Grad Earns Award as KIPP Teacher
In only his sixth year of teaching in the Knowledge is Power Program SHARP College Prep, Adam Kutac, a University of St. Thomas alumnus, won a 2012 Kinder Excellence in Teaching Award for teaching in Houston Independent School District. Kutac earned both his Bachelor of Arts in Psychology in 2007, with minors in philosophy and creative writing, and a Master of Education in 2010 from St. Thomas.
“I wanted to become a teacher because I wanted to change lives,” Kutac said. “Growing up I did not have a good experience in elementary school. I never want students to feel like they are not smart or can’t do something because I didn’t teach them. As long as I am around and in education, I will empower my students to take risks and prove that nothing is impossible.”
Each year, the Kinder Excellence in Teaching Award recognizes 15 Houston teachers, including 10 teachers from YES Prep Public Schools and KIPP with $20,000 each.
A fourth-grade reading teacher, Kutac has taught children as young as 3 years old in a variety of courses, such as reading, math, writing, science and social studies. KIPP SHARP College Prep is a program focused on getting children to and through college by demonstrating the importance of higher education.
“Higher education is extremely important,” Kutac said. “It is no longer an option. I could not imagine where I would be right now if it wasn’t for the education I received from UST.”
As the youngest of four children, Kutac was the first in his family to attend and graduate from college. A graduate of Cypress Creek High School, Kutac chose St. Thomas because of its mission, which he said promotes a balanced education in faith and leadership that prepared him for KIPP.
“At my school, we do a lot of character education,” Kutac said. “We have values that each child must own and live every day. These values help teach our students what it means to be a good and caring person. Our values are: Honor, Explore with Enthusiasm, Always with Excellence, Ready to try again and Together, or HEART Values.”
Showing his school spirit, Kutac hangs a UST banner in his classroom and wears his class ring to work every day. Kutac tries to mimic the teaching style of his favorite professors, especially Dr. Janet Lowery, professor and Cullen Chair of English and Creative Writing. He said his most enjoyable classroom experiences were in her creative writing classes.
Lowery said she is proud of Kutac.
“I'm so happy for Adam,” Lowery said. “He was an ideal student in my classes and was always attentive and considerate of his fellow students. He has a great deal of integrity also and has the ability to persevere in his studies. He deserves every success.”
Dr. Patricia Vandiver, associate professor in psychology and Cullen Trust for Higher Education/Dolores Welder Mitchell chair, said Kutac was a great student in his child psychology class.
“The child psychology class requires that students participate in a service-learning component, and Adam met each challenge with enthusiasm,” Vandiver said. “It’s always wonderful to see that amazing students such as Adam are recognized for their hard work and leadership abilities.
Dr. Emiliano Gonzalez, associate professor of education, said he was fortunate to know Kutac while he completed his master's in the School of Education.
"His knowledge and skills and love for education make him an effective leader at KIPP Sharpstown, a Title I school where 98 percent of the students are at or below poverty level," Gonzalez said. "As an assistant principal, he is loved by his students and respected by his peers, all a great testimony to his commitment for educating all students to ensure success."
Inspired by professors like these, Kutac said his ultimate dream is to give back to the University that shaped him and perhaps one day teach at UST.
“I am very thankful for my UST family for molding me into the person I am today,” Kutac said. “I am a better person and a leader in education because of the wonderful people who guided me through college.”
Adam Kutac; Adam Kutac incorporates teaching and fun with his students in his KIPP classroom.