Now in its noteworthy fifty-sixth year, the New Mexico Teacher of the Year Program began in 1963. Each year, all New Mexico school districts and Charter schools are invited to nominate an outstanding teacher to become New Mexico’s Teacher of the Year; this teacher represents New Mexico in the National Teacher of the Year competition.
New Mexico’s Teacher of the Year acts as the spokesperson for the teaching profession for New Mexico. The New Mexico Teacher of the Year program incorporates the New Mexico Public Education Department’s vision of a world-class educational system in which all New Mexico students are prepared to succeed in a diverse, and increasingly complex, world.
New Mexico Teacher of the Year State Awards Program
The New Mexico Teacher of the Year is chosen from the eighty-nine school districts and the state and local charter schools who have nominated an outstanding teacher by a panel of judges (i.e. past New Mexico Teachers of the Year, School District Superintendents, Nationally Board Certified Teachers working within New Mexico School Districts, School Administrators, and other teachers) representing New Mexico educators.
The mission of the New Mexico Public Education Department is to provide leadership, technical assistance and quality assurance to improve student performance and close the achievement gap. The New Mexico Teacher of the Year promotes excellence in teaching, is a source of inspiration to other teachers to strive for improving the quality of education within their own classrooms, therein providing the tools necessary for New Mexico students to succeed.
2020 New Mexico Teacher of the Year
A sense of urgency to lead future generations in a quest for social justice and social equality led Mandi Torrez to education following an eight-year, award-winning journalism career. Torrez teaches third grade at Placitas Elementary School in Placitas, New Mexico, where she has guided students for the past eight years in Bernalillo Public Schools. She serves on the school leadership team and leads school efforts in celebrating diverse cultures through project-based learning. In 2011, Torrez earned a Master of Science degree in integrated elementary and special education from Wheelock College of Boston. She received a bachelor of science degree in journalism from the University of Colorado in 2000, becoming the first in her family to graduate from college. Torrez began her education at Dodge City Community College in Dodge City, Kansas, where she played varsity softball. She was a National Junior College Academic All-American and member of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society. Torrez received an associate of art degree in mass communications and was nominated for the Kansas Associated Collegiate Press Journalist of the Year award in 1998. Torrez’s first work with children was in college while volunteering at an English as a second language after-school program in a low-income housing community. It was Torrez’s first look at the achievement gap, which eventually drew her back to working with children.