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#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 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.

#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 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: Rena Stone

New Mexico Teacher Spotlight: Rena Stone

9th-12th grade

ELA, Journalism, and ELL

28 years in the classroom
“Teaching is a challenging career, and one in which I can make a significant difference in my community. The connections made with students, families, and community have long-lasting and far reaching effects. Teaching is a positive way to mold students by being a good example of a caring, conscientious community member.”

Rena Stone was born in Tucumcari, New Mexico and grew up in Portales, New Mexico. Being raised in a college town, the home of Eastern New Mexico University, encouraged her to see higher learning as an exciting and reachable goal. As a child, her parents worked hard to save the money to buy two sets of encyclopedias. Instead of playing outside, Rena researched, compared, and contrasted the information from both sets of books and wrote research papers for FUN! Learning was her first true love.
Rena earned her undergraduate degree from Eastern New Mexico University, after which she went on to teach in Tucumcari, Artesia, Las Cruces, and Hatch, New Mexico. She was also selected to represent New Mexico and became a teacher ambassador to the city of Monterrey, NL, Mexico. She taught first grade at Venustiano Carranza Elementary school. This gave her new insight and ability to relate to immigrants she later taught in southern New Mexico.
Rena later met and married Mark Stone and moved to the state of New York where she taught business plan and grant proposal writing to adults for a private business. After four years, she realized she was wilting so far away from her tierra natal and her beloved Rio Grande. Her mother had always admired Rena’s love for her state, saying that she was built from the land and the waters of the Rio Grande ran through her veins instead of sangre (blood).
After returning to New Mexico, she began teaching for the Mesa Vista Consolidated School District. She soon found the opportunity, thanks to Dr. Rudolfo Chavez, to earn her Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction from New Mexico Highlands University in Las Vegas, New Mexico. Her emphasis was in TESOL, and she now holds a preK-12 license and teaches English Language Arts, Journalism, and ESL classes to 9th-12th grades at Mesa Vista High School.

Highlights from the Third Annual NM Teacher Summit

Highlights from the Third Annual NM Teacher Summit

In case you missed it, June 18th and 19th marked our Third Annual NM Teacher Summit. The event was a huge success with over 1000 teachers from all over the state coming together to celebrate one another and continue to grow in their craft and career.

Check out our highlights from the Third Annual New Mexico Teacher Summit:

  1. Summit Stats

Here are some exciting data points from the Summit.

  • Total number of teachers: over 1000
  • Total number of sessions offered: 244
  • Total number of presenters: 154
  • Total number of learning lounge tables: 49

  1. Teacher-Led and-Supported Sessions

This year’s summit provided teachers with 100% teacher-led or teacher-supported sessions. Each session was presented by a teacher or by a content-area expert supported by one or more teachers. This commitment to teacher-led content inspired the theme of the Summit: Teaching with Purpose. This theme conveys the New Mexico Public Education Department’s (NMPED) theory of action for teacher leadership: if the NMPED equips, empowers, and champions teachers; the teachers will in turn equip, empower, and champion students.

  1. Twice as Many Unique Session Topics as Last Year’s Summit

In addition to meeting the goal of increasing attendance at this year’s Summit, the NMPED is also committed to increasing the amount of unique content offered. This year’s Summit doubled the number of unique sessions offered to teachers, thus creating a very rich and diverse learning experience.

  1. General Sessions Focused on Classroom Practice

This year, each general session was anchored in the theme “Teaching with Purpose”. Within that theme, there were four sub-themes: MY PURPOSE, MY STORY, MY GIFTS, and MY MISSION. Teachers sat with the same table group for each of the four general sessions, fostering relationships and creating networking opportunities. Within this relationship and network building model, each table group used a Bloom’s Taxonomy foldable to process, explore, and create through what they learned in the break-out sessions.

  1. New Way to Connect with the Secretary of Education

This year’s summit included a “coffee clutch” with Secretary of Education Christopher Ruszkowski. When teachers registered for the Summit, they were asked: “What is one thing you would like to say to Secretary Ruszkowski?”. Those questions were then picked at random and answered by the Secretary in a townhall setting. This event was attended by about a third of Summit attendees.

  1. New Pre-Summit Event: The Learning Lounge

This year, the NMPED provided a pre-Summit event called the Learning Lounge. The Learning Lounge took place on the first day in the Summit, before the opening session and was comprised of informal teaching and sharing by community partners, district and school leaders, or teachers at tables in the lower-level area of the convention center.

  1. Teacher Leaders Leading the Charge

Our NM Teacher Leaders were in force at the Summit. They supported the NMPED in planning and organization of and assisted their colleagues at the big event. Some of our teacher leaders even led breakout sessions. This was truly our vision come to life. Teachers equipping, empowering and championing their peers.

