Tag: New Mexico

Your 2018 New Mexico Teacher of the Year, Ivonne Orozco

Your 2018 New Mexico Teacher of the Year, Ivonne Orozco

From The 2018 New Mexico Teacher of the Year: The Year of Educators’ Voices Rising

As your 2018 New Mexico Teacher of the Year, I am honored to be one of your teacher-leader voices. The diversity amongst us in New Mexico is an asset. My family immigrated here from Mexico when I was 12-years-old. I was an English language learner in middle school and later took honors courses in high school, I ran cross country and track, and I graduated in the top 10% of my class. I am a proud UNM graduate. Go Lobos! But I did not get here alone: I had teachers and family that set core foundations along my journey that contributed to my success. These included: high expectations, staying the course, building a strong voice, and valuing teachers and education.

Every day in my classroom, I keep in mind that all students can be successful no matter where they traveled from to get here in the morning, or how much money their parents have, or how much they still have to learn. I keep my expectations high. It’s unclear why there’s still a misconception out there that students facing challenges at home can’t succeed at school. That is false. Lowering standards for any of our kids is a disservice. They deserve high-quality standards, options, and teachers. My mission for my students at Public Academy for Performing Arts (PAPA) in Albuquerque is to make sure they achieve high academic standards while pursuing artistic excellence.

Staying the course is critical to long-term success in life and in our public education system. As a young teacher, I have witnessed the distress caused by constantly changing systems. Every few years things change with exams, evaluations, and leadership just as we start to adjust. I won’t be complacent when provided the opportunity to sit at the table with policymakers on this issue. I do not have all the answers, but I know that teachers in our state,

who work hard and are passionate about their students, do have collective answers. In my role representing the state’s teachers, I will be a conduit of teacher voices in those conversations.

One way I have decided to take a stance on my beliefs is by using my voice. For far too long, teachers’ voices have not been properly represented. But in recent years, the New Mexico Public Education Department has created opportunities with a Teacher-Leader Network which includes the School Liaison Program, the NM Dream Team, and the Secretary’s Teacher Advisory. I have taken part in these programs and they are creating a network for passionate teachers to advance student learning, learn more about policy, and express concerns. We are leading the nation with this work and we must sustain it.

We must also focus on recruiting the next generation of teachers. Many teachers work within 20 miles of where they attended high school, which means tomorrow’s teachers are sitting right in front of us today. We must show our students the rewards and gratification of being a teacher. Many of my students see themselves in me and I take that very seriously as I continue to be an advocate for my profession and for them. They deserve hope.

As a Dreamer, I know how important it is to know that someone is fighting in your corner. I will continue to stand up for my community and future generations in the fight for a permanent solution for DACA recipients. I want to thank Secretary Christopher Ruszkowski and the PED for giving me this role and platform and for recognizing my work in cultivating student achievement growth.

I hope I am a reflection of the beautiful diversity of our state. I hope that students and teachers can see themselves in me. I have and will continue to give you my all for the remainder of 2018, demonstrating that educator voices like mine are truly on the rise in New Mexico. I will see you throughout 2018!

Preparing “Day-One Ready” Teachers

Preparing “Day-One Ready” Teachers

Preparing “Day-One Ready” Teachers

By Elizabeth Long, English Language Arts Teacher, Gallup Middle School

Teacher quality is fundamental to improving public education.  If not one of the most important factors to school success, then what is?  There is a lot of talk about how to improve schools—and improving instruction should be at the top of the list.

And the effect of quality teachers is greatest among students with the most educational disadvantages (Goldhaber, 2016, p. 58). It is no secret that quality teachers matter and can change the course of our students’ lives. Still, for far too many teachers, those that can change lives, leave the profession after just a first few years of teaching.

