Pre-K teacher Patricia Kuskos looks into the bright eyes of her inner-city students and sees the future.  Accordingly, she sets her expectations high, planning a science fair for young and eager minds, parent-student projects and Saturday field trips to local museums.

The Harris County Department of Education Head Start teacher was honored as Staples Foundation for Learning/Education Foundation of Harris County Teacher of the Month on Tues., Dec. 2 at the Head Start Coolwood Center, 767 Coolwood.  

A surprise presentation was scheduled for the Galena Park resident’s Head Start classroom in northeast Houston where visitors could experience her unique classroom management system that allows children to make choices and be self-sufficient.  

Nominator and HCDE Head Start manager Dee Parker-Wright says Kuskos is always in search of new and creative ideas for her young learners and their families by attending conferences and trainings for early childhood education best practices.

“Children and families transition from their time with Mrs. Kuskos into a different world, one full of possibility and wonder where each person can learn, grow and find joy,” said Parker-Wright. 

Parent China Sam saw her son Darius Washington grow in Kuskos’ class last year.  Not only did the 4-year-old learn—Sam says she gained considerable parenting skills from the Pre-K teacher.  

“She has lots of creative ideas,” said Sam.  “We do things like read restaurant menus to find all the ‘m’ words—simple things that reinforce the school day.  She insists that parents find other ways to discipline kids rather than hitting or yelling, and she is very structured.”

The former West Orange Stark High School valedictorian has always held herself to higher standards, says Head Start school principal and manager Wanda Vinson, who calls the seven-year HCDE Head Start teacher a “team player.”

Harris County Department of Education’s Head Start Coolwood is one of 16 area HCDE Head Start Area I centers which serves families residing in east Harris County.  Head Start is a federally funded program that prepares children ages 3-5 for school. It also supports and promotes parent participation as it builds stronger families. Low-income families or families of children with special needs benefit from services. 

As Teacher of the Month, Kuskos receives gifts for her classroom provided by Staples Foundation for Learning, the charitable arm of Staples, Inc., which funds the Teacher of the Month program with the Education Foundation of Harris County to recognize excellent teachers in Harris County. “Staples Foundation for Learning is thrilled to support the Education Foundation of Harris County’s efforts to recognize outstanding teachers who go above and beyond to shape the minds and attitudes of our youth,” said David Leach, general manager of the Sharpstown Staples. “As a company that is committed to supporting education, Staples commends the foundation and all our local teachers and mentors for the great work they do year round to foster positive learning environments.” 

Education Foundation CEO/President Douglas Kleiner says a grant from Staples Foundation for Learning provides for Teachers of the Month to invest in classroom activities and supplies. “Together, we and Staples Foundation for Learning are supporting excellence in education throughout the 26 independent school districts in Harris County, where over 800,000 children attend school,” Kleiner said.

“Teachers of the Month will receive an invitation to 2009’s prestigious ‘Excellence in Education’ dinner event, an annual Education Foundation tribute honoring Harris County school teachers.” The 2008 dinner event was held at Union Station where Astros owner Drayton McLane addressed the teachers and presented the Harris County Teacher of the Year Award. In 2007, former first lady Barbara Bush presented the Teacher of the Year Award. For more information or to nominate your favorite teacher, access 

About Education Foundation of Harris County: Education Foundation of Harris County, a 501c3 organization founded in 1994, is a nonprofit organization working in partnership with the Harris County Department of Education which supports programs for the 26 school districts in Harris County, creating opportunities for all children.

About Staples Foundation for Learning: The mission of Staples Foundation for Learning, Inc. is to teach, train and inspire. Founded in 2002, the foundation has contributed more than $14 million to national and local charities that provide educational opportunities and job skills for all people, with a special emphasis on disadvantaged youth. Staples Foundation for Learning has also developed lasting relationships with Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Earth Force, Hispanic Heritage Foundation and the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City. In addition, Staples Foundation for Learning supports Ashoka, an organization that develops and supports social entrepreneurs around the world, in eight countries: Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Spain and the United States. For more information about the foundation or how to apply for a grant, please visit