The NM Teacher Summit equipped, empowered, and championed our teachers, but don’t take our word for it. Check out what teachers had to say about the event:

“Absolutely fantastic! Relative to what I want to do in my classroom.”
-Texico Teacher

“Very informative, innovative, and helps me to improve my teaching. Perfect! Excellent!”
-Gadsden Teacher

“I learned a lot and was thrilled with the information that I received that I can take back with me.”
-Albuquerque Teacher

“I enjoyed collaborating with other teachers and gained some really great ideas that I can use in my classroom.”
-Farmington Teacher

“Exactly the type of professional development I needed with practical ideas that also stimulated my creativity. ”
-Cimmaron Teacher

“I felt appreciated and motivated!!!”
-Roswell Teacher

Register NOW for the 2018 NM Teacher Summit!

Register NOW for the 2018 NM Teacher Summit!


This is a special invitation to attend our third annual New Mexico Teacher Summit. In its initial conception in 2016, the NM Teacher Summit had 300 attendees. Last year’s NM Teacher Summit drew in 1,000 teachers who filled the registration capacity in just under 96 hours. At the demand of NM teachers, this year we are expanding to 1,350 teachers!

About the Summit

The Summit is a two-day event that is being held on Monday June 18th and Tuesday 19th at the Albuquerque Convention Center. This year’s theme is “Teaching with Purpose.” What is especially unique and exciting about the 2018 NM Teacher Summit, is that each session will be led, or co-led, by a teacher. New Mexico teachers have long been clamoring for teacher-led professional development training around areas of focus that interest them the most and we have listened.

Attendees will enjoy inspiring keynote speakers while also gaining access to useful information, presented by fellow teachers, through breakout sessions. The sessions will be focused on providing teachers with new information and opportunities to enhance their classroom practice and improve student outcomes. The program will also allow for ample time to network with colleagues, as well as, at the end of day 1, enjoy a celebratory dinner.

We look forward to embarking on this learning journey with our amazing NM teachers and hope that you will join us! – Your Teacher Liaisons, Alicia and Isaac

Learn More about the Summit

Click Know Before You Go 2018 to get more information about the event.

Register Now

Click HERE to sign-up for the Summit.


More About the Registration and Sign-Up Process

This is where you register for the Summit.

This is where you register for the sessions you want to attend at the Summit. Once you complete registration in Eventbrite, you will be connected to Sched. Your pre-registration will secure your space in the sessions you sign-up for.


The Learning Lounge takes place on Day 1 of the Summit from 8:30-11:30am. You may choose as many of these sessions as you would like, keeping in mind that content at the Learning Lounge will repeat every 30-minutes: 8:30am-9am, 9am-9:30am, etc.


Breakout Sessions will take place on Day 1 and Day 2 of the Summit. DO NOT CHOOSE MORE THAN ONE PER TIME BLOCK. If you double book yourself for more than one breakout session per time block, you will get kicked out of both by SCHED as we get closer to the Summit.


General Sessions will bring all 1,350 teachers together for inspiring keynote speakers, information sharing, and networking opportunities. Register for all General Sessions.


2018 National Title I Conference: Liberty to Learn

2018 National Title I Conference: Liberty to Learn

I had the distinct privilege to attend the recent National Title I conference in Philadelphia last month. Along with two colleagues and our school’s Director, I took three days away from my school and students to travel across the country to accept a 2018 Title I Distinguished School Award. This award was for closing the achievement gap between student groups, and was the result of the hard work of our entire staff. What an honor to be one of two schools in New Mexico to receive this award (shout out to the other honoree: Union Elementary School in Las Vegas, NM)! While the award was a surprise and something to celebrate, I quickly learned that the four days spent with educators from across the country was a meaningful opportunity for my own learning.

Let me back up to say that I hardly ever leave New Mexico for professional reasons. When I lived on the east coast, it was very easy to travel to conferences and events where I could collaborate and learn from other teachers. Given our geographic isolation, however, many of us in New Mexico rely on conversations with fellow teachers and on reading professional articles to further our own development and growth. This trip demonstrated to me that you cannot underestimate the importance of meaningful conversation and professional development with those from other communities and perspectives.

Although we had travelled a very long day to get to Philly and our first session was early the next morning, I was immediately engaged by National Teacher of the Year Sydney Chaffee’s keynote address. Some of you may have heard Sydney speak at our New Mexico Teacher Summit last June. I enjoyed meeting her in Albuquerque, so I anticipated her address. She spoke at length about how education can be a tool for social justice, challenging us all to take risks on behalf of our students and give voice to issues affecting them (and us). She reminded us how important we are, and we agreed. I felt like I was a young teacher again, full of passion and purpose.

We ended the day with an armchair interview with former US Secretary of Education John King. I felt hopeful to know that such thoughtful and intelligent people are considering how to make education viable and equitable. This work is happening in so many ways, on so many levels. The thousands of educators in the room (teachers, principals, superintendents, and district level leaders) were clearly enthusiastic about the messages from the stage: all students deserve the opportunity to learn. And the Distinguished Schools celebration showed that, in fact, schools from all over the country are ensuring that they are.

