El Campo teacher recognized for 16-year UIL contribution

Gabriella Canales By Gabriella Canales

Feb. 12, 2018 at 7:06 p.m.
Updated Feb. 13, 2018 at 6 a.m.

Katrese Skinner leads a warmup with student actors in the one-act play "The Teahouse of the August Moon" at El Campo High School.

Katrese Skinner leads a warmup with student actors in the one-act play "The Teahouse of the August Moon" at El Campo High School.   Madelynne Scales for The Victoria Advocate

El Campo High School teacher Katrese Skinner has given students a place to belong for the past 16 years.

"Your best students can come from anywhere," Skinner said.

About 30 gold, silver and red metallic, jumbo stars are pinned to her classroom's wall with photos of past students next to their University Interscholastic League accolades.

In 19 years of teaching experience, Skinner has been the director of the school's One Act Play and a UIL Coordinator for 16 years.

Skinner was recognized Jan. 22 as one of the state's 16 best UIL League sponsors when she received the 2017 UIL Sponsor Excellence Award.

Her UIL students have won 10 district championships and advanced to the state meet 35 times.

"Coaches and teachers have such a difficult job, and they go beyond the call of duty to serve as UIL sponsors, coaches and directors," said UIL Executive Director Charles Breithaupt. "UIL events function and thrive on the dedication and immense effort from sponsors."

Skinner said she learned in December she was a winner and was surprised, a feeling that came from people who told her recipients earn the award toward the end of their careers.

Skinner's UIL journey began when she was in high school.

She discovered the vast world of UIL when she injured her knee playing sports and her fourth period athletic class turned into debate, Skinner said.

As a freshman in 1989, she said she participated in policy debate, Lincoln-Douglas debate and One Act Play. She earned a full ride scholarship in debate.

Skinner's first love became policy debate and second, One Act Play, she said.

Before meets, Skinner and her students would wake up their voices through songs and tongue twisters and cheering "Go Wildcats" like a scene from the movie "High School Musical."

A tradition before taking the stage are student huddles filled with encouraging words, she said. The district contest will be March 9.

UIL participation teaches students to think on their feet, find their voice and build confidence, skills they can use in the future, she said.

As a sponsor, Skinner said she encourages all students to participate and promotes an inclusive environment.

Along the way, she has learned life lessons of her own from her students, who have taught her what life is like for others, she said.

Skinner said the commonality in her students' success stories is UIL participation.

"I have witnessed at-risk students become top students, shy students learn how to stand up in front of an audience ... students who have a history of fighting and alternative school go on to graduate from a four-year university ... and students with a poor home life find a place where they are safe and valued," she said.


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