Tag: Teacher

New Mexico Teacher Spotlight: Kathy Zimmermann

New Mexico Teacher Spotlight: Kathy Zimmermann

Kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grades
15 years in the classroom.
“I feel my responsibility as a teacher is to instill confidence and curiosity and then show the students the possibilities that await them. Change in public education is upon us and we have a choice to either embrace it and champion our children or stay quiet and watch them suffer.”

I was born and raised in Deming, Luna County. I am part of the fifth generation to grow roots in the unforgiving southwestern desert. I was born to loving parents, and I was very lucky to have both of them growing up. My dad passed away in 2001, but my mom is still my best friend and one of my greatest supports. I graduated from Deming High School in 1988. I married my first husband in 1994. I celebrated the birth of my son, Challen in 1995 and my daughter, Kelsie in 1999. With the birth of my daughter, I decided it was time to follow my childhood dream of being Cinderella at Disneyland – OH NO, wait – not that dream. I was already entirely too old! So, instead, I followed my dream of becoming a teacher. My third grade teacher was a wonderful lady named Sallie Wilcox, and I always knew that I wanted to grow-up to smell as good as she did and be a great teacher, just like her! There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think fondly of her and praise her for her patience.
In order to make this dream a reality, I began my first college class at the age of 30. I earned my BA in elementary education at Western New Mexico University, then went on to continue my education at Eastern New Mexico University, earning a certificate in Teaching of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). In May of 2017, I finished my course work and earned my Master of Arts in Education from New Mexico State University. I began my journey as a teacher in 2003 where I taught kindergarten until 2014. My husband, Robert, passed away that year, and I decided it was time for a change, so I moved to the elementary school that I attended as a child in order to teach third grade. I loved third grade, but at the end of my first year with the “big kids” I was offered a position teaching in the multi-age program. I loved the idea of combining what I had always done in kindergarten with all the new things I had learned in third grade, and, as they say, the rest is history! Except for the fact that I am now remarried to a wonderful man, Kirk, who also happens to be a teacher. He teaches P.E. here in Deming and is also an assistant football coach for the Deming Wildcats! Go CATS!
I have found that teaching is not really a career but rather a life choice. I absolutely love what I do. Our children are our most precious natural resource and through education we are able to secure our future. If we teach them compassion and respect for our past, our present, and our future, then they will have the tools to sustain and possibly even create a better world than the one we know today. What we do as teachers is so much more than imparting facts. In our tumultuous world, which is driven by technology, we don’t necessarily need to teach children information but rather how to gather and use information. Each morning I come to school eager to see what new discovery my students will make and hopeful that I will be able to strike a spark of curiosity in them that will sustain their desire to find out more.
Most recently in my career I have had the privilege to serve as a part of the Teacher Leader Network as a member of the Secretary’s Teacher Advisory. I have made many new friends from all across the state and have gained a respect and understanding for our public education system. The most important thing that I have garnered from this experience is how important it is for teachers to network, find their voices, and advocate for our profession and, most importantly, for our children!

NOW RECRUITING! NMTLN School Liaison Cohort 2018-2019

NOW RECRUITING! NMTLN School Liaison Cohort 2018-2019

What is the NMTLN?

The purpose of the NMTLN is to develop a set of teacher leaders who:

  • Gain knowledge about PED areas of focus to support student outcomes
  • Serve as their school’s liaison when other teachers have questions about PED areas of focus, such as NMTEACH
  • Provide feedback about PED areas of focus
  • Develop skills to support colleagues’ growth and development
  • Gain access to PED resources and tools

What is a School Liaison?
APPLY HERE NOW!

NMTLN School Liaisons hone their teacher leadership skills and gain knowledge about PED areas of focus and state policy. School Liaisons serve as the on-the-ground go-to person at their school site to help explain PED areas of focus and provide guidance to their colleagues. School Liaisons participate in virtual and regional in-person meetings. (See photos below!)

Who should apply?

Ideal candidates are solutions-oriented individuals who want to learn about state policy, want access to tools and resources to help them hone their craft even further, are continuous learners who seek out and apply feedback to improve, and who have taken or want to take on leadership roles at their school sites. NMTLN School Liaisons participate in the network for one full year, with the option to reapply for a second year.

