Author: Teacher Liaison

As Secretary, I visited all 89 school districts. This is what I learned.

As Secretary, I visited all 89 school districts. This is what I learned.

Yes, Our Students Are On The Rise: Reflections From 89 School District Visits-Christopher Ruszkowski

“There are so many schools that are demonstrating what is possible for all students regardless of socioeconomic status. . . . We must learn from them and many, many others.”

During my first week on the job last summer, teachers, superintendents, parents, and educational leaders implored me to “get out there” and talk to teachers in their classrooms, sit in desks with our students, focus on all of the positive things happening in our schools, and ensure more stakeholders have a voice in the policymaking and program development process.  After eighteen months on the road, and after visiting all 89 of New Mexico’s school districts and hundreds of schools including many of our state’s charter schools, I think back to that early encouragement with appreciation.

Our school communities across New Mexico are as vibrant as the state itself. I was there for Friday night lights in Eunice in their new football stadium, an early morning on the school bus in Newcomb in Central Consolidated, academic parent-teacher team night in Espanola, a visit to a Pre-K center in Bernalillo, a regular afternoon with the students of Columbus Elementary in Deming, the first day of a longer school year at Los Padillas Elementary in the South Valley, and a #NAEP2019 campaign launch (for the assessment that determines our national ranking) at Cien Aguas International Charter School near the Sunport earlier this fall, to name just a few. 

Based on input from the field, we launched the NM-True Straight-A Express, which visited and celebrated 100+ schools in New Mexico and has now been in-place for the past two years.  No district brought the noise and school spirit quite like Los Lunas, although the students and faculty of Cloudcroft held their own on top of the mountain and my recent stop in Fort Sumner showcased their fun-loving, no excuses attitude (yes, both at the same time).  I was wowed by the performances (and the academic rigor) at New Mexico School for the Arts and was impressed by charter schools like the single-gender Coral Community Charter School that maximize every inch of their non-traditional facility. 

“Get out there” was good advice—because it challenges so much of the wrongheaded, deficit-based, political rhetoric that we heard on the campaign trail in 2018 or that we consistently hear from the special interest groups that have been roaming the halls of the Roundhouse for decades.  There are so many schools that are demonstrating what is possible for all students regardless of socioeconomic status—perhaps most notably in the Gadsden Independent School District and at the K-12 charter school Mission Achievement and Success in Albuquerque.  We must learn from them and many, many others.  Certainly no two districts and no two schools in New Mexico are the same, but many of their best practices in improving student achievement are.  Whether at Jose Barrios Elementary in Silver City, San Lorenzo Elementary in Cobre Consolidated, El Capitan Elementary in Roswell or Gil Sanchez Elementary School in Belen, or within districts like Farmington and Gallup and Hobbs that have made systemic improvements, common themes emerge: the highest of expectations for all students, data-informed, data-driven practices, a growth mindset that permeates the culture and is embodied by principals and teachers, building student ownership in mastery of the content, finding ways to extend learning time beyond the traditional classroom hours, a focus on talent recruitment and development, and a spirit of innovation that coexists with the fundamentals of teaching and learning.  During this time, I’ve listened and learned about what is working in schools in New Mexico and looked to find ways to spread those lessons near and far.

And because of our collective commitment to identifying our state’s highest-performing teachers these past five years (those achieving two years of student achievement growth in single year!), I have been able to visit those teachers’ classrooms to study remarkable lessons driving significant student gains for students of all backgrounds in Tularosa, Loving, Bloomfield, Rio Rancho, and Las Cruces.  As the parallel-track NM-True Excellence in Teaching Tour began, I became even more proximate to our teachers, students, and families.  Now I was attending full lessons, bell-to-bell, in the shoes of our students—a Kindergarten lesson in Jal, a high school art lesson in Socorro, a middle school math observation with a Golden Apple teacher in APS.  My late afternoon classroom observation of Ms. Romero’s first-grade class in Pojoaque stands-out as some of the best early elementary instruction I’ve seen in the past decade—and a testament to how teacher quality changes students’ lives.  New Mexico’s teacher leader networks are now bringing those teachers together to share practices and ideas about teaching and the teaching profession, and their excellence will continue to spread and be shared.

