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Nate Williams
Public Information Officer
New Mexico Public Education Department

December 20, 2023

2024 New Mexico Teacher of the Year

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The New Mexico Public Education Department and New Mexico Gas and Oil Association today announced that Dr. Roy Basa is the 2024 New Mexico Teacher of the 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, who acts as the spokesperson for the teaching profession in New Mexico.

“To know that I am the New Mexico 2024 Teacher of the Year, I’m really speechless,” said Basa. “All I want to say is thank you so much to all the people who are involved and who are with me in this journey. This is a journey to grow and learn, and I can use this to be a forever learner.”

Basa has spent over 23 years in education and has taught for the last three years at Twin Buttes Cyber Academy and Zuni High School, educating 9th through 12th-grade students in STEM related subjects.

He utilizes project-based learning and community collaboration instructional strategies to cultivate a learning environment that inspires problem-solving, collaboration, and culturally and linguistically responsive practices.

“Our students love him, and they are enamored with the work he does for them,” said Randy Ann Stickney, the Superintendent for the New Mexico Zuni school district. “He represents our school district in a remarkable way, but he will also do the same for the state of New Mexico.”

Basa is originally from the Philippines and has made it his career mission to serve linguistically diverse populations.

Basa has established lasting relationships with his students and communities, and from his many accomplishments, he emulates what it means to be a lifelong learner.

“Dr. Basa, you exemplify what it means to be a teacher, but not just any teacher, but a teacher in New Mexico who is doing amazing things with a population of students that need you,” said Arsenio Romero, the New Mexico Secretary of Education. “Thank you for what you do and continue to do what you do, and now you get to represent every educator in New Mexico to make us all better.”

Congratulations to Basa for being honored as the 2024 New Mexico Teacher of the Year. He will now be representing New Mexico teachers on the national stage as he enters the running for 2024 National Teacher of the Year.

Nate Williams
Public Information Officer
New Mexico Public Education Department

December 20, 2023

Two New Mexico Schools Earn National Recognition

Pojoaque Intermediate School and Albuquerque School of Excellence Receive Distinguished School Titles

SANTA FE – Pojoaque Intermediate School and Albuquerque School of Excellence have been named 2023 National Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) Distinguished Schools by the National Association of ESEA State Program Administrators (NAESPA).

The National ESEA Distinguished Schools Program is a NAESPA project that publicly recognizes qualifying federally funded schools for positive educational advances and the outstanding academic achievements of their students.

State education agencies nominate schools for the Distinguished School title under three categories:

  • Exceptional student performance and academic growth for two consecutive years.
  • Closing the achievement gap between student groups.
  • Excellence in serving special populations of students.

The New Mexico Public Education Department nominated Pojoaque Intermediate School for exceptional student performance and academic growth for two consecutive years. Albuquerque School of Excellence was nominated for excellence in serving special populations of students.

“It was an honor to nominate Pojoaque Intermediate School and Albuquerque School of Excellence as National ESEA Distinguished Schools,” said New Mexico Public Education Secretary Arsenio Romero. “Incredible student gains in performance and academic growth were achieved because of their school administrators, teachers, students and families working together in a holistic and innovative environment. Congratulations to both schools!”

“I’m so proud of Pojoaque Valley Intermediate School,” said Pojoaque Valley Schools Superintendent Sondra Adams. “This recognition is a testament to the unwavering dedication and hard work of our educators, staff, students and parents who have collectively contributed to our school’s success. This is a shining example of what can be achieved when passion, innovation and a collective vision for education come together.”

“Receiving the ESEA Distinguished School recognition speaks to the incredible teamwork and collaboration within our school community,” said Albuquerque School of Excellence Executive Director Mustafa Ayik. “This recognition reflects our school’s collective commitment to shaping the futures of our students and preparing them for success.”

Pojoaque Intermediate School serves 192 students in the Pojoaque Valley School District. Albuquerque School of Excellence serves 942 students in the city of Albuquerque. Both Pojoaque Intermediate School and Albuquerque School of Excellence are Title I schools, meaning they receive federal funding to serve a large number of students from low-income homes.

All Distinguished Schools are honored with a commemorative award package, a dedicated section on the ESEA Network website and a special presentation at the National ESEA Conference.

Pojoaque Intermediate School and Albuquerque School of Excellence are among approximately 100 schools throughout the country that will receive national recognition for exceptional student achievement at the 2024 ESEA National Conference, Feb. 7-10 in Portland, Oregon.

Since 1996, NAESPA’s Distinguished Schools Program has been highlighting examples of high performing schools participating in federally funded school programs.

Selected schools demonstrate a wide array of strengths, including team approaches to teaching and learning, focused professional development opportunities for staff, individualized programs for student success, and strong partnerships between the school, parents and the community.

More information about all National ESEA Distinguished Schools is available on the ESEA Network website.

Pojoaque Valley Schools Superintendent Sondra Adams can be reached at (505) 455-2282 or

Albuquerque School of Excellence Executive Director Mustafa Ayik can be reached at (505) 312-7711 or

Kelly Pearce

August 17, 2023

Educator Fellows Program Taking Root in New Mexico’s Schools

A New Mexico two-year fellowship that removes barriers for those interested in becoming licensed educators has grown from 380 participants last school year to almost 500 this year.

Educator Fellows NM, overseen by the Public Education Department, is designed to provide additional support to students and teachers in the classroom to reduce class sizes, is one of the avenues on the state’s teacher preparation landscape. Attractive to those who want to remain in their communities, it is a prime way to foster homegrown future educators. Fellows are paid education assistant salaries, receive full health benefits and are given paid leave to attend up to 12 hours of college coursework a week.

“This has been the greatest honor of my life,” said Amber Romero, the program’s administrator. “You plant corn, cultivating it over time so it yields food