What specifically do School Liaisons do?

NMTLN Teacher Liaisons is a regional model, where teacher leaders in the network come together with participants in their region two times a year for after-school convenings during the school year. The purpose of the in-person convenings is to collaborate with educators across the region, learn about PED areas of focus, build instructional content and leadership skills through meaningful professional learning opportunities, network with each other, and develop a community of support.

The regional convenings are designed so that participants will not miss class time with students nor need to spend the night. Districts will individually determine reimbursements such as mileage; these costs will not be covered by PED. The in-person convenings are designed to be highest-quality professional learning for teachers; districts will individually determine what type of professional leave teachers can take for participating in the NMTLN Teacher Liaisons.

Additionally, NMTLN Teacher Liaisons participate in monthly webinars in conjunction with other teacher leaders in the state. Content for the in-person convenings and the monthly webinars focuses on PED areas of focus surrounding teaching quality.

***THE BOTTOM LINE: Every teacher should feel empowered to ask questions and share their experiences. You will serve as a point of contact, quite literally liaising between the PED and your fellow teachers. You will have access to resources and information you can share with them, and should they have questions, you will be connected directly to the PED to help them get the answers they need.***

EXPECTATIONS

Date

Virtual Training Session: Topic

Information to register will be sent a few weeks prior to each virtual training session.

*** Dates and topics are subject to change. ***

August 30

Thursday

4:30-5:30 pm

What Can I Expect from this Teacher Leadership Experience?
October 18

Thursday

4:30-5:30 pm

What Does Cultural Competence and Responsiveness Look Like in My Classroom?

 

November 15

Thursday

4:30-5:30 pm

How Does Education Policy Impact Me?
January 17

Thursday

4:30-5:30 pm

What Am I Doing to Engage All Families Effectively?
March 14

Thursday

4:30-5:30 pm

What Do I Need to Know About Supporting My Diverse Learners?
April 11

Thursday

4:30-5:30 pm

How Do I Keep My Students Engaged All Year Long?
May 16

Thursday

4:30-5:30 pm

How Do We Ensure that All Students Are Supported by Our Most Effective Teachers?

Date

Regional Meeting: Location

Plan to attend one regional meeting per round. Choose the location nearest you. Plan to attend all of your required meetings.

Regional Meetings

September 12

September 13

September 19

September 20

September 26

September 27

 

Santa Fe

Las Vegas

Roswell

Las Cruces

Farmington

Albuquerque

Regional Meetings

November 28

November 29

December 5

December 6

December 12

December 13

 

Santa Fe

Las Vegas

Roswell

Las Cruces

Farmington

Albuquerque

Regional Meetings

February 12

February 13

February 19

February 20

February 26

February 27

 

Santa Fe

Las Vegas

Roswell

Las Cruces

Farmington

Albuquerque

What are the benefits of becoming a School Liaison?

Participants gain a unique community of support through the NMTLN, opportunities to network with like-minded teaching professionals and PED staff, and share strategies, methods, and solutions to challenges. This is a voluntary opportunity to gain expertise and skills that will allow you to take on more formal teacher leadership roles. You can use your participation in the network as an artifact for your NMTEACH report.  Most importantly, you will participate in a movement – the first of its kind in New Mexico – to engage with PED and teachers across the state to raise the quality of instruction and outcomes for our students.

So, how do I join?

Follow the link to the form HERE.

Still have questions?

Contact Alicia and Kayli at teacher.liaison@state.nm.us

We can’t wait to hear from you!

-Kayli and Alicia

The Year That Was: Our Students, Our Progress, Our Voices

The Year That Was: Our Students, Our Progress, Our Voices

The 2017-18 school year was one of many milestones, celebrations, and achievements for public education in New Mexico.  It has been a year of unprecedented progress—from the Schoolhouse to the Roundhouse and everywhere in between.  Just last month, the largest Teacher Summit in our state’s history occurred with hundreds of educators coming together to equip, empower, and champion our profession and the new era of teacher leader voice in the Land of Enchantment.  That event featured the culmination of three years of work leading to the unveiling of the state’s first ever Teacher Preparation Scorecards and a giant push to ensure that more of our aspiring teachers are day one ready.  In May, we saw a first-of-its-kind $1 million grant to all of our districts and charters for teacher recruitment, record amounts of funding and students served in both Pre-K and K-3+, and final school turnaround plans established for some of the state’s most struggling schools backed by $2 million in additional support for each individual school.