My team and I consistently witnessed firsthand how the state’s most successful teachers and schools are relentless about using data and measurement, unleashing innovation in during and after-school settings, and are uncompromisingly student-centered in their approaches. These teachers and schools are often times dramatically altering the life courses of students from low-income communities, and they never do it by sugar-coating but rather through honesty and love (yes, we need more of that, too). This has been a constant reminder for us of just how much it matters for NMPED to be honest and transparent in terms of standards, assessment, and accountability — because of the civil rights, equity and economic competitiveness implications for all of New Mexico’s students.  And because we saw the greatness that was possible, regardless of student background, we also felt a moral responsibility to call-out, engage, and make additional resources available when students weren’t be well-served by their schools.  

I spent my days in Texico and Logan, Grady and Elida, Animas, Lovington, Portales, Corona, and Reserve—to name just a few.  I spent an afternoon talking with the entire faculty of the Des Moines School District, one of the state’s highest-performing, about their quest to be #1 (they’re close, by the way).  We held short roundtable discussions in Hatch Valley and Quemado, at Explore Academy and in Dora.  Listening to all 89 meant visiting and listening to EVERYONE.

And almost every week, I brought a handful of ideas back to NMPED in Santa Fe that came directly from an outstanding school leader or high-performing teacher across New Mexico.  We listened, and we responded: adding 15 days to the instructional calendar, launching the tour of our state’s best classrooms, the first-ever Excellence in Teaching Awards, moving from three to five performance levels on our early literacy tool, revising high school graduation requirements to focus more on CTE, raising the bar for teacher preparation programs, sending more emails and information directly to teachers and families, adopting new academic standards, a deeper focus on teacher mentoring, more funds for books and buses, launching more teacher-leader networks, and dozens more. 

About sixty really good ideas that impacted policy, resources, and implementation in-total—and none of these ideas originated in or around the Apodaca Building, home of NMPED.  Instead, they all came directly from the field. 

Our recent FY20 budget proposal to the New Mexico Legislature, the top-rated State Plan under ESSA, the expanding network of practitioners—each was formed almost entirely along vast stretches of road between schools and classrooms in our expansive and diverse state—during a time period when the best schools and the best teachers were driving educational policy.  I’ve learned so much from them, and I hope that they continue to be celebrated, listened to, and learned from.

My belief in the power and resilience of the countless teachers, families and students already doing the work of improving student outcomes has only strengthened.  New Mexico’s public education system now has the potential to transform into a true learning organization— informed by data, by best practices happening at the grassroots-level in our educators’ classrooms, by leveraging the power of raising expectations, and by continuing to consistently measure student outcomes.  Additional financial investment is inevitably coming (likely totaling $1 Billion during this decade, and already halfway there), and it will be our collective responsibility to account for proven accelerated progress in the years ahead.  To date, statewide, New Mexico’s student progress is unprecedented in the state’s history: 11,000 more students are doing math on grade level and 13,000 more students are reading on grade-level since 2015 – with Native American students improving their reading results more than any other group of students – by 8.2 percentage points. More students are taking and passing Advanced Placement (AP) exams, the statewide graduation rate is at an all-time high, and college remediation rates are at an all-time low. 

New Mexico students are, without question, on the rise.

The truth about what works is out there—it’s already happening in New Mexico—our challenge now is to ensure that it is happening everywhere, for all students, every day.  With admiration and appreciation, I thank you for our service to our students.  I leave this office inspired by the schools and classrooms that are redefining New Mexico’s future. 

