Tag: NMTLN

New Mexico Teacher Spotlight: Monica Nunez

New Mexico Teacher Spotlight: Monica Nunez

I walk into my classroom everyday with the drive to inspire my students to set high expectations for themselves. With hard work and dedication, they can dream big and find their own success.

Being the first high school graduate in my family was a major accomplishment. Without the support of teachers and faculty at Santa Teresa High School, I would not have been able to graduate at the top 5% of my class, with a full academic scholarship.  This is my purpose for teaching at the same high school that I graduated from. I want to be that teacher that inspires students to find their own future success.

At New Mexico State University I received a Bachelor’s Degree in Education and a Master’s Degree in Curriculum & Instruction. One of my goals was always to return to my community to help students like myself.   I have been working as a teacher for 12 years now.  During my time at Gadsden Independent School District I have provided not just the teaching of subjects, but I have also guided my students towards setting and achieving their own future goals.

Teaching has always been a passion. I taught fourth grade for seven years at Santa Teresa Elementary.  During this time, I was able to be a part of a strong community that involved teachers, parents, and students.  By working hard we received a National Blue Ribbon Schools Award in 2010 by former President Barack Obama.  We were the first school from Gadsden Independent School District to receive this distinction.

As a science teacher at Santa Teresa High School, I continue to challenge my students and help them set goals to graduate. I am always looking for opportunities to broaden my students’ experiences.  I want them to see the world that exists outside of our community.

Some of my recognitions for teaching have been a TRIO New Mexico State Alumni Achiever Award and a National Geographic Grosvenor Teacher Fellowship. As part of the fellowship, I worked with National Geographic by taking an expedition to Antarctica.  I was then able to share this experience with my students, school and local community.  This experience has broaden my own perspective of the world and how to teach my own students beyond our beautiful Chihuahuan Desert.

I always dreamed of going to the white continent. As a teacher, I was able to accomplish my dream.  My purpose as a teacher is to have students see me as a source of inspiration to accomplish their own dreams.  I always tell my students that if I can accomplish my dreams, they can, too.

New Mexico Teacher Spotlight: Silvia Miranda

New Mexico Teacher Spotlight: Silvia Miranda

A great teacher touches the life of a child forever.  Be that teacher. Every day.

This marks my 10th year teaching, and I have never been more invigorated and passionate about my career!  I pursued my bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education with a minor in Bilingual Education in 2004, and I received my Masters in Education specializing in Literacy in 2013.  My first teaching job was as a kindergarten teacher in a rural Title I School in Clovis.  Being a military wife, I moved to a different school every year for the first five years of my career.   While not teaching consecutively in one district or grade level had its drawbacks, it provided me with the opportunity to teach diverse populations and learn from colleagues from around the country.  I taught grades K-3 in different schools in NM and OK, including bilingual programs at dual language schools. I finally settled back home (Clovis, NM), where I have taught 4th grade at Mesa Elementary School for the past five years.  I serve as a member of the NMDASH team at my school, and as the Literacy Leader for my building.  I am a mentor to first year/beginning teachers, and work as a Peer Coach to teachers around my district.  One of the highlights of my career has been traveling to Washington D.C. in representation of my school to receive the National Blue Ribbon Award.  I work hard to provide my students the best education possible.  This year I wrote and won a grant to provide STEM resources and experiences to my students, and I put together the Spanish Spelling Bee and a BananaGram Tournament to reach my out of the box thinkers.   

As an educator, I am committed to being a life-long learner.  Two years ago, I became an Ambassador of the NM Teacher Leader Network.  This coming year, I will participate as a Teacher Leader in my district’s own Teacher Leader Network!  

If you walk into my classroom, you will witness students actively engaged and leading their own learning.  I have implemented whole brain teaching mixed in with growth mindset strategies, resulting in a classroom full of productivity, positivity, and possibility! I love my job, and nothing makes me happier than a classroom full of eager minds! 

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: Arcelia Guillermo-Rios

New Mexico Teacher Spotlight: Arcelia Guillermo-Rios

The most meaningful part of teaching is having my students become self advocates; measuring success in my classroom is more than numbers.  Success needs to be seen, heard, and felt.  Seeing my students taking initiatives in their learning represents them taking ownership, responsibility, and the drive to aim high!

