Author: Alicia Duran and Isaac Rivas-Savell

Teacher Liaisons
Equity with Matt Montano

Equity with Matt Montano

We are excited to launch a series of podcasts related to educational issues.  Please listen in as we interview the movers and shakers in New Mexico education.  Our first podcast features Deputy Secretary Matt Montano where he defines what equity means for teachers and students in New Mexico.



” I love creating a classroom environment where students feel safe and loved. Watching a child have that “aha” moment when they make a discovery or connect ideas still fills me with excitement and reminds me why I am in this great profession. I know that I make a difference every day in large and small ways.”


Leslie Baker was raised in Connecticut outside of New York City and has lived in nine states. She has been a New Mexico resident since 2002 when she moved to Taos to raise her three daughters. Leslie began her teaching career in 1989 in Chesterfield County, VA where she taught fifth grade; she later taught computer applications to kindergarten through sixth graders at a Montessori school in Ohio and home-schooled in North Carolina. Her earliest memories in education are teaching her younger sisters to read and helping her mother welcome 24 preschoolers to their home every weekday morning!

Leslie has worked at Taos Charter School since 2003, teaching second and third grade and now working with students as a literacy teacher and coach. She serves as SAT and 504 Coordinator and Librarian, in addition to the many roles and hats required at a small school. She especially loves mentoring new teachers and helping them grow as teachers and learners, and thanks her own mentors for helping her gain confidence and skill in the classroom. Each year, she feels she might be learning a bit more about this process we call teaching, which is really an effort to support learning and thinking.

Ms. Baker holds a Masters in Elementary Education from Lesley University in Cambridge, MA and a Bachelor of Arts from Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts where she majored in Politics. She recently obtained her NM administrative license and is currently working toward her National Board Certification.

Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching

Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching

The National Science Foundation is currently accepting nominations and applications for the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST) program. PAEMST is the highest honor bestowed by the United States government specifically for K-12 mathematics and science (including computer science) teaching. Since 1983, more than 4,700 teachers have been recognized for their contributions to mathematics and science education. Awardees serve as models to their colleagues, inspiration to their communities, and leaders in the improvement of mathematics and science education. Up to 108 awardees may be recognized each year.

The PAEMST program is open to outstanding mathematics and science (including computer science) teachers in the 50 states; Washington, D.C.; the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico; Department of Defense Education Activity schools; and the U.S. territories as a group.

Anyone–principals, teachers, parents, students, or members of the general public–may nominate a teacher by completing the nomination form available on the PAEMST website. To submit a nomination, you’ll need the teacher’s name, email address, and school contact information. If you know more than one teacher deserving of this award, you may submit more than one nomination. Teachers may also apply directly at

Presidential awardees receive a certificate signed by the President of the United States, a trip to Washington, D.C., to attend a series of recognition events and professional development opportunities, and a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation. The National Science Foundation administers PAEMST on the behalf of The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

The Nomination Deadline is April 1, 2018 and the Application Deadline is May 1, 2018, for elementary school teachers (grades K-6). Secondary school teachers (grades 7-12) will be eligible to apply during a future cycle.

If you have any questions, please contact Shafiq Chaudhary, Math State Coordinator at or Marcia Barton, Science State Coordinator at Thank you.

505 SW NM-True $5,000 Scholarship Opportunity

505 SW NM-True $5,000 Scholarship Opportunity


505 Southwestern® New Mexico True Scholars is a new scholarship program designed to recognize passion and commitment to pursue higher education and make a positive impact on the agriculture industry in New Mexico.  One recipient for the $5,000 scholarship will be selected annually and will be awarded in equal payments over 4 years of undergraduate study.


  • Applicants must be graduating seniors of a New Mexico high school.
  • Applicants must plan to attend an accredited college or university in New Mexico beginning fall 2018 and be enrolled full time.
  • Applicants must have maintained a cumulative GPA of 3.0 in their first six semesters of high school.
  • Applicants must have completed a FAFSA application for the upcoming college year
  •  Applicants must demonstrate a commitment to making an impact in the agricultural industry and/or overall economy of food and agriculture of New Mexico.  


  • September 29, 2017: Scholarship open for applications online at
  • March 19, 2018 11:59PM: Applications DUE
  • Late April 2018: Scholarship Recipient Announced


  • Complete online application at
  • Attach your high school transcript through your junior year
  • Attach a copy of your college acceptance letter
  • Attach a copy of the FAFSA page that indicates what your Estimated Family Contribution would be.