Teacher Spotlight: Ava Rebecca Bartoo

Teacher Spotlight: Ava Rebecca Bartoo

Meet Ava Rebecca Bartoo
8th grade science
16 years in the classroom
I have a diverse background of educational experience in science from initiating STEM programs, leadership opportunities, and developing networks for quality educational experiences with colleagues at the state and national level, inspiring students to use Geo Inquiry projects to impact their community, and coaching teams. I have 16 years of experience teaching in the public and private sectors in the state of NM. I have had much success with my students throughout the years and was recently designated as a NM Exemplary teacher, never falling below highly effective. I had the awesome opportunity to serve as a NM Teacher liaison this school year traveling, participating in webinars, participating in a state wide network with other teachers, administration, and colleagues about changes to policies, legislation, rule adoptions, and happenings in education.
My last 11 years I have been teaching science content at the Truth or Consequences Middle School 6th-8th. My diverse experiences teaching engaging hands on science, providing extra- curricular activities after school, and providing college and career readiness preparation within lessons inspire students to see real world applications of science. Our district is plagued with many issues that are familiar around the state. We are 100% free and reduced lunch, limited resources for staff, students, and families. In addition there are drug problems, teen pregnancy, and limited jobs for families. Though these factors are present we have still had success the school I am at has been an A school for three consecutive years and recently I was selected to serve on the Secretary Teacher Advisory team with the secretary of education for the 2018-19. No matter what situations we face in education there is hope, we can face them together and we can still strive for excellence for all children in our state no matter what issues the communities are facing.
Within the last eleven years I have coordinated and implemented many STEM programs for the students at my school. Coaching science Olympiad for 9 years for 6th, 7th and 8th grades has been a great experience. The kids have qualified for state 8 times since I started here. It was offered as an after school scholastic after school club for students interested in science. I also coordinated other programs such as the Space X race for space rocket build teams for 2 in-consecutive years. My first rocket team won a payload spot valued at $13,000 and was launched from Space Port when it was still dirt. My second team built a Geiger Mueller counter that was part of a payload that was launched from a much larger rocket at Space Port America at their new site. I also prepared by 6th grade students for the Challenger learning experience two years in a row. I earned my Master’s degree in Administration and graduated in 2008. During the summer of 2013, I participated in a class during the summer to become a Mimio certified trainer and provide technology that I use daily in the classroom. I have served on several boards in education throughout the years at the state level as well. I was part of the NM SBA review committee for Science in 2009. I am also became a National Geographic certified educator. This year I served on the NM Course Map review team for the Next Generation science standards that were adopted by our state. I also served on the NGSS instructional review team to review material proposed to be adopted by NM for K-12 aligned with NGSS and its 3 Dimensional practices. My most rewarding experience has been the National Geographic Geo Inquiry Project that ended with my 8th grade class getting updated water fountains for the 34 year old school. It was part of my National Geographic teacher certification process and was aligned with NGSS and mirrored service learning projects I have seen become so popular on a national level.

#FamilyFriday- Parent Engagement Can Help New Mexico Continue to Rise

#FamilyFriday- Parent Engagement Can Help New Mexico Continue to Rise

#FamilyFriday is a weekly series of voices from the field of families and advocates from across the State of New Mexico. Each Friday, a new voice will be posted. If you would like to submit a blog post for consideration of publication, please submit it to Family.Liaison@state.nm.us. Enjoy and share!

Parent Engagement Can Help New Mexico Continue to Rise

Jaylene Haley

Hello! My name is Jaylene, I am wife to my awesome husband of 10 years and I am mom to my 4 school-age kids. I also am a full-time student at Western New Mexico University, majoring in Secondary Education with a focus in English Language Arts.

I began to question why we were #50 for education in the nation as I researched a paper for a class. We moved from a very poor education system that I had seen firsthand the effects of, yet they were much higher in rankings than New Mexico. I did not understand this at all because the quality and competency I saw from my children’s educators and administrators were quite the opposite. I began to ask questions, framing them within what I knew about ESSA, and I had more questions about it. This process of asking questions led me to trying to [find answers to] how and where we could improve education and the legislation surrounding education in New Mexico. This process led me to a few different and amazing people within the Public Education Department. I finally crossed paths with Gloria Ruiz, who is the Family Engagement Coordinator with the Public Education Department. As we spoke about things like ESSA and the steps being taken to improve education in New Mexico, she suggested that I apply for a position [o]n the Family Advisory Board. I was uncertain if this was the direction I wanted to go at the time, because I was already very busy with my own family, and things were only slated to be busier in my next semester of school. I stepped outside of my comfort zone, though and made an interview video about why Family Engagement is important to education; this resulted in being asked to join the Secretary’s Family Advisory board.