My name is Arcelia Elizabeth Guillermo-Rios, born in El Paso, Texas, from a hard working single-mother family. Due to several life difficulties, our family encountered many struggles.  School and innovative teachers became beacons of stability, encouragement, and reassurance.  These experiences developed into a persistent and positive impact in my life and generated my interest in becoming a teacher.

I graduated from New Mexico State University with Bachelors in Education and Masters in Curriculum and Instruction with endorsements in Bilingual Education. For twenty years I have taught a variety of grade levels, currently I teach 5th grade Self Contained Dual Language at Desert Trail Elementary.  As a bilingual teacher I strive to promote high academic standards integrating bilingualism, bi-literacy, multicultural development, and create opportunities of student/parent contribution, discovery, and empowerment.

In 2016, I was selected the National Association for Bilingual Education Teacher of the Year. The following year I became a New Mexico Teacher Leader State Ambassador where I continue to gain knowledge, resources, and support to enhance my profession.  Currently, I am also part of the Educators for High Standards and The Collaborative for Student Success: Aim High Fellowship. Through the Aim High Fellowship, my students and I have been developing skills in self reflection to promote listen and practice, learning the value of academic challenge, and measure growth as learners. To keep that optimistic spirit, we have been partnered with a professional athlete to encourage and inspire the students. The athlete is former NFL Dallas Cowboy Raghib Ismail better known as “Rocket”. It is a privilege to receive the support of so many caring people; this enhances my commitment and love for my profession.

New Mexico Teacher Spotlight: John Turrietta

New Mexico Teacher Spotlight: John Turrietta

It all comes down to the teacher’s relationship with the students, the knowledge and presentation of the material and keeping them engaged.  Along my evolution as a teacher, I have tried departmentalization, ability grouping, gender grouping, Whole Brain Teaching, and now a flipped classroom.  Yet it still concludes with me and my students.

From the time that I was in the 3rd grade, I knew that I wanted to be a teacher.  Standing in front of a classroom, presenting and interacting with my students is the fruition of that dream.  I entered first grade not knowing English, and exited 3rd grade with the goal of being a teacher.  My grandfather made it clear from the time that I was a young boy, that education would always be the right road to travel.  He added to my determination that I would, one day, be an educator.

As that 3rd grade student that stayed after class to help with bulletin boards, pound dust out of chalk, sort dittos, and just generally help around the classroom, I always knew it was about the learning.  In playing school with my cousin and brother, I gave tests and handed out report cards.  Who knew testing would be such an issue in years to come?  While testing is not everything it is a gauge of financial success in later life.  Its about the teaching for me.  The learning.  As a product of APS and UNM, I want to make a difference for the children of New Mexico.

As a teacher, I have never wanted to be out of the classroom.  That’s where the action is….where the magic happens.  That’s where I need to be; on the frontlines of education.  Every year is a fresh start to try new things with an entirely new group of students.  What other career gives you a fresh start each year?  There are so many ways to teach.  No one has a monopoly!

Next year, Rio Rancho will assign each 5th grade class a Chrome Book Cart.  An entirely new delivery of teaching! It is never boring and always rewarding and exciting.  Kids will never remember the workbook page, but they will always remember your classroom environment and how you delivered material.

From Schoolhouse To Roundhouse: How Authentic Teacher Voice Shaped (Most) Of The State’s Education Budget For Next Year

From Schoolhouse To Roundhouse: How Authentic Teacher Voice Shaped (Most) Of The State’s Education Budget For Next Year

Colleagues —

With an opportunity-rich (some seized, some not) 2018 Legislative Session now behind us, I wanted to take this opportunity to review some of the substantial commitments the state budget makes to public education.

Here in Santa Fe, and inside the Roundhouse, the funding bill is referred to as HB2 (House Bill 2).  As we all know, deciding how you are going to spend your money is one of the best ways to determine priorities so HB2 is both a reflection of educational policy priorities and an overall financial appropriation for the State’s upcoming fiscal year (FY19, which is the 2018-2019 school year).

Your voice mattered this year—it was one of the first times in my career across multiple states that teacher-leaders, classroom teachers from across a state, and parents/families had a real voice inside a State Legislature. Historically, education policy and funding decisions are dominated by associations and interest groups—not necessarily by listening to all voices from all parts of a state.  Your voice was huge part of this process—and it was heard by our team at the PED, by the Executive branch, and by the Legislature.