For more information, visit or email the New Mexico Community Foundation at

Discovery Festival STEAM NM

Discovery Festival STEAM NM

DF17 flyer (for both days color) with sponsors

NOVEMBER 3rd(9am-3pm) & 4th(10am-3pm)


  • Hundreds of STEAM professionals from dozens of fields will be there to share with you how their jobs change the world!
  • You will get to see tons of amazing jobs that you may not know ever existed!
  • There will be booths with awesome, hands-on activities with robotics, geology, electronics, and lots more!
  • You will have the opportunity to enter to win dozens of cool prizes!
Teacher Spotlight of the Week

Teacher Spotlight of the Week

“It’s awesome to have an ex-student go out of his or her way to say hi to me and shake my hand where ever I am. Even students you thought you weren’t making a difference in their lives go out of their way to come say hi.”

Lupe Vasquez is in his eleventh year of teaching. He had been a Certified Master Automobile Technician for 25 years when he became a teacher.  Vasquez teaches at Carlsbad High School for Carlsbad Municipal Schools. He currently teaches ninth through twelfth grade Automotive Technology. He also teaches an Introduction to Skills and Technology Class. Additionally, Lupe teaches Automotive Technology in the evenings for the local community college New Mexico State University – Carlsbad.

Lupe relishes in the idea of encountering students with little to no experience in automotive technology. He provides them with the necessary training and hands-on experience to diagnose an automotive problem, and then repair the problem. Vasquez finds it incredibly rewarding to watch his students get a sense of accomplishment and joy when they are able to correctly identify and repair an automotive issue. This makes it all worth being a teacher for him.

Hot Topics in NM Education

Hot Topics in NM Education

Straight “A” Express Chugs Along! The Straight A Train made several stops last week. First stop was in Los Alamos where Secretary Ruszkowski and his team met with students, teachers, school leaders, and board members to celebrate the district’s six “A” schools. Check out coverage in the Los Alamos Daily Post.  The next stops were Cobre and Silver. Check out this incredible article in the Silver City Daily Press. Special thank you to the teacher leaders for the special warm welcome for the PED team!


Our Students…RISING! The 2017 winners of the Summer Reading Challenge were announced last week! Balloon ride winners had the opportunity to go up in a hot air balloon with Governor Martinez on Saturday morning. Aracely Mendoza from Gadsden Elementary School in Anthony won the grand prize of an all-expense-paid family vacation to Disney. Check out coverage on all the winners on KRQE. Make sure to encourage your students to participate next summer!!

Bringing in the Bacon! New Mexico has earned more than $42 Million in federal grants for early literacy and quality options for parents. This month the New Mexico Striving Readers “NM Literacy Connections” grant totals $20 Million over the next three years and the New Mexico Charter Schools Program grant totals more than $22 Million over the next five years. Check out coverage in the Roswell Daily Record. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions about either grant!

Teacher Spotlight of the Week

Teacher Spotlight of the Week

“The most rewarding part of my profession is when former students share their successes and experiences they remember having in my class. I also enjoy seeing the proud faces of parents and their children when celebrating small and large successes.”

Felicitas Adame – Reyes was born and raised in Santa Ana, California.  She has lived in Albuquerque since the summer of 2010 in both bilingual and special education settings.  She has taught in Santa Ana and Los Angeles, California.  Currently she teaches 4th grade in an inclusion setting and serves as a mentor teacher.

Throughout her career she has instructed in the elementary and middle school capacity.  During her time as an elementary school teacher, she has taught in different bilingual education models.  She has also helped prepare teacher candidates while teaching at Chapman University while she lived in California.  In addition to teaching, Felicitas has also served as an administrator in both Catholic and public schools.  Her skills in reading, speaking and writing in Spanish have helped her serve both students and parents.

Mrs. Adame-Reyes earned a B.A. at Chapman University in Liberal Studies.  Additionally, she has earned a M.A. in Education with an emphasis in Curriculum and Instruction from Chapman University.  In her interest to help new teachers, she also received mentor teacher training from the University of Southern California while teaching in Los Angeles, California.

Weekly Highlights

Weekly Highlights

Hot off the Press: Charter schools were a hot topic this week. “More or Moratorium?” – was the name of a panel that took place in Santa Fe discussing the pros and cons of charter schools. Katie Poulos (Director of Options for Parents) sat on the panel. Check out the article in the Santa Fe New Mexican today.

Charter Grant: The Public Education Department scored a major federal grant this past week – $22,507,806.22 to be exact! Check out coverage in the Associated Press and the Albuquerque Journal.

New Mexico True Straight “A” Express Tour: Secretary Ruszkowski and PED team members continued the unprecedented tour around the state that is being talked about in all four corners! This week’s stops included: Rio Rancho, Bernalillo, Los Lunas, and Belen. Check out coverage in the Albuquerque Journal and the Rio Rancho Observer. Be sure to check out our blog to stay up-to-date!

Blue Ribbon Schools: U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos recognized three New Mexico schools for winning the National Blue Ribbon School award – Arrowhead Park Early College High School in Las Cruces, Desert View Elementary School in Sunland Park, and Wood Gormley Elementary School in Santa Fe. We are thrilled! Congratulations to these schools for their hard work. Check out the article in the Santa Fe New Mexican.                           