One of my current textbooks states, “Active citizen participation is a cornerstone of democratic theory.” I wanted to participate in changing things and I did so the only way I knew how: ask questions. This, at its root, is engagement. I needed to have the information and ability to ask the questions to engage within New Mexico’s education system. Every parent has a strong voice for advocating in their children’s education. However, many parents do not take advantage of this opportunity and I want to change this for my community. “British philosopher John Locke (1632-1704) argued that the power of government comes from the consent of its citizens and that consent is only possible when the citizenry is informed and engaged.” This seems to me that engagement is key to helping change things within our government not only at the state level, but on a national one as well. With the path the nation is taking right now, I believe it is very important to be teaching our students and children how to advocate for themselves against a bully government system. This includes them understanding their civil rights and how to leverage them.

The last month has been a whirlwind of information and revelations into the understanding of the Department of Education’s functions here in New Mexico. Through the Student Family Partnership academy, I was able to learn more of what makes my individual region in New Mexico so awesome and I have gained an appreciation for the process that must be taken to approve funding for education in New Mexico. I have learned many things about educational law, different programs and initiatives that are seeing great results such as NMTEACH and New Mexico Rising. I feel that if the state of New Mexico can keep the momentum going that has been built in the past 2 years after the new governor and administration is in place, we can begin to see our state rise from the bottom of the educational rankings. This is also contingent on family engagement becoming more prevalent throughout New Mexico, as my fellow cabinet members and myself help raise the awareness that we as parents, family members and educators alike have a voice and we want our kids to have the educational opportunities that they deserve. I hope that by gaining this experience, I can better advocate for my future students, families, school, district and county as I serve as a public educator as well as a mom.

References

Joeseph Losco, R. B. (2017). AM GOV. New York: McGraw-Hill Education.

Teacher Spotlight: MaryBeth Britton

Teacher Spotlight: MaryBeth Britton

***Meet MaryBeth Britton***
9th, 11th, and 12th grade English
30 years in the classroom
“I am inspired by my students’ efforts to overcome personal obstacles in order to better their lives. Knowing that I am able to help them transcend day-to-day challenges in their journeys to become productive adults is very meaningful to me.”
Teaching has been in my blood since I was a young child. My grandparents were both school teachers and I understood early on the influence that a teacher could have on a student’s life. I felt the influence of fine teachers throughout my education.
I earned a B.S in Elementary Education from WNMU and began teaching at Glenwood Elementary in Glenwood, NM. I earned an MAT in Reading and moved up to teach Chapter I reading classes at Reserve, NM. I jokingly say that I am a small school specialist, as I have worked all but one of my 30 years in small, rural schools. I love having the opportunity to teach multiple generations, get to know families, and celebrate their many successes.
In 1994, I joined the Pecos school district, first teaching Chapter I reading and math classes. I have been a high school English teacher at Pecos High School since 1997. I currently teach AP English Language and AP English Literature, English 12, Freshman English, and Yearbook. Teaching is as enjoyable and rewarding for me in my 31st year as it was when I was a much younger teacher. I can’t imagine spending my time in a profession that does not involve working with young people and helping them grow as scholars and citizens.