It is also safe to say that in some areas, the Legislature made decisions in HB2 (now agreed to by both the House and the Senate and headed to the Governor’s desk) that could have real downsides for teachers, schools, and students.  It’s also safe to say that this funding bill also missed some opportunities to build upon and reinforce the areas of student academic progress and stakeholder engagement we’ve developed together over the last several years.

As the funding bill makes it way from the Legislative branch to the Executive branch, let’s review some highlights/lowlights in HB2 as of today:

As I see it, highlights from the 2018-2019 Public School Support package (HB2) include:

  • A teacher compensation increase, including significant raises in salaries for teachers (2.5%) and non-instructional school staff (2%), on top of an increase to the minimums for each licensure level, which would now be $36K/44K/54K for levels I, II, and III;
  • A small appropriation for Exemplary Teaching Awards, a groundbreaking effort to retain and reward some of the highest-performing teachers statewide – especially those that serve our most struggling schools and/or teach in the highest-need subject areas.  As I’ve shared with you, this strategy compliments the across-the-board increases above;
  • A sizable increase in funding for state Pre-K, which will allow the program to grow responsibly while maintaining the high standards of quality that have led to substantial outcomes for early learners.  This allocation will also result in several new Pre-K sites around the state that have demonstrated capacity and readiness to offer it for the first time;
  • An increase in K-3 Plus summer program funding that will allow for responsible expansion, while also including budgetary language incentivizing best practices that are leading to the most student growth in our schools;
  • An increase for both transportation and instructional materials funding (short of what the Executive branch proposed, but still meaningful);
  • More funding for professional development and teacher leadership opportunities for STEM teachers, and additional funding for the transition to NM STEM-Ready Standards;
  • Continuation of the key programs that have shown an outsized return on investment and student achievement.  We’ve seen several initiatives, which are reflected in the budget again this year, make a difference for kids in schools across the state–  Truancy and Dropout Prevention, Principals Pursuing Excellence, Teachers Pursuing Excellence, Reads to Lead, AP fee waivers, and many others;
  • Funding for a new Regional Educational Cooperative (REC) in San Juan County to assist districts in sharing resources and making support staff available to the entire region.

Alongside this progress, I believe there were several missed opportunities and areas of concern in HB2 as well, including:

  • The bill currently includes language that Exemplary Teaching Awards – while intended to be available to all – could be blocked at your district by your local teachers union;
  • The bill eliminates funding for Hard to Staff recruitment stipends for teachers.  Teacher Recruitment is major priority for the PED in 2018, even in a reduced funding environment;
  • The bill includes language that could substantially reduce funding for charter schools, early college high schools, vocational schools, alternative schools, and credit recovery programs.  We don’t believe these schools (and the students, teachers, and families who believe in them) should be targeted in this manner for a reduction in funding;
  • Though the PED requested $4.5 million in emergency supplemental funds – fund that can be used by districts who experience emergency situations such as natural disasters or man-made tragedies, or for districts experiencing declining enrollment or financial strain– the Legislature only appropriated $3 million in funding;
  • There is no increase to Dual Credit Instructional Materials, despite the PED’s request to double the funding;
  • The bill reflects a major cut in funding for professional development and training for Principals to provide meaningful evaluations and observations to teachers—the PED has consistently heard that this is a critical need area and will ensure that this vital training continues;
  • There is again no funding for Blended Learning (formerly IDEAL-NM) in HB2, which provides many students from rural/smaller schools a way to access courses that might not otherwise be available to them. The PED is committed to finding a way to provide course access to all students;
  • Lastly, this year’s budget bill include a major cut to Interventions and Support for Students, Struggling Schools, Parents, and Teachers – from $15 million last year to $4 million this year.  This comes on the heels of the PED announcing a $50 million support package for struggling schools as part of the state’s top-rated plan under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).  To be fair, the Legislative Finance Committee probably views this as a $4 million cut and not an $11 Million cut, but this is a line item that should have been increased (or at least fully supported) given the focus on innovation, parent and family engagement, and teacher leadership within it.  Instead, it’s been reduced.