This spring, the NM-True Straight-A Express Tour, an idea that came from a regional school board meeting in Tucumcari about a year earlier, made its final stop in Des Moines.  As that statewide tour of 60 districts and 122 schools came to a close, the launch of the first ever NM-True Excellence in Teaching Tour kicked off with early stops in Farmington and Bloomfield, where I witnessed high craft in Mr. Starr’s AP Physics class fueling the feeling of urgency that more and more students need to have access to that level of high quality, rigorous course content, and instruction.

Turns out we are on that path already.  In January, Governor Martinez announced record high numbers of students taking and passing Advanced Placement courses and exams.  And more ground was broken in April when five New Mexico teacher-leaders from Las Cruces, Shiprock, Reserve, Albuquerque, and Texico delivered the keynote address at the annual Spring Budget Conference.  At that conference, there was even more good news to report as just one month earlier the Governor had signed HB-2 (“The Budget Bill”) which contained $115 million more for public education, bringing the total to $450 million more state dollars for public education during this administration.  That amount included funding for compensation increases across-the-board, and to support the bipartisan Senate Bill 119, increasing minimum teacher salaries at every licensure level.

There were other major milestones in 2017-18: Federal approval of New Mexico’s top-rated plan under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the adoption of best-in-class national standards (now effective as of July 1!) in both the arts and in science, less time on testing, and ten more instructional days added to the academic calendar, the expansion of the nation’s largest and highest-performing school turnaround networks (Principals Pursuing Excellence and Teachers Pursuing Excellence), the trailblazing work being done by the Social Studies Dream Team, and the state’s inaugural Family Cabinet.  The ‘year that was’ saw more students taking the free PSAT exam and setting up their free individualized Khan Academy accounts and the Public Education Commission continuing to strengthen the state’s charter sector through difficult decisions around school closures, school openings, and the first-ever charter school replication.  None of this progress has been easy—it’s all hard-fought.

And high honors were bestowed upon some of our state’s best teachers: The Milken Award to Melanie Alfaro of Deming in December and – in one of my proudest moments on the job- the selection of Ivonne Orozco of Public Academy for the Performing Arts (PAPA) as the 2018 New Mexico Teacher of the Year in October.  Without their leadership, and your leadership, we would not be where we are today.

Even with all of those highlights, perhaps nothing is more important than our recent announcement about our students’ academic progress over the past four years.  All credit goes to New Mexico’s teachers and support staff, parents and families, Superintendents and Charter Leaders, and many, many more for ushering in an era of exciting progress for kids in New Mexico.

Last week we announced that New Mexico’s students are demonstrating unprecedented academic progress in reading and math.  We have focused on improving our instructional practices and measuring progress, and more kids are truly on path to college and career.

Nearly a decade ago, the previous administration adopted higher college and career ready standards. Our districts, schools, educators, families, and students have risen to the challenge.  New Mexico now owns the unique distinction of having stayed the course, being independently-minded, and building upon our strong foundation and conviction about what every student can achieve.

Here are a few of the highlights:

  • New Mexico’s student achievement gains over the past several years are substantial—since 2015, the entire state is up 4.7 percentage points in reading and 4.2 percentage points in math.  Every grade level is up in reading, and almost every grade level is up in math.
  • This means something real for students and families.  Since 2015, 24,000 more students, 11,000 more in math and 13,000 more in reading, are at grade level or above. 9,000 of those students grew to that level just in the last academic year, which was New Mexico’s fourth year of administration of the PARCC assessment.
  • We are proving that our students from all backgrounds can grow and achieve at higher levels.  Native American students are showing the most academic progress statewide—up 8.2% in reading—with Hispanic students, students from low income backgrounds, and English Learners all showing major gains.  Overall, the achievement gap is narrowing, a testament to our collective commitment to equity and access for all students.
  • Many districts that have embraced change and seized new opportunities are showing the most dramatic student achievement gains. It’s no coincidence that districts such as Farmington, Gallup, Hobbs, and Gadsden are leading the way. They have embraced a data-driven culture, talent recruitment and development, and meaningful accountability and support.  Farmington, Gallup, and Hobbs were also early adopters of Principals Pursuing Excellence—one of the largest and most successful school turnaround networks in the country.  These are districts that put more money directly into the classroom and do not shy away from innovation or difficult conversations that need to be had.
  • Farmington is now the top-performing school district in reading amongst the state’s ten largest districts—up nearly 15 percentage points in reading since 2015.  Gadsden has shown the most growth in mathematics, up nearly nine percentage points since 2015.
  • Eighteen of the state’s 20 largest districts are up in reading. Over the last eight years, New Mexico made heavy investments and put a major focus on early literacy as the foundation for all student success.  Many students started their academic careers under more rigorous standards, participated in early literacy programs, and have grown over time.  There is promise for the future if New Mexico remains on this trajectory—if so there will continue to be new generations of rising readers.
  • Districts like Los Lunas, Central Consolidated, Lovington, Artesia, Texico, Clovis, and Roswell represent a second wave of districts following this same trend. They have embraced higher standards, individualized instruction through PSAT/Khan Academy, are investing more money directly into the classroom, and understand the power of regular formative and interim assessments at the local level.
  • And there is so much to learn from high-performing and fast-growing schools like Gil Sanchez Elementary in Belen, like Union Elementary in West Las Vegas, like Explore Academy and North Valley Academy in Albuquerque, like Mesquite Elementary in Gadsden. These are schools that have demonstrated double-digit gains through innovation and excellence in instruction.  There are dozens of other examples of schools that are “beating the odds”, myth-busting around what is possible for every child, and creating beacons of excellence from which we can draw inspiration and best practices.  Our student achievement results are on the rise because of schools like these…

It is clear; the student achievement data shows that New Mexico’s students are on the rise.  These examples across the state serve as a reminder of that.  We should be proud of the progress districts and charters across the state have shown—and celebrate them.

It’s also becoming more and more evident to all that we, as a community of educators, must keep momentum and a laser-focus on improving instructional practice:

https://www.abqjournal.com/1196483/student-gains-a-strong-reason-to-keep-parcc.html

It is an honor to work alongside all of you each day on behalf of our kids and an exciting moment to be working in public education in New Mexico.  Please stay tuned for more information on how we will continue to celebrate success and champion progress, while we also constantly look for ways in which we can better serve our students.  It’s BOTH/AND, almost never EITHER/OR if we want to ensure that New Mexico is the fastest growing state in the country by 2020 and beyond.

Meanwhile, we prepare for our students to arrive in just a few short weeks for 2018-19.

Congratulations.  Onward.

Secretary Ruszkowski

New Mexico Teacher Spotlight: Alysha Wagley

New Mexico Teacher Spotlight: Alysha Wagley

I love watching students’ belief in themselves and their own strengths and talents grow as they improve and find their own paths in life. Teaching to me, goes far beyond the imparting of knowledge; it is helping each student reach their potential. The students of today are our future, so it is important that we lead them to be the most prepared and well-rounded citizens we can.

I am blessed to teach high school Language Arts and history in the tiny community of Animas, NM. Animas is a rural, agriculture community in the “Bootheel” of NM. We are the farthest school south and west in NM serving approximately 180 students PK-12 with under 80 in our 7-12 high school. It is the same school where my Dad, brother, and I all attended. I grew up on my family farm driving tractors, chopping cotton, and raising show pigs. My husband Sam now works on the farm, and my three boys are now learning the same valuable skills and life lessons I learned growing up here. My boys are the fifth generation to work this land and hopefully won’t be the last. I am as proud to be a farm girl as I am a teacher.

A small school allows me to be lucky enough to have many of my students multiple times throughout the day and then after school for Drama or Mock Trial Practice. These hours together give me a greater opportunity to truly get to know my students. I am very invested in my students and enjoy helping them hone their natural talents and improve their skills in and out of the classroom.