Teacher Spotlight: Caroline Marrufo

Teacher Spotlight: Caroline Marrufo

***Meet Caroline Marrufo***
3rd grade
“There is nothing more meaningful to me than being a partner in teaching a child how to read. That is the foundation of all their future learning.”
I was born and adopted in Denver, Co. When my adoptive parents divorced (I was one), my mom moved to Mexico City with my 9 year old sister and me. My mom married my “daddy” when I was 3. We lived in Mexico City for 13 years. I attended a French elementary school and then a British school from 5th grade to the middle of 9th grade. At that time, we moved back to the United States, where I graduated from Santa Fe High School.
I attended UNM where I earned my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education. I taught in APS for 5 years, then moved to Phoenix, where I lived and taught for 15 years. My 21 year old son, Miguel, was born in Phoenix and my 20 year old daughter, Mia, was born just outside of Dallas. I stayed home for 3 years with my children. We moved to Las Cruces in 2005 to be closer to my stepson. I have taught in LCPS since 2005, with the exception of 1 year in Wisconsin and 1 year at Mesilla Valley Christian Schools in Las Cruces. I have taught all grade levels from a 4-year old kinder to 5th grade, and 1 year of high school Spanish. I have taught in bilingual classrooms most of my career with the exception of my first 5 years at APS.
During my years at APS and in Phoenix, I was very involved in the teachers’ union, serving as a building rep and attending conventions in Phoenix. I also served as grade level rep or teacher rep for PTA on many occasions. At LCPS, I have served my school as Dual Language Lead Teacher, a member of the Leadership Team, and Chair of the Math and Science Goal Team. I just completed 2 years in Teachers Pursuing Excellence. Last year, I was a Teacher Liaison with the NM Teacher Leader Network. This year I am part of the SIOP Team at University Hills Elementary and part of the Secretary’s Teacher Advisory.

#FamilyFriday- The Power of Parent Voice

#FamilyFriday- The Power of Parent Voice

#FamilyFriday is a weekly series of voices from the field of families and advocates from across the State of New Mexico. Each Friday, a new voice will be posted. If you would like to submit a blog post for consideration of publication, please submit it to Family.Liaison@state.nm.us. Enjoy and share!

The Power of Parent Voice

Misti Oracion

I am extremely privileged!  Every day I have the pleasure of helping parents and guardians advocate for their children.  I am a Family Liaison at Parents Reaching Out, the U.S. Department of Education’s-funded Parent Training Information Center for New Mexico.  I am also a member of the Secretary’s Family Advisory, and I had the incredible opportunity of being an inaugural member of the NMPED’s Family Cabinet.  I witness firsthand the power of family engagement and parent voice.  Incredible things happen when parents and schools come together as a team for student success.

Families often call Parents Reaching Out asking for an advocate.  We don’t have anyone with that job title.  Our titles are Liaisons because we know parents are the experts and the best advocates for their children.  We give them the tools they need to do it!

The most exciting part of my job and my experience with the Family Cabinet is watching a parent strongly advocate for their child, and then watching it ripple out to affect other children as well.  When a parent says to me, “I wish I could make it better, or change the system, but it’s not possible.”  I respectfully disagree.  I ask them to start by advocating for their child.  Change begins with gaining accurate knowledge, using your voice, supporting your child, and having high expectations.  When you start with your child, you can create change!

Last year, we supported a parent who had been requesting an evaluation for special education services for her child for over a year.  She used the tools we gave her and said to the district, “I don’t think you are following the law, and when I request an evaluation you need to honor the request or provide me with a copy of my parents’ rights.”  The child received the evaluation and services he needed, and then it rippled out.  The district was required to re-write their policy on the SAT [(Student Assistance Team)] process.  They now honor a parent’s request for an evaluation and allow it to happen at the same time as the SAT process, or they provide parents with procedural safeguards, explaining parents’ rights to due process.

In another district, a parent realized her child, who received special education services, was getting less instructional time than general education students.  This loss of instructional [time] was because the school was bussing special education students in late and [out] early.  This parent reached into her toolbox and asked for compensatory time for the instructional minutes her child should have received.  A memo went out to the whole district with directions that ALL children should receive the same amount of instructional minutes, and the practice of bussing in students early or late stopped.