I wanted to be a teacher since I was in first grade, and while that may sound cliché’, it often takes an entire lifetime to prepare a person to be an effective teacher. Even the best teacher prep programs cannot adequately prepare a teacher for everything that they will experience in the classroom. Still, teachers need to come to the classroom “Day One Ready”, and that goes beyond just knowing how to lesson plan or memorize learning theories.

Teacher preparation programs have a solemn responsibility to produce quality teachers.

After my first year of teaching, I was ready to give up on the dream I had since I was a little girl. It was devastating. I was not adequately prepared for my first year of teaching, and while I am sure many factors can be taken into account when it comes to my lack of preparedness that first year in the classroom, I was not prepared well through my college teacher prep program.

Luckily, I chose to stay in the classroom and use resources within my school to push myself to my full potential (I earned an Exemplary rating this year as a teacher in Gallup, New Mexico). Unfortunately, not every teacher has access to the resources I had or the resolve to keep pushing internally.  And that is how we lose potentially life-changing teachers.

However, if teacher preparation programs dramatically improve in New Mexico, then the quality of teaching, and thus education, across the state will improve.

The purpose of my writing this is not to demonize or condemn any specific college or university. As a teacher, I believe a large part of learning is in our own hands.  We must accept personal responsibility for our craft, and for our students’ learning.  In fact, the summer after my first (rough) year of teaching, I went back to the basics. I ordered Harry Wong’s classic books about classroom management, and I read his words as if they were scripture.

One may ask, didn’t I do the same in my teacher prep program? The answer is sort of, yes – I read many of the famous teaching texts and theories, but what was often missing was the application of those theories. Without a classroom of my own, or a classroom to visualize myself in it was hard to imagine how to put these theories into action. For example, I took a special education course about foundational theories, but I never actually learned what special education would look like in a real school or a real classroom. What I was learning in my classes were the idealistic theories for teaching, and when it was time for my student teaching experience it seemed as though what I had learned had no basis in reality.

The best classes I had were with teachers who were passionate about the teaching practice and not completely disconnected from the classroom experience itself. It is not that I did not have some great courses or professors along the way, but the problem is often cohesion and consistency, and my classes were, to be honest, hit or miss.

I was also shocked by how inadequately I was prepared for the student diversity I would experience. Many universities give a “cookie-cutter” view on teaching English Language Learners (ELLs) and culturally relevant teaching. There was no connection to New Mexico and our students. According to Gist, “If teachers have limited knowledge of students’ cultural and linguistic backgrounds, this can severely reduce the teacher’s ability to draw upon a student’s cultural and linguistic strengths and foster resilient student identities of achievement”. New Mexico and our students have unique needs, and these must be addressed in teacher prep programs, and we need to address diversity while never lowering he bar for any student, regardless of background.

Another frustrating experience is that I often felt like I was given misleading information about licensure, advisement, and what steps I needed to take to ensure I received my licensure after graduation with the proper credentials. Any preparation program requires quality advisement, and teachers need advisors who know their state’s expectations on testing and certification.

I have mentored many teachers over the years, and I have seen many come and go. I would say that, in my experience, teacher preparation program experiences directly correlate with whether teachers stay in the profession or quit after their first year.  As we all know, there are some tough issues in education today, and teaching is not a laid-back job in any way.

Still, if teachers come into the classroom “Day One Ready”, their entire outlook on teaching may change…but what does “Day One Ready” even mean?

“Day One Ready” means that a teacher is not surprised, but prepared for what they walk into that first day in the classroom. It is not about creating perfect teachers, but rather, teachers that will be prepared for the highlights and challenges of teaching our students, with proper support along the way. “Day One Ready” teachers are confident that the experiences in their teacher preparation program will realistically align with their true classroom experience. While nothing may prepare teachers for everything they will experience, quality programs prepare them to be more ready than I was.

Let us help prepare teachers realistically in high quality teacher preparation programs, which means that these programs should be held accountable, should increase their student teaching experiences, and should align their programs much more closely with state and district expectations. Then, we can help teachers reach their full potential and truly change the lives of students across the State. We know that, more than anything, teacher quality correlates with student success. So certainly teacher preparation is the foundation of that idea.