As a young girl, my mother instilled in me the importance of living a life of service. I grew up learning the value of giving back and serving my community through 4-H, FFA and Epsilon Sigma Alpha (https://www.epsilonsigmaalpha.org). As a teacher, it is that love of service that continues to drive me as I strive to instill the appreciation and reward of giving in my students. Two years ago, I chartered a youth chapter for Epsilon Sigma Alpha International (ESA). This is an organization where I continue to facilitate opportunities for teenagers to perform service in our community, raise money for charities and learn the importance of being a humanitarian. These mirror the lessons I try to teach in my student-led classroom and whole-child approach to teaching. I love seeing my students take ownership of their learning while helping them to value not only the content but its application to their future. There is no greater pleasure or pride than watching my students shine, whether that is in the classroom, on the stage or in a mock courtroom. Those are the moments I treasure most and the moments I encourage the teachers I mentor to hold on to when they hit a brick wall or feel overwhelmed with frustrations. As teachers, we must remember we are shaping the future of all professions. I can only hope that one day my students love their own professions as much as I love mine!

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! 

New Mexico Teacher Spotlight: Steven Lamb

New Mexico Teacher Spotlight: Steven Lamb

Innovation. Watching how students take risks, learn from failure, collaborate, and transform into empathetic learners is why I teach.

Steven Lamb began his career as a local business owner in Albuquerque, NM.  Feeling that he could make a greater difference in his community, Mr. Lamb felt compelled to educate the future leaders and professionals around him.  As a result, Mr. Lamb immediately pursued his Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education and went further to obtain his Master of Arts Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in Reading.

Since his participation in the elementary world, Mr. Lamb has been invited to speak at the APS Administrators Conference on Education, APS Digital Learning Conference, and two TEDxABQ Education Events.  More notably, Mr. Lamb was named the 2017 NM PBS Digital Innovator, an Apple Distinguished Educator, and bestowed the title of the Henry Ford Innovator.  He has pioneered the use of instructional technology in the classroom by co-creating a curriculum to digitally team-teach with another educator located eighteen miles away at a different school.

In his classroom, 21st century preparation occurs through meaningful collaboration.  Through the employment of Virtual Team Teaching, students are engaging in preparation far beyond their elementary years.  Unlike distance education, one time projects, and traditional classroom teaching, continuous use of Virtual Team Teaching uses digital and web-based tools to enhance the collaborative nature of effective learning.  He believes that technology should not be a separate and apart entity, but a tool to redefine classroom instruction.  By walking into his room you will often hear conversation, not meaningless chatter, but rather two classrooms engaging in discourse across eighteen miles.  You may also hear introductions as students begin teaching and learning with microbiology college students in Malaysia, or discussion of marine and desert habitats with high school students from Jamaica. You will see children building connections, refining professional skills, and making a virtual world personal. 

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!

New Mexico Teacher Spotlight-John McElhinney

New Mexico Teacher Spotlight-John McElhinney

The most meaningful part of teaching is setting high expectations for my students while encouraging and inspiring them to set goals for themselves as they grow from being a unique participant  in a community of learners into an active contributor in our society.

John McElhinney was born and raised in New Jersey. After graduating from high school in 1987, he joined the United State Marine Corps. He spent the majority of his service in Irving, California,(Marine Aviation Logistic Squadron). 

After the Marines, John moved back to the East Coast and matriculated at the University of Delaware. At Delaware, John majored in history, and also took anthropology and archeology courses. It was during one of these courses, that he became interested in the culture and people of New Mexico. He spent two weeks in New Mexico camping and hiking in the summer of 94. But it would be another thirteen years before he returned to visit his sister in Albuquerque, and six more until it became his permanent home.

After graduating from Delaware in 1995, John worked for two corporations, but did not feel fulfilled from his work. In the summer of 1997, John started his master’s degree in education at Monmouth University, and quickly realized this was his passion. It was at this time John combined another passion of his with teaching. Traveling! John completed his student teaching in Nacka, Sweden, and thus began years teaching abroad in such places as Italy, Korea, Mexico, and Nicaragua.

 Since returning to the United States in 2013, he spent one year teaching in Albuquerque, and is currently completing his third year teaching in Raton, New Mexico, as a third grade teacher.

 Utilizing his many experiences abroad and lessons learned from his parents, John also brings compassion, energy, enthusiasm, and the desire to be  a lifelong learner to the classroom.

 

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.