Another parent used her voice and asked that her son’s school purchase a reading program for him because he was not making adequate progress towards reading at grade level.  The school bought a curriculum, and now every other child not reading at grade level benefits as well.

There are procedures put into place so that parents can work as a team with the school or respectfully disagree with a school as they advocate for their child.  A parent’s voice is powerful!  We need to advocate for our children because ALL of our children deserve the best.  Parent voices will bring powerful change!

If you need help in advocating for your child please reach out!  You can reach out to your PTA/PTO, Parents Reaching Out, EPICS, and the NM PED Family Engagement Coordinator.  We are privileged to be in a state where we have a Public Education Department who is doing more than giving lip service to Family Engagement and will help provide you with the correct knowledge you need to advocate for your child and all of New Mexico’s children.

Let’s use our voices and help New Mexico’s children rise!

#FamilyFriday- The Power of Positivity

#FamilyFriday- The Power of Positivity

#FamilyFriday is a weekly series of voices from the field of families and advocates from across the State of New Mexico. Each Friday, a new voice will be posted. If you would like to submit a blog post for consideration of publication, please submit it to Family.Liaison@state.nm.us. Enjoy and share!

The Power of Positivity

Carol Hernandez

My name is Carol Hernandez. I am a wife, small business owner, substitute teacher,
PTO president, and I teach dance fitness. My most important job of all is being a proud mom of
a 15 year old daughter in high school and a 12 year old son in middle school. I love spending
time volunteering at their schools because it’s important for me to be involved in my children’s
education along with knowing the environment they are in. To me, parent/family engagement is
essential to any child’s education. I also feel that it is very rewarding to watch all of the students
grow academically, physically and mentally throughout the years. Being a positive role model
and building positive relationships with students is important to me because I know in our
demographics the majority of them don’t have that at home. This is why every time I walk
through those school doors, I feel that I have a huge responsibility to encourage every student I
come in contact with. I want them to know they have a purpose, and I want them to feel
important. I want them to pass the encouragement onto others and hope that it spreads like a
bad virus! Last December these thoughts were going through my head as I was trying to listen
to the announcements over the intercom. I looked around and all of the students were
completely ignoring the monotone voices coming through the speakers. That evening I asked
both of my kids what the announcements said that day and neither of them had a clue. That’s
when I came up with this crazy idea!
Our middle school had issues with consistency in leadership last year that impacted the
school’s environment and students’ behavior in a negative way. As the year progressed, the
behavior seemed to get worse, and it was making it harder for teachers to teach and students to
learn. I had students telling me about their frustrations because of all the disruptions in class. I
explained to them that they needed to tell their teachers or their principal the issues they were
facing. None of the students who had approached me wanted to do that because they were
afraid. That’s when I realized that they needed to learn to advocate for themselves.
I scheduled a meeting with my son’s Science teacher to tell her about my idea. I
explained to her that I wanted to start a Social Media program during advisory class. I wanted
to record a video of the kids giving the announcements, create a YouTube channel, and [allow] the
students [to] watch it every day during advisory. Along with the students being more engaged
in the announcements because their peers are on YouTube, this is our chance to promote and
recognize good character [and] encourage good behavior along with rewarding students for it! In the
meantime, this is also a chance for us to build a bridge between the school, parents, and
community! [Anyone] can subscribe to the YouTube channel and get alerts so that they know
what’s happening at our school! They can be informed of upcoming events they can attend,
see/hear if their children are rewarded for good behavior, and be a part of their children’s school
with a click of a button! My son’s science teacher was screaming with excitement and
immediately scheduled a meeting with the principal for us to pitch the idea to him. I explained
my plan to use my son’s equipment and assured him that it wouldn’t cost the school anything to
do this. Needless to say, the principal thought it was a brilliant idea and gave us the green light
to get started in February.
The first day the students walked into their new advisory class they were happy to see
me there. As I looked around the room I was a little worried because I knew we had to make
this exciting to engage our audience immediately, and some of the students in the class were
very shy and quiet, including my own children. I had a talk with the class and let them know all
the plans. I explained to them that their job was to promote good character and kindness and
encourage good behavior. They all vowed to be leaders of the school, to encourage each other
when they saw someone struggling and to think of each other as family inside and outside of the
classroom. That is when MMS Social Media Squad was created! We only had 30 minutes and
4 days per week to get everything done so we had to utilize our time efficiently. My daughter
learned to edit the videos at home, and she was in charge of that since the equipment belonged
to my son. I began writing the script for everyone but later handed the responsibility over to the
students. We truly became a well-oiled machine! The Squad was having a blast and loved
every minute!
The response from the student body was AMAZING! Each week we had challenges
that promoted the pillars of character. If a student was caught displaying good character their
name was announced and they were rewarded during lunch that Friday with a fountain drink
from Circle K. The behavior in our school changed drastically within 2 weeks. One of my
favorite challenges was to invite someone who sits alone at lunch to sit with your group.
Students who would never have spoken to each other were now sitting together at lunch!
Students who were notorious for their bad behavior started to behave well because they saw
the change in the environment. Students were being kind and opening doors for each other!
Towards the end of the year when students started to get antsy, we handed over the power to
teachers and let them report students who made a difference in their classroom. They loved it!
The good behavior and character was spreading! The Social Media Squad had almost 400
subscribers! They were speaking at board meetings; the once shy students were now speaking
with confidence and began to advocate for themselves! Every day they were determined to take
their school back and change the culture!
Going back and watching the videos from when we first started and how quickly those
students grew is amazing to me. In less than 4 months the camera-shy students, some who
had language barriers and/or self esteem issues, blossomed into confident leaders of our school
community! Being part of the MMS Social Media Squad has forever changed me. I now know
that with positive relationships, a little encouragement, and patience, these kiddos are
unstoppable! Most importantly…they know they are unstoppable.

