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Teachers normally aren’t happy when their classes are interrupted, but on Monday one Lindale High School teacher’s class came to a halt in the best possible way.

Speech and debate teacher J.P. Fugler had the lights off, discussing a lesson when Principal Valerie Payne walked in, flipped on the lights and brought in a dozen people with cameras, a giant check and an H-E-B grocery bag mascot.

The H-E-B crew was there to surprise Fugler with news that he was named as a finalist in the 2018 H-E-B Excellence in Education awards, an honor that brings a $1,000 prize for both Fugler and the school.

Fugler, who was also was a finalist in 2015, will be one of 40 educators — and the only one from Northeast Texas — competing for a slice of $95,000 in prizes in May.

“JP is one of the most amazing young men I have on campus," said Payne, who submitted his nomination this year. "He is passionate, energetic, devoted; he works above and beyond.

“He is unlike any other teacher you’ll find on a high school campus," she added. "We are tremendously proud of him and it’s just an honor for us to have him on our staff.”

Fugler has been working hard to continue the success of Lindale’s speech and debate programs. In 2017, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Plaque - Third Honors from the National Speech and Debate Association. He is one of only 31 coaches to ever receive the honor since the society’s inception in 1925.

Fugler said the honor from H-E-B gave him a feeling of validation for the work his students have been doing.

“This award means a lot because it’s kind of a verification that what I’ve been doing for some time has been really working and for it to be recognized is a sign of that,” he said. “I think that this will help our class because the money that is given to the school will help us buy the necessary supplies to just further our educational standards.”

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