Lynn Torres

Lufkin ISD Superintendent Lynn Torres speaks at the LISD Leadership Academy on Wednesday afternoon.

Lufkin ISD administrators and staff kicked off the fourth cohort of the Leadership Academy Wednesday.

The Leadership Academy is a group of 15-20 LISD employees selected to improve their leadership skills and learn more about the district while planning their futures.

“More than anything else, the goal is to help grow leadership from within,” deputy superintendent Kurt Stephens said.

The members of the academy had to fill out an application, write an essay and have a recommendation from the principal at their campus. They were chosen based on qualifications like years of service and whether they had their master’s degrees or certifications.

This year’s 18 members will meet once a month and hear a variety of speakers and presentations on many aspects of the district.

Superintendent Lynn Torres spoke with the academy members about her journey from teacher to superintendent.

“When I took a teaching job in August of 1976, I never intended, nor did I think, that I would end up being a superintendent in the district I started in 44 years ago,” Torres said. “I think I’m the testament to exactly what you can do to position yourself to be in the right place at the right time.”

She encouraged the members to always be the chief volunteer, learning something new and giving of themselves in each role.

“Our challenge and our commitment to you, is that as you are employees, one of the things that we need to do is develop you as a leader,” she said. “If you end up being a leader in the classroom, on your team, or as an instructional coach, you don’t necessarily have to have the title to exhibit leadership potential and abilities.”

Each mentor and administrator then introduced themselves and their role in the district. Then the members of the academy introduced themselves and spoke about why they chose to apply.

Kirby Bryce, second-grade teacher at Herty Primary School, said this was her fourth year in the district, and after recently receiving her master’s degree, she is ready to learn.

“I’m trying to grow as a teacher, and I’m trying to learn more things to make me a better person, a better teacher, and learn where I would fit in as I grow through the district,” Bryce said.

Nikki Neal has taught second-grade and kindergarten at Herty Primary School for 15 years. She is currently getting her master’s degree, and she hopes to one day become an instructional coach.

Michael Smith is on his second year — third if you count substitute teaching — as a biology teacher at Lufkin High School.

He said he has seen different campuses and wants to learn more about why Lufkin is so great.

Vincent Cartwright is on his third year as a teacher and coach at Lufkin Middle School.

“When I first got into education, I always said I didn’t want to be a teacher,” Cartwright said. “That’s the last thing I wanted to do, but it kind of chose me.”

After working seven years as a senior admissions counselor at Sam Houston State University, Cartwright learned that he loved kids. So he obtained his master’s degree and moved to LMS.

“I’m excited about being here, I’m excited about the challenge, and I’m excited about learning,” he said.

Grace Juarez’s email address is

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