My team will be reviewing HB2 in full next week once it’s delivered, and we would love to hear your thoughts on any/all of the above over the weekend.  Your voice matters—and we’ve seen repeatedly that democracy belongs to those who show up.  As classroom teachers and hard-working families, we know that you can’t camp out at the Roundhouse for 30 days or more, but we hope to represent your beliefs, your aspirations for your students, and our profession.

We stand with you—and offer our sincere thanks to all who contributed time and energy to support what is right for kids.  I am more optimistic than ever about the future for New Mexico’s students, with a renewed resolve to roll up my sleeves and continue to do the hard work to make New Mexico’s schools and students the fastest growing in the country.

Please be in-touch!

Christopher N. Ruszkowski
Secretary of Education
New Mexico Public Education Department

Top 10 Highlights of the NM Teacher Summit

Top 10 Highlights of the NM Teacher Summit

In case you missed it, June 26th and 27th marked our Second Annual NM Teacher Summit. The event was huge success with 1,000 teachers from all over the state coming together to celebrate one another and continue to grow in their craft and career.

Check out the 10 Ten things about the 2nd Annual Teacher Summit:

  1. 1,000 attendees

    This year, the summit grew to 3x the size of last year. It was a true joy to see 1,000 teachers gathered full of positivity and excitement! Two years ago, the Secretary’s Teacher Advisory said they wanted a summer conference, we would never have dreamed that just two years later we’d be standing on stage looking at a crowd of 1,000 teachers!

  2. Improved Communication

    In my role, I often hear from teachers that they feel “out of the loop”. I had many conversations over two days in which teachers said they finally feel like they know what is going on and feel included in the path ahead!

  3. Acting Secretary Ruszkowski’s first keynote address

    It was great to see Acting Secretary Ruszkowski deliver his first ever keynote address as Acting Secretary during the Summit’s opening session and to learn more about his personal story and passion for education. Later, he spent time in small group sessions with teachers answering tough questions with finesse and commitment. Teachers really enjoyed meeting one on one.

  4. New Teacher Leader Opportunities

    We shared so many opportunities for teachers to be change agents for education in New Mexico at the Summit. Teach Plus shared their application for the 2nd cohort of the New Mexico Teach Plus Fellowship. The New Mexico Literacy Dream Team shared the 36 close reading lesson plans and announced the launch of the 2nd New Mexico Dream Team which will focus on Social Studies. Stay tuned for the application. We also announced the expansion of the New Mexico Teacher Leader Network and the 2nd Cohort of the Secretary’s Teacher Advisory. The 2nd Cohort of the STA will be selected by the end of the month and the application with for the expansion of the New Mexico Teacher Leader Network will be out this Fall.

  5. Empowered Teachers 

    Through the course of the conference we were able to see teachers realize that they have so much power to impact change for their students and schools. I really enjoyed watching teachers lean into their power as teachers and begin to empower others.

  6. Secretary Skandera’s Final Interview with Romy Drucker from The 74 Million

    Although her last day on the job was June 20th, Secretary Skandera was present at the New Mexico Teacher Summit and did a final interview with the CEO of the online education site, The 74 Million, Romy Drucker. Secretary Skandera reflected on her time in New Mexico, shared her lessons learned, and thanked the teachers for attending and creating so many opportunities for teachers to be equipped, empowered and championed.

  7. National Teacher of the Year Sydney Chaffee 

    It was such an honor to have the National Teacher of the Year, Sydney Chaffee, join us for the Summit. Sydney delivered the keynote address at our celebration dinner on night 1 of the summit. During her keynote, Sydney talked about the power of teacher voice and encouraged all teachers to get involved.

  8. More than 36 awesome break out sessions

    PED Staff and external partners came together to host more than 36 breakout sessions on everything form iStation and PARCC, to Teacher Evaluation and School Grades, small group sessions with Acting Secretary Ruszkowski and focus groups on new literacy programs. We also had sessions on Teacher Leader opportunities, Curriculum and Lesson Planning and so much more. All sessions were kicked off by a teacher leader, which was a great way to highlight their effort and commitment.

  9. #NMTeacherSummit

    We had a blast following teacher’s favorite moments and take-aways on Twitter. Participants were encouraged to interact using #NMTeacherSummit allowing others to follow along.