Teacher Spotlight: Elizabeth Dorado

Teacher Spotlight: Elizabeth Dorado

***Meet Elizabeth Dorado***
9-12th Health and Life Skills
“The most meaningful part of teaching for me is learning. Every student I work with, every lesson I create, every unit I design, and every result I analyze makes me grow as a teacher.”
Born and raised in the east mountains outside Albuquerque, NM, I was identified as a gifted student early in elementary school, but by the end of middle school, I was bored with education and heading down a dangerous path in regards to the choices I was making. Before completing the first semester of my junior year, I dropped out of high school, deeply entangled within a lifestyle of addiction. Eventually embracing recovery and my own education, I became committed to helping others realize their own potential.
With my GED and some community college credits under my belt, I finally received my bachelors in Human Development with a specialization in early childhood education from Pacific Oaks College in 2003. I returned to Albuquerque with a husband and infant son, teaching 5th grade in the same community I grew up in. Just a few years later, we moved to Zacatecas, Mexico to my husband’s family where I taught English as a second language for several institutions across grade levels. When we returned to the Albuquerque area in 2008, I also returned to the 5th grade classroom as a teacher, and to the University of New Mexico as a student. After welcoming our second son to our little family, I graduated with a masters in Counseling Education in 2011 and started working as a school counselor at a state charter.
I love working in the capacity of counselor, but the classroom continued calling to me. When I joined the amazing team at Gordon Bernell Charter school in 2013, maintaining my classroom connection was a non-negotiable. I currently teach several sections of Health and Life Skills to incarcerated adults working towards their high school diplomas within the walls of the Metropolitan Detention Center.

#FamilyFriday – Parents Must Hold Schools Accountable

#FamilyFriday – Parents Must Hold Schools Accountable

#FamilyFriday is a weekly series of voices from the field of families and advocates from across the State of New Mexico. Each Friday, a new voice will be posted. If you would like to submit a blog post for consideration of publication, please submit it to Family.Liaison@state.nm.us. Enjoy and share!

