COMMENTARY: This week is Teacher Appreciation Week in New Mexico – a perfect opportunity to reflect on the tremendous impact our teachers have in helping every New Mexico child have a chance to succeed in life. Every child in New Mexico – no matter their background – can learn, and the more we stand behind our teachers and support them, the more they have that chance.
Isis Feraudy-Marsilli is a bilingual math teacher in Albuquerque; she sets an example of dedication and leadership that represents some of the best of what our teachers bring into our classrooms every day. No matter what level her students are at when they enter her classroom, she works with them to get them to grade level and reach their fullest potential.
“I make my students answer a basic math flashcard before they can come into the classroom,” she says. “They get upset with me, […but, they’re] going to learn the basics and they’re going to learn geometry…” I am thankful for teachers like Isis for dedicating themselves to our students and making a difference in the lives of our kids.
Our teachers in New Mexico are making a difference outside the classroom as well. Across the state, teachers are coming together to share ideas and best practices that put our kids first and make our schools stronger. Groups like my Secretary’s Teacher Advisory – volunteer educators looking for opportunities to give feedback, share ideas, improve professional development and communicate with policymakers – are at the forefront of helping us improve education in New Mexico.
Because of groups like this, we were able to bring 300 teachers together last year for our first annual teacher’s summit. A member of the advisory said, “I was super impressed that our vision of getting teachers to start the school year off on a positive, energizing way seemed to work!” After the summit another educator said, “I learned so much and I feel empowered to move forward this next year. Thank you so much for the NM Teachers Summit.”
Good things are happening for our students because of this summit. Thanks to our continuing partnerships with educators, this year more than three times last year’s number will be able to participate – 1,000 educators registered in only 72 hours!
The Teacher Leader Network is another powerful resource for strengthening partnerships with our educators. Teachers in the network are making sure their colleagues know the latest news in education and they’re empowered to seek answers. One member told us, “I am happy to be working on making NM a better place for kids to get an education.”
These educators are making a difference and I am so excited about what they are doing.
We’re also facilitating more professional collaboration and development between our teachers themselves. The New Mexico Dream Team is another group making great strides to help their colleagues and help students improve. The Dream Team is a group of teachers creating instructional reading supports for teachers across the state.
We’re also working to ensure that we’re listening to our teachers. We recently announced changes to the teacher evaluation system that were created with support and input from teachers across the state. The changes in teacher evaluations are a result of informed teachers bringing their voice and recommendations to the Public Education Department. Specific changes were proposed by members of TeachPlus, an organization of New Mexico educators.
New Mexico’s teachers are among our strongest assets in building a brighter future for our children in communities large and small across the state. As we celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week, join us in reflecting on how important our teachers are to us all – and to keep doing all we can to continue supporting our teachers as they give our kids the skills they need to reach for their dreams.
Hanna Skandera is New Mexico’s secretary of education.