While I attended break-out sessions on areas of interest to me (spelling instruction, brain-based instruction for phonics, student engagement, and the power of speech), my Director learned about social emotional awareness and how to use restorative practices to improve school culture. Over dinner each evening, the four of us from Taos Charter discussed how to bring back our new learning to New Mexico. We talked about how to look at grading, how to connect to students, and other over-arching ideas to improve our school. We felt energized by Salome Thomas-EL (Principal El) from Philadelphia and his keynote talk on how one person can make a difference. My teaching partner and I embraced his mantra: No excuses! So often those of us in Title I schools sink into that attitude that we cannot make a difference, that we cannot teach certain kids. This conference blasted us out of that mentality.

So why am I writing this blog post for New Mexico teachers? I feel impelled to share with you that you can, and must, fight to attend any regional or national conference you can. Consider writing a grant, requesting Title II funds from your school or district, or looking for scholarships. Talk to others, join a professional online community, take a class. Subscribe to articles or blog posts by those working on a national level to keep learning focused on students. Be inspired by the successes of other schools and teachers. Remember that it only takes one passionate teacher in the life of a child. Be that person for one child. No excuses.

New Mexico Teacher Spotlight: Edward Pena

New Mexico Teacher Spotlight: Edward Pena

The Best part of teaching is when you get to see the students after they graduate and find out what they are doing and especially when they say, “Thank you!”

I am a graduate of Cobre High School, Class of 1981 and a graduate of Western New Mexico University in 1986 with a BA in Zoology/Education and MA in Counseling in 2001. I have been teaching since 1987.  I first taught in Fabens, TX, Fabens Middle School Science, which taught me a great deal of my core foundational practices as a teacher. I returned to my community and have been Teaching/Counseling at Cobre High School since 1988.  I taught high school sciences, which included Chemistry, Biology, Physics, Physical Science and Earth Science, for 14 years.  While teaching I was a sponsor for the Math, Engineer, Science, Engineering Achievement, Inc. (MESA) organization, Department Chairperson and National Honor Society Sponsor.  I also coached tennis for 15 years.  Being able to work with students outside of the regular school day was a true gift.  For the past 16 years I have been the School Counselor.  I am always amazed to say that I have been in education for 31 years.  I still enjoy the challenge of learning and working with students and staff.  I am first and foremost a teacher, and continue that in my practice as the school counselor.  I strive to be active in the school, in the classroom, and work to help teach students other aspects to prepare them for their future.  I work to stay active within the school and continue to support students, staff and other district schools.

I wish I could say that I was unique in my field. There are many teachers within our state that work tirelessly, with little resources and little recognition and yet doing wonderful and inspiring things.  Those are our true gems in the field of education.  All teachers should be recognized, respected and valued for their knowledge and passion for teaching and what they do for our students.  True teaching goes beyond the books, the issues and rules. Schools and teachers get more and more responsibilities, duties, expectations, requirements and roles put upon them, and often with little resources, time, pay and incentive.  However, they still work and do their best, I admire these teachers!  All Teachers are the real New Mexico Spotlights!

Through my years I have had many opportunities afforded to me through my mentors, administrators and district. Their encouragement has always been vital in my growth and the growth of others.  I am fortunate, and I work to create and open up these same opportunities to others.

One of the best parts of teaching is when you see students get the idea or concept. When you see students work and strive for more, and especially when you see them succeed.  I always tell students success is different for everyone.  Some success is huge and some is day to day accomplishment, but no matter what it is success  creates and encourages opportunity.  One of the best parts of teaching for me, is when I see a student’s after they graduate and get to see their success and accomplishments.  It is especially uplifting when the students say, “I finally understand all those things everyone was trying to tell me, and now I understand and wish I could go back and say Thank you!” To me that is when I know I had an impact.

Still after 31 years, I plan to continue in education. I challenge myself to continue to LEARN and continue to TEACH!

Lesson Planning with Hannah Peria

Lesson Planning with Hannah Peria

We are excited to share the fourth in our series of podcasts and webinars related to educational issues.  Please listen in as we interview the movers and shakers in New Mexico education.  Our fourth broadcast features Hannah Peria, Deputy Director of Priority Schools, where she reviews how the most successful teaching begins with clarity about desired learning outcomes and about the evidence that will show that learning has occurred.

Lesson Planning Webinar

Family Engagement with Gloria Ruiz

Family Engagement with Gloria Ruiz

We are excited to share the third in our series of podcasts related to educational issues.  Please listen in as we interview the movers and shakers in New Mexico education.  Our third podcast features Gloria Ruiz, Family Engagement Coordinator, where she provides an overview how parental involvement has evolved to family engagement and explains how teachers can make tweaks to their current practices to elevate their work with parents and families.



National Arts in Education Week 2017: September 10-16

National Arts in Education Week 2017: September 10-16

As educators, we recognize how critical it is to include the arts into our instruction to ensure students receive a complete education.  September 10-16, we celebrate National Arts in Education Week.  Please share stories detailing how you incorporate the arts into your daily instruction.  If you’re interested in writing a blog that provides a more in-depth description of your practice, please email me at, and we will include it using this platform.  Please include any and all photos documenting your lessons. Check the link below for more details.