AUSTIN - In a field where individuals are often overlooked regardless of their contributions to society, one man in South Texas left his small town to travel to the state capitol where he was recognized for his overwhelming success in education.

Premont Independent School District Superintendent Steve VanMatre has been in education since the 1980s. He started his career as a custodian with a broom and a mop, but on Tuesday, Feb. 5, he was at the Texas State Capitol being honored by Texas Governor Greg Abbott. 

During Governor Abbott’s State of the State Address, VanMatre and four other superintendents were recognized as the top five leaders in education. VanMatre stood along side his colleagues as they received a standing ovation from the crowd.

“Where every child, regardless of their zip code, (is) going to receive a quality education and where every student graduates with far more than just a diploma. They will graduate with the tools that are needed for them to be able to succeed in either college or career and that is precisely what is being done in school districts across the state,” Governor Abbott said in his State of the State Address. "School districts like Dallas, San Antonio, Longview, Pharr-San Juan-Alamo, and Premont. I want to thank the superintendents who have been leading the way in those school districts…”

"It was simply an amazing day," VanMatre said. "To be recognized by the governor and Commissioner of Education Mike Morath with the other superintendents was a proud day to be from Premont...It wasn't about Steve VanMatre, it was about all Premont ISD."

Students, facility and the community watched the State of the State Address via a live stream at the district. They watched as Governor Abbott recognized not only their Superintendent, but the district itself.

"I'm pleased and satisfied with the progress we've made in such a short time..." VanMatre said. "The best part of all this is that students do not have that negative association with Premont anymore."

In July 2016, Texas Education Agency (TEA) sent Premont ISD a letter that stated after five years of having an unsatisfactory rating the district was going to be shut down. However, after VanMatre joined the district, in January 2017, things began to change. In 2018, Premont ISD received a B rating from TEA.

"I want to say congratulations to all the students in Premont and to the teachers, to the principals and to everybody in education there," Govenor Abbott stated. "You were recognized today at the Texas Capitol for the excellence you have achieved. I want you to know that I'm very proud of you for setting the example of what a good education program can be."

"We are not finished in Premont. We still have kids that we have to do a better job for by continuing to look for improvements," VanMatre said.