  10. Teachers Leading

    Our teacher leaders were in force at the Summit. They introduced every break out session, introduced every keynote speakers, led teacher shout outs from the stage and assisted their colleagues. Some of our teacher leaders even led break out sessions. This was truly our vision come to life. Teachers equipping, empowering and championing their peers. It was the highlight of my career to watch it unfold.

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

Santa Fe Teacher

I had an amazing time these past two days! I truly believe that we are on a positive path in New Mexico! 

Las Cruces Teacher

The Summit made me realize I need to get out of my comfort zone after 28 years of teaching. I can’t wait to get the STA application in my hand, and if that doesn’t work out, I’ll apply for the School Liaison. There is so much work to be done, and I want to be part of it!!! 

Albuquerque Teacher

This girl is on FIRE! Based on two of the breakout sessions, I have revamped my first two weeks of lessons. Inquiry based life science with argumentation discussions based on Claim, Evidence, and Reasoning. I am so excited! Also, I’m hoping to take these ideas back to my site and share with my colleagues. Between the STEM Symposium and The Summit, I am fired up! Thank you NMPED and our teacher leaders! 

Artesia Teacher

It was so enjoyable to spend two days in such a positive atmosphere. 

Texico Teacher

I have of being a part of something so incredibly dynamic and motivating! From the beginning to the end, I felt that I was involved in something transformative and inspired. The general sessions were all inclusive and uniting, and the break outs supported so many varied personal interests. The two days were uplifting and affirming as an educator. I feel valued and respected, heard and recognized, and most of all, championed. 

We hope to see you at next year’s Teacher Summit! Date to come soon!

To find resources and presentations from the teacher summit click here.

Guest Post: My Evolution

Guest Post: My Evolution

“You’re a sellout.”

“I thought you represented kids, not politics.”

As I was riding the wave of elation and optimism from this year’s New Mexico Teacher Summit, I discovered these disheartening messages in my inbox. It has been my experience that choosing to embark on a journey of great change will often be met with great opposition. I too was a skeptic. In fact, I vocally opposed any educational policy reform former Secretary Hanna Skandera proposed. As I looked inward to reflect on those feelings, I found that my frustrations were based solely on the projections of others’ reactions. Not one to be complacent, I knew I had to become involved.

I had reservations about applying for the New Mexico Teacher Leader Network. I have since experienced an evolutionary process that has unfolded in transitional phases. When I received notification that I had been selected among a pool of hundreds of applicants across New Mexico, I knew then that this fellowship might actually be something special as the standards for the selection process were high. I made a commitment to myself and my colleagues that I’d enter this new journey with an open mind and heart to allow myself to be fully immersed in whatever this experience might generate.

Our first cohort meeting in Santa Fe was a revelation for me. After listening intently to the testimonials of our Teacher Liaison, Alicia Duran, and fellow members Hope Morales and Ashley Randall, I was sold. Yes, in less than two hours I was sold. Elements of their stories mirrored my own. They encountered the same frustrations that I had felt, but they were putting action behind their discontent. The two-day session was jam packed with information regarding our evaluation system. I was astounded, and a bit ashamed, by how little I knew. Astounded because I knew very little about how much control I had over my own evaluation process. Ashamed because I had developed strong opinions based on very little information. Upon conversing with several members of our fellowship, I found this to be a commonality we shared. We’ve since held our second cohort meeting. I’ve attended webinars and listened in on conference calls to further equip ourselves to empower our colleagues. I made a shift within to begin listening to understand rather than listening to react or respond.

The final phase of my evolution took place at this year’s New Mexico Teacher Summit. Acting Secretary Christopher Ruszkowksi’s address to attendees was a pivotal moment for me. He stressed the importance of bipartisanship in education reform. My head shook vigorously in agreement throughout the duration of his speech. I knew then, I was in the right place with the right people. Through this fellowship, I have developed profound friendships and connections that I know will last a lifetime. I believe in these people. I believe in our work. I believe in the foundation and the legacy that former Secretary Skandera laid for us. I believe in continuing and honoring that legacy.

The final part of one of those messages in my inbox accused me of drinking the “proverbial Kool-Aid.” If by drinking the Kool-Aid they mean reaching a state of enlightenment to adequately empower and advocate for kids and teachers in our beautiful state of New Mexico, then kindly serve me up another glass because I’m all in! 