505 Scholars: Secretary R and three other cabinet secretaries joined Governor Martinez in announcing the 505 Southwestern New Mexico True Scholars scholarship program – an opportunity for students interested in making a positive impact on the agriculture industry in New Mexico. The press conference took place at Flagship Food Group warehouse in Albuquerque. Check out the coverage and incredible photo in the Los Alamos Daily Post. If you know anyone interested in applying for the $5,000 scholarship, visit the New Mexico 505 Scholars webpage.

From Homelessness to the Classroom

From Homelessness to the Classroom

An attentive, compassionate, and understanding teacher can be a powerful advocate for homeless students. For a homeless student, school is a safe space, but beyond that, a caring teacher provides security, stability, and hope.  It may seem impossible to provide a homeless child with all they need; however a teacher’s support and guidance can positively impact the child’s future.

Identifying a homeless student may not always be simple. Homelessness can mean living on the streets, in a vehicle, abandoned building, in a shelter, a family member’s house, a friend’s house, motel, or hotel. A family that is homeless lacks permanent living conditions.  They could become displaced at any time due to different circumstances.  A homeless student may exhibit noteworthy characteristics such as absenteeism, tardiness, lack of hygiene, or lethargy.  Alternately, students that are homeless may show no signs at all.  Homelessness interventions are usually confidential, and unless the teacher or school is informed, the homeless child may not be easily identified.

Teachers can become a beacon of support for homeless students. Differentiation in the classroom means to integrate a variety of teaching strategies, learning styles, and groupings. For children that are homeless, differentiation and flexibility are vital to their success.  Homeless students may lack the space to complete homework assignments. Teachers that notice a child with difficulty returning assignments may choose to allow the student to complete tasks in class, section the work into smaller quantities, or provide alternative assignments.  Handwritten assignments need to be allowed unless the time is provided in class to research and type.  Referring students to centers that provide computer use and internet access are not always an option if the student’s family lacks transportation or the time to get to the centers.

A homeless family may not always inform the school about their situation; therefore by having a well structured classroom, students can feel a sense of stability and reassurance. This begins by creating a welcoming classroom atmosphere.  Create classroom norms that show respect and dignity for all. Allow students to be an essential part of classroom procedures.  Provide choice in assignments that allow students’ products to represent their academic understanding.  Integrate opportunities in instruction for students to present their aptitudes.  Spelling contests, literacy festivals, and art shows are great opportunities for students to become involved and feel accomplished.  Best teaching practices not only improve academic understanding, but may be an integral and life changing part of a homeless student’s future.

Homelessness is a topic I speak of from personal experience.  Throughout the initial years of elementary school, I found refuge in a family friend’s house, a family member’s house, a motel, and a family shelter. This was a blessing compared to staying at a stranger’s house or a park, which we had done as well.

Last year, I had the opportunity to share my story. My story was shared in response to the popular question, “What inspired you to become a teacher?” My journey through homelessness came about as it does for many families.  Due to lack of employment for my mother, we were forced to move from the city of El Paso, Texas. When I was five years old, we made our first move to Pueblo, Colorado, with the help of an acquaintance. Arriving to this new place provided little reassurance. It became dangerous, and soon we found ourselves in a public park with nowhere to go. My mother was afraid to ask for help, fearing we would be taken from her due to her immigration status. We spent the night at the park.

God-sent strangers provided us a place to stay, and after a few weeks, I was registered to attend school. Meeting my very first teacher had a profound impact on me. I still remember the respect she demonstrated toward my mother and me.  She was attentive and allowed me to speak Spanish in a class of predominately English speaking students. She also took the time to work with me individually.  This is when I decided I wanted to become a teacher.  I would have a job and place to live.  I thought teachers lived at school.

Unfortunately, employment for my mother continued to be a problem. My teacher was the one to give me the news that my mother had gone to the school to report we were moving. At the end of the school day, she personally walked me home. Our family was soon off to Dallas, Texas where one of my aunts lived and could help out. A couple of months went by and my mother was laid off from work, and once again, we were on our way back to El Paso, Texas.

Needless to say, the return was no comfort. We stayed at a family friend’s house, but the situation at that home was no place for children. Due to these circumstances we ended up living at the Salvation Army for three months. My childhood dream of becoming a teacher was solidified; I could not allow these short lived years to represent the rest of my life.

Throughout my elementary school years, we continued moving and finally arrived in the town of Anthony, New Mexico. This became a safe haven thanks to the innovative 6th grade teacher that I was lucky enough to have. This teacher was ahead of her time. She provided guided instruction, learning opportunities, considered students’ learning styles, and differentiated to meet student needs. Seeing her, and being in her class emphasized in me once again the need to become a teacher. She took notice, and would often ask me what I wanted to be in the future. I loved going into her class and having support, stability, and understanding. At the end of the school year she wrote her students a note.  I continue to hold on to mine as a reminder of what a difference one teacher can make.