ICYMI: Roswell Daily Record: Morales says education is path to change

ICYMI: Roswell Daily Record: Morales says education is path to change

After nine years in various teaching assignments in Roswell, Hope Morales has a new role this year.

She is a “teacher on special assignment” at Military Heights Elementary School, training to become a principal for the Roswell Independent School District.
“As much as I love working with students, I absolutely adore working with teachers. And I know that the collaboration I have with teachers is helping students. The strategies that we are talking about, the data we are sharing are going into classrooms to help students. … Rather than working with 25 students, I work with 400, and rather than working with three teachers, I work with teachers throughout the building.”

Morales might be a familiar name to some in the city. She was one of the public faces of the New Mexico Teach Plus Teaching Policy fellows who helped craft the new state Public Education Department rule announced April 2 by Gov. Susana Martinez. The rule, to be in effect five years, will double the sick leave days allowed for teachers from three a year to six before they are penalized in their evaluations and will reduce the weight of student test scores from 50 percent to 35 percent. Now classroom [auth] observations and student scores each will account for 35 percent of a teacher’s evaluation. Martinez had vetoed a bill that would have allowed teachers to use all 10 sick days permitted by their contracts before being penalized.

Selected for the one-year fellowship from hundreds of applications statewide and after a process that involved screening of applications, interviews and questions regarding educational policy, Morales was put on a team that studied teacher evaluations, including conducting polls of educators in the state that provided data to help formulate a proposed policy. (City Councilor and University High School math teacher Natasha Mackey is also a fellow this year.)

Although teacher evaluation policy was not Morales’s personal top priority, it was among the top three and one she thinks is vitally important to education. “I think the evaluation system overall has impacted the culture of education as a state,” she said. “I think that teachers need accountability and our teachers want accountability. And I think that students deserve that. But I also believe there needs to be balance and accuracy. And I think our changes help bring better balance to the system while maintaining that accountability. “As soon as no evaluation bills had passed involving evaluations, I asked Teach Plus leadership, ‘Can we go back to PED leadership and see if we could get our recommendations into the current rule?’ … So there was always a back-up plan so that, some how, some way, we were going to get the changes.” Morales said she has heard mostly positive feedback about the changes, but she recognizes that some educators were critical of the changes as insubstantial or insufficient.
“We knew we had to compromise and get numbers in there that would be an improvement,” she said.

A Roswell native and Roswell High School graduate, Morales said that she knew early on that she wanted to be a teacher. She earned both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in education and has worked at three local schools as a substitute, a reading associate, a first-, second- and third-grade teacher, a seventh-grade language arts teacher and a Title I teacher.
She has been at Military Heights for four years and said she appreciates its “positive” culture. It’s also a perk that she gets to be at the same school as her second-grade daughter. Her son attends Berrendo Middle School.

Military Heights principal Heidi Shanor commented on Morales’s contribution as a teacher advocate. “She has become very involved with the New Mexico Department of Education over the past two years, especially, Shanor said, “lending her voice to help make positive changes for our educators and education system.”

Morales said that she could get a principal position as early as the fall, but she said she has learned that she can’t control the outcome. “I don’t go by my plans anymore,” she said. “That does not work out at all, so I kind of say that I will go for it all and what works out is right for me.”

Morales serves on many other education committees, including the New Mexico Secretary of Education’s Advisory Council, the RISD Superintendent’s Advisory Council, the RISD School Leadership Team and the New Mexico Teacher Leader Network. Her ultimate aim, she said, is to utilize education to help the community and its citizens succeed. “I was the first in my family to graduate high school with honors, to get my bachelor’s degree and my master’s degree. Education was my opportunity to change the cycle, and I want to make sure that I provide that opportunity for others,” she said. “I want to do my part to contribute to the overall success of our children.”
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Reposted from RDR Online Roswell Daily Record by staff writer Lisa Dunlap

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