I am thankful I decided to keep teaching. Even with the most professionally challenging experiences, it is one of the most rewarding jobs in the world.  And I have my students’ academic growth and their changed life trajectories to show for it!

However, if I could have been better trained and prepared to be more successful on Day One, then it should have happened. No excuses.

Building Social Studies Materials and New Forms of Teacher Collaboration

Building Social Studies Materials and New Forms of Teacher Collaboration

The most valuable part of the Social Studies Dream Team “TeachFest” experience is the opportunity to step out of one’s own bubble and to interact with colleagues from around the state. The sheer breadth and depth of experience, both personal and professional, was both humbling and inspiring.  There were people from all over the country, whose experience ranged from business owner to Peace Corps volunteer, from law enforcement officer to U.S. AID worker—all of whom have chosen to work as teachers in New Mexico.  The ice breakers and conversation starters at the beginning helped foster a sense of community and shared purpose, which laid the foundation for productive collaborations.

I did my teaching certificate work at the University of Houston and have been teaching for 21 years—first in southwest Houston for three years, and now in Albuquerque since 2000. I teach all areas of social studies, but primarily government and AP Government.  I was the AP Lead teacher at Cibola High for the past 3-4 years.  My teaching partner and I were the first in the state to pilot the AP Capstone program.  I also teach a little beginning French when needed, and I currently co-author or co-edit 2 AP review books for McGraw Hill Publishing, Co. (5 Steps to a 5…AP World and AP European History).  As such, I set the bar high for all my students.

I think it is important for us as teachers to step outside our comfort zones, and to recognize that our profession extends beyond our classroom walls, our department and our school. At the Dream Team TeachFest, teachers from the largest high schools in Albuquerque swapped stories with teachers from tiny rural K-8 schools.  It was quite the exchange of ideas!  To gain a broader perspective regarding the challenges facing teachers across the state is to become more understanding and tolerant, much like the character education we do as social studies teachers.  And we had guest speakers with a range of perspectives as well: the Teacher Liaisons from the PED and remarks from Debra Marquez and Anthony Burns from the PED’s Instructional Materials Bureau served to reinforce the idea that we are part of education policy in a larger context, and that our influence can extend beyond our classroom.

Teaching can be a solitary profession, and for years the only way to extend our influence beyond the classroom was to leave the classroom. It is gratifying to see that there are now ways for teachers to expand their impact while still remaining teachers.  The fact that the PED Secretary-Designate Ruszkowski took the time to come to the event and listen to teachers’ concerns underscores the idea that we can and should look beyond our classrooms.  Though we may not always agree with his answers in-full, that he would take the time to have the discussion as a fellow social studies teacher is, in itself, a step in the right direction.  We need more dialogue, not less.

As new members of the Dream Team, the scope of the required lessons seemed overwhelming at first, but as the presenters and facilitators walked us through the process our ideas began to take shape. Our project facilitator was an effective sounding board for ideas and concerns, but also kept the conversations fun at the same time.  Though it took some time for us to develop a project appropriate in scope, we left with a clear picture of what tasks remained.  Despite our differences and our diversity of interests, the fact that everyone there had given up his or her time for the common purpose of creating something beneficial for New Mexican students is reassuring.

We will create materials that every social studies teacher around the state can use, but the idea of teacher-leadership in social studies and beyond, fostered by Cohort 2 of the New Mexico Dream Team, has possibilities far beyond that.

Teacher Spotlight: Stephanie Gurule-Leyba

Teacher Spotlight: Stephanie Gurule-Leyba


Every one of my students has a story.  I believe that by inspiring and elevating my students, their stories will be heard.  My motto: Listen, Learn, and Lead!

