camp to Dachau. His parents and younger brother died. After he was freed and moved to the United States, he served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War and became a tireless advocate for establishing a Holocaust museum where survivors’ stories could be shared in the hopes that such atrocities would never happen again. What started in the Jewish Community Center in Dallas became the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum, where a holographic image of Glauben relates his experiences. He spent much of his life traveling and educating on the dangers of discrimination and the importance of tolerance, and in 2018 he visited Tarleton to share his story. He died in 2022, and his son Phillip accepted the award on his behalf.

Debby Hopkins-Higham

Now retired from Tarleton, Hopkins-Higham was instrumental in the professional development partnership with Waco ISD and two separate campuses. Retired professor Dr. Ann Calahan, who nominated her, lauded Hopkins-Higham’s collaborative partnerships with area schools, administrators and teachers and her care for each student’s field placement throughout the educator preparation program.

Dr. Russ Higham

Dr. Higham, an educational leadership and policy Associate Professor at Tarleton-Waco, was nominated by the late Dr. Don Beach, who worked with him more than 20 years and praised his positivity, always knowing his students’ names and keeping up with them in their careers. “We need educators like him because they show they care for students, and in doing so it helps students become more successful,” Beach wrote in his nomination. “He’s just a good life coach.”

Dr. Beck Munsey

Dr. Munsey, head of the counseling department at Tarleton, was nominated by Dr. Annette Albrecht, who heralded him as an exemplary educator. He has taught hundreds of counseling students who in turn have graduated and worked with thousands of young adults across Texas and beyond. Dr. Munsey brings real-life experiences into the classroom from his private practice and is considered a superb mentor for his excellent counseling traits and the ability to impart them to students. He was the first Tarleton faculty member to record best teaching practices in diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging for use in professional development. His commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion won him accolades from the SAIGE Division of the American Counseling Association.

Diane Pokluda

Retired Crowley ISD teacher Diane Pokluda was nominated by Tarleton Professional Educators for her work as Region 9 and 11 specialist for the Association of Texas Professional Educators. Lauded as a “rock star” among professional educators, she and her husband, Steve, also a retired educator, share the benefits of ATPE membership in newsletters and special events on school district campuses. ATPE has supported the Tarleton Professional Educators student organization for over 12 years.

Dr. Beth Riggs

Dr. Riggs was nominated by Dr. Kathy Smith, head of the mathematics department, who praised Dr. Riggs’ skills as an educator who helps math majors complete their degrees in a timely manner. Dr. Riggs, a mathematics Associate Professor and the department associate head, has prepared Tarleton preservice teachers and provided professional development for in-service teachers across Texas.

Michel Wimberly

Student accolades fill the nomination form for Melissa Middle School percussion teacher Michel Wimberly:

  • “He never gives up on his students.”
  • “He made sure I kept my grades up, pushed me to be a better person and helped me get ready for college.”
  • “He’s like a second father to me.”
  • “He’s patient, extremely creative, caring and very inclusive. He doesn’t want anyone to feel left out.”
  • “His presence in the room demanded respect in a way that was not forced but earned.”

“Through his incredible teaching and musical gifts, Mr. Wimberly undoubtedly makes a lifelong impact on the students he serves,” added Dr. Lesley Leach, who nominated him. “We honor his dedication to his craft and his students.”

A founding member of The Texas A&M System, Tarleton State is breaking records — in enrollment, research, scholarship, athletics, philanthropy and engagement — while transforming the lives of nearly 17,000 students in Stephenville, Fort Worth, Waco, Bryan and online. True to Tarleton’s values of excellence, integrity and respect, academic programs emphasize real world learning and address regional, state and national needs.