SMSD Announces 2018-19 Teachers of the Year

The four Stafford MSD Campus Teachers of the Year are proud to represent their respective campuses. They are Social Studies, Science, English and ESL teachers. They are from Houston, the Rio Grande Valley, Mississippi and Ohio, respectively.

Most importantly, they are Maricela Diaz (Stafford Elementary), Zenikka Nichols (Stafford Intermediate), Djuna Cole (Stafford Middle) and Nicole Herbert (Stafford High). On Thursday May 23, one of the four campuses teachers of the year will be selected as the 2018-19 Stafford MSD Teacher of the Year.

Of the four Campus Teachers of the Year, Diaz has the most longevity with the District. She’s worked for Stafford MSD for the past 14 years. She has a Master’s Degree from Houston Baptist University and a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Houston.

Diaz, who grew up in the small Rio Grande Valley city of Roma, recently watched her first group of first graders graduate from Stafford High. She taught first grade for eight years, and has taught Kindergarten for the past eight.

“I love my Kindergartners,” Diaz said. “I love teaching them how to read and seeing that light bulb go off.”

During her time at Stafford Elementary, Diaz has gradually assumed more and more responsibility. She’s currently the campus’ ESL/Bilingual Coordinator.

In addition to being a longtime SMSD employee, Diaz is a Stafford resident and the proud parent of two SMSD students.

Nichols is in her fourth year as a Sixth Grade Science/Social Studies teacher at Stafford Intermediate. Although she’s relatively new to public education, ‘teaching’ is nothing new for her.

“When I graduated from Kindergarten in Clinton, Miss., the teacher asked the students, ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’,” Nichols said. “For me, it was a teacher. I was always teaching. In Sunday School, as a teller. Four years ago, I was blessed to become a teacher in Stafford.”

Nichols was working as the head teller for a bank in Hattiesburg, Miss. – where she had earned a Psychology degree from the University of Southern Mississippi.

She credits her faith with her move to Houston.

“The Lord brought me to Houston,” Nichols said. “I came here on faith. I didn’t know anyone.”

Nichols, who will soon be at the new Middle School campus when it opens, is currently working on a Master’s Degree from Houston Baptist University.

Cole is in her fourth year teaching Seventh Grade English at Stafford Middle.

She previously worked as a pharmaceutical sales representative. A native of Springfield, Ohio, Cole earned a Bachelor’s Degree from The Ohio State University and a Master’s Degree from Troy University in Alabama.


 “I love education and learning,” Cole said. “Coming to Stafford MSD was an unexpected blessing and opportunity. I believe in the power of the written word.”

Herbert grew up in Houston, but she had ties to Houston as many of her cousins graduated from Stafford MSD. In addition, her fifth grade teacher in Houston was Don Jones, who came to Stafford MSD to work as a Principal. Jones is now a member of the Stafford City Council.

After graduating from Trinity University in San Antonio, Herbert worked as the lead high school sports writer for the Houston Chronicle. She would later work for an Oil & Gas Publication before working at two neighboring school districts.

She’s in her fourth year at Stafford where she teaches freshman and sophomore English and ESL. She’s also the UIL Journalism Sponsor for Stafford High.

“Stafford MSD has given me the chance to grow personally and professionally,” Herbert said.
“We have a  lot of opportunities to hone our craft and reach our students. I want to make sure every child knows they mean something, and I try to balance accountability with grace.”