Issac Rivas-Savell is an elementary teacher at Mettie Jordan Elementary in Eunice, NM and serves as a New Mexico Teacher Leader Network State Ambassador. 

GUEST POST: How the NM Teacher Summit Changed My Summer Plans

GUEST POST: How the NM Teacher Summit Changed My Summer Plans

I can’t seem to come down from the past few days. This is a strange feeling for me because June is usually a month characterized by lounging on the couch, starting (and hopefully finishing) house projects that have gone undone since Christmas break, and consciously releasing the stressful moments and memories of my teaching year.  No matter how wonderful the school year has been for me, I invariably need this complete break from it and from almost everything educational. At least that is how I have managed to get through the last ten years.

Granted, when I was a new teacher I had that eager, overachiever thirst for new knowledge. Over the past 26 years that “newness” has worn off and I have learned to pace myself, never teach summer school, and stay in my robe until noon. I am one of those teachers who needs the full 10 weeks of summer vacation to rejuvenate. Come Labor Day, I am back in full force and signing up for everything extra-curricular and then some. I push myself non-stop, just not in June. Let’s face it: I’ve been doing this a long time, and I only have so much energy to go around.

So imagine how surprised I was to return from the Second Annual NM Teacher Summit last night with an energy usually reserved for September. I literally couldn’t subdue the enthusiasm and joy I felt as I drove back from Albuquerque to Taos. The landscape looked crisper and the sunset brighter. What just happened to me?

I now realize how I have isolated myself professionally over the last decade. I admit, I have a good thing going. I love my school, my director, my colleagues, and my students. I have a fabulous view of Taos Mountain from my window, and my commute is 1-1/2 miles. Life is good….and easy. Online professional development and collaboration with brilliant coworkers is all I need. Or so I thought.

It’s easy to self-isolate in a large landmass state such as New Mexico. When I taught in New England states and even in coastal Virginia, there was always a district or city nearby where teachers shared information, conferenced, and supported each other. I didn’t remember until this week in Albuquerque how much I had missed that. To be in a convention center ballroom with 1,000 of my peers was exhilarating. To hear our New Mexico Public Education Department thank us for our work and inspire us to push ourselves to greater heights was nothing short of awe-inspiring.

I attended break-out sessions where I learned how PED is working to improve education in New Mexico, met old and new teacher friends, and celebrated accomplishments in New Mexico schools. I gained a better appreciation for the vision and efforts of former Secretary Skandera to effect change for New Mexico students, and for the energy of the new Acting Secretary Christopher Ruszkowski to continue to work to equip and empower teachers in order to make that happen. It wasn’t long before I remembered why I chose this great profession and how much I still love teaching. In my self-imposed isolation, I sometimes forget that truth.

The best part for me: seeing a friend and former colleague who I mentored when she was a new teacher. She was able to attend just part of the Summit because she attends MBA classes to  become an educational leader in her home city of Albuquerque. Oh, and one of my former third grade students performed for the teachers in an incredible display of her drama skills developed at New Mexico School for the Arts where she will be a high school senior. The rewards of being a teacher always come back to the kids!

So I’m back to my problem of figuring out how to come down from this unexpected high. While I honor my physical and emotional need to stay away from the classroom during the summer, I might sneak in some educational reading from one of the many titles shared at the Summit. My boss and I agreed to read Simon Sinek’s Start with Why next month, and I’m excited to reread Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck. The Summit not only connected me to friends and specific strategies for furthering my practice, but it made me want to expand my big picture of education while I have the time to start and finish a book. This is the first June in YEARS where I actually look forward to thinking about educational topics and themes. Forgive me if I do it in my robe on the couch.

This guest post was written by Leslie Baker, a teacher at Taos Charter School in Taos, NM and member of the New Mexico Teacher Leader Network.

INCYMI: New Mexico’s Teacher Summit featured on Education Post

INCYMI: New Mexico’s Teacher Summit featured on Education Post

In case you miss it, today Education Post featured a guest post by our very own Teacher Liaison, Alicia Duran! The post discusses teacher leadership work in New Mexico and highlights the upcoming Teacher Summit.

If you haven’t seen it, you can check it out here:
In Just 72 Hours This Summit Dedicated to Empowering Teachers Sold Out