Stephanie Gurule-Leyba was raised in Las Vegas, New Mexico and is in her 22nd year at Capital High School in the Santa Fe Public Schools. She is a Project Lead the Way Biomedical Sciences certified teacher and teaches in the Medical Science Academy, a five-course STEAM-H pathway and is also the founder of Scrub Club, a three-summer STEAM-H enrichment program for 4th through 8th grade students. Stephanie is licensed in K-12 Science, Special Education, and Rehabilitation Counseling. She is currently working on her Ph.D. in Education with an emphasis in Learning, Instruction, and Innovation.  Stephanie is a graduate of Robertson High School in Las Vegas and has always admired her teachers, including her father, for really instilling in her life lessons that she shares with her students. She discovered that she enjoyed working with students and had exciting ideas that she wanted to share. Stephanie is very passionate about STEAM-H and career readiness and as a teacher she has the opportunity to share that passion with her students.

Stephanie believes that the job of a teacher does not end when the bell rings for the day. Everyday we teach, encourage, instruct, mentor, praise, influence, guide and inspire. Those who say, “Teaching is easy,” have never been a teacher. Those who say, “Teaching is not rewarding,” have never been a teacher. But, if these same people were to see and experience students’ intellectual growth, maturity, and an ownership of their learning, many would agree that teaching is the most fulfilling job because you have molded the mind and touched the heart of a student forever. Our students need to understand that they will never finish what they started. They will always be learning. It is important that we instill a culture of learning with our students and with their families and community. We are all teachers and our students are our future.

The relationships we build with our students is the key to their success; but student success is also reliant on the relationships that are built with our families and communities. Many look to teachers as those who are supposed to educate our children, but it is important that we work together in educating and raising our children to prepare them for their future. One person cannot do it alone; it takes a community to raise a child.

Free New Mexico Magazine Subscription for Teachers and Our Students

Free New Mexico Magazine Subscription for Teachers and Our Students

Great news! New Mexico Magazine just launched a program called Subscriptions for Students. With this offer any New Mexico teacher can request a free subscription for their class.

Rachel Dennis, a history teacher at Jackson Middle School in Albuquerque has shared this guest post about how she has used this program in her classroom. Enjoy!

I love teaching and I love New Mexico! Both things I carry on from my mom, a retired APS teacher, who just so happened to be my 7th grade New Mexico history teacher. When I was younger, we spent weekends as a family traveling around the state checking out all the wonderful and unique places New Mexico has to offer.

When I started teaching New Mexico history 9 years ago it amazed me how many of my students had never explored their state, let alone even been outside of Albuquerque. This realization is where New Mexico Magazine really got its initial appeal, and why I’ve been so excited to be a pilot class for the new Subscriptions for Students Program. Now that my students have their own copies of the magazine, they love looking at the pictures of the people, places and art that we are studying and are surprised to see how these wonderful things are right in their own backyard. The images were the initial grab to get the students’ attention, but what I’ve found is that the articles they are reading in the magazine can be so easily tied into our curriculum and standards.

As a school this year we really wanted to focus on informational text, and New Mexico Magazine lends the most perfect pieces of writing for my students to analyze. We do a monthly (at least) assignment with the articles, marking the text using AVID strategies, analyzing author’s purpose and looking at cause and effect pieces of the stories.

I am so grateful to New Mexico Magazine for providing each of my students with a monthly subscription! The magazine is influencing their lives and has added a new level to my teaching. I am proud to be piloting the Subscriptions for Students Program. I love that I am able to bring the community into my classroom and share it with the students, who can then share with their families as well! I plan to continue to utilize the magazine in my curriculum to help further their reading, writing and analysis skills.

I strongly encourage all my fellow teachers to adopt and use this program in their classrooms! I really want to see this program succeed, not only so I can keep using this as a tool in my classroom for years to come, but to share the success with lots of other students in our state!

To request the Subscriptions for Students Program for your class, send an email to circ@nmmagazine.com or call 505-827-6387.