Cypress Lakes High School art teacher and head girls soccer coach Casey Blades will be among seven Southwestern University graduates honored as 2018 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipients during the school’s homecoming weekend in October. Blades, who was recently named CFISD’s Secondary Teacher of the Year, graduated from Southwestern University in 2009 and was selected as a Distinguished Young Alumna.
By Miguel Fernandez-Junco, Cypress Lakes HS
CYPRESS — It wasn’t the phone call she was expecting – especially with the number originating from Georgetown – but it was one Casey Blades, a Cypress Lakes High School art teacher and head girls soccer coach, was happy she took.
In July, Blades was informed that she was among the seven Southwestern University graduates to be honored as 2018 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipients. Blades, who earned her Bachelor of Arts in 2009, was selected as a Distinguished Young Alumna and will be honored alongside the other award recipients during homecoming weekend (Oct. 26-28, 2018).
“Like many teachers I know, my motivation was shaped by a negative experience in my own education,” Blades said. “Each year, teaching continues to validate several of my core beliefs: the teaching-learning dynamic is interactive, students yearn for an outlet to express themselves, art embodies connections across the curriculum and perhaps most importantly, it is always possible to reach a student – the teacher just has to find a way.”
The Distinguished Young Alumna and Alumnus award is presented to graduates no more than 10 years removed from attendance who have demonstrated early success, innovation and leadership in his or her professional, academic or personal life.
Blades will join other honorees in festivities during Southwestern University’s homecoming weekend. They will be honored at a reception and celebration, but also invited to the university’s football game and other functions throughout the three days.
“She cultivates academic excellence by encouraging her players to pass their classes, even implementing a ‘Tough Tuesday’ program of extended-day tutorials,” said Megan Frisque, Southwestern University associate vice president for alumni and parent relations, of Blades. “She promotes lifelong learning by taking her AP Art History students on an annual field trip to art museums that bring the curriculum to life.”
Blades is in her 10th year at Cypress Lakes and last year, was selected to the United States Coaches 30 Under 30 Program, a year-long education and mentorship opportunity that started from a pool of more than 300 applicants. Her teaching and coaching methods in the classroom and on the soccer field are in a way that engages students beyond their time in high school.
“She relates to you, she puts herself in your shoes and she tries to go from there,” senior Jasmine Rios said. “Even if you are at the bottom, she’ll help you work your way to the top. Since my freshman year, I’ve always worked toward varsity. I’ve never stopped because she was always challenging me to do something different. Without her, I don’t think I would be on varsity.”
Blades isn’t just a model for her students, but also to fellow educators as shown by her being named CFISD’s Secondary Teacher of the Year and representing the district at regional competition.
“When I first started teaching eight years ago, Coach Blades was my mentor. I am very blessed to work and share a room with her all these years,” said Jessica Green, Cypress Lakes fine arts department chair. “Coach Blades has always been a positive and encouraging teacher. She creates student leaders who have integrity, compassion, and grit.”
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