Parents must hold schools accountable

By Bonnie Murphy, School Family Partnership Academy Member

After talking to hundreds of families over the last few months about their children and their school experiences, I have realized that there are just too many schools out there not doing their students and families right, and nobody else is talking about it. New Mexico has laws that tell schools, administrators and teachers how to deliver high quality education for the best interests of the students. We also have Administrative Codes that tell school administrators how to run schools. This gives them a lot of responsibility but a lot of freedom. This definitely isn’t working.

How would I know? My entire working career, since I was 19 years old, has been spent in some form of education, but I have recently left teaching and administration because this project is more important right now. Honestly- knowledge, experience, and training helps, but the key is what I have learned about education through the eyes of parents who tell me story after story of how they think schools have failed their children.

Most parents just want to make it better, not to add drama, embarrassment or backlash for their already struggling children. They are trapped in the boundaries of their district school, so they devise a plan to enroll their child in a different school, tell their child to suck it up or fight back, or try talking to the school about their concerns. Unfortunately, these don’t always solve the problem because parents simply don’t know what they don’t know. However, not all situations end up unresolved for all children and families and not all schools and teachers are failing all children. The key is how educated parents are about school laws and policies and how knowledgeable and honest teachers and school administrators are.

New Mexico just lost a major lawsuit accusing [the state of] inappropriately educating many children. The public blames the New Mexico Public Education Department (NMPED), funding, teacher quality, teacher preparation programs, and the list goes on. These issues are important, but they miss what is actually going on at ground level. The judge in this lawsuit ordered the NMPED to come up with a plan by April, of next year! NMPED has taken definite steps in the right direction and made progress, but it takes time, and there is an election for governor around the corner. I know of so many families who need help with their issues with schools right now. They can’t wait.

The biggest and most positive impact on the education of all youth of New Mexico could be educating and mobilizing the sheer masses of families to keep schools accountable for doing what they are supposed to be doing. There is nobody more concerned about their children’s futures than parents. They just need to know how.

Now, what good would it do for families all over the state to suddenly file a rash of lawsuits and send our schools and Public Education Department into constant fighting and money-draining court battles? Not much, when you really think about it. Parents simply want their children’s schools providing what their children need by following the laws, rules and policies already in place to make their education better, to access needed supports and increase their child’s opportunities. PED should begin more detailed data collection, disclose to the public all schools’ adherence to the laws and policies, and enforce accountability.

My suggestion is for parents to rise up in masses with your tools of knowledge in hand to hold your child’s school accountable. Make sure your child’s school and teachers know that you know what they are supposed to be doing. Parents are going to help change New Mexico’s education history.

 

New Mexico Teacher Spotlight: Patrizia Flores

New Mexico Teacher Spotlight: Patrizia Flores

9th-12th Grade English Language Arts
16 years in the public education classroom
2 years in the college classroom
Patrizia Flores believes that all students are beautiful blessings. She works tirelessly to empower her students and build a classroom of love. Patrizia earned her Bachelor of Arts in Spanish and Biology from the University of New Mexico, and Bilingual Education, Gifted Education, Language Arts, Modern and Classical Languages, Reading, Science and TESOL certifications in Secondary education, and a Master’s in Biology from New Mexico Highlands University. For nineteen years, she has taught students from 3rd grade, 6-12th grades and college in a several subjects. Currently, Patrizia teaches Pre-AP 9 and 10, AP 11 and AP 12 English. Patrizia’s teaching is designed to be high interest and content rich using a thematic, interdisciplinary approach, so as to provide meaningful, connected and lasting educational experiences and learning. Further, Patrizia believes that nurturing genuine interpersonal connections is essential for student success.
Patrizia’s greatest joy is spending time laughing and being silly with her two beautiful children, Alessandro and Rafaella, and her husband, Chris! She especially enjoys traveling, reading, photography, spending time at the family ranch, keeping up with Yankee baseball, and relaxing with a good cup of coffee.
Patrizia really loves her job. She feels beyond privileged to be a part of her students’ journeys. Her students inspire her to work hard and to be kind. Patrizia’s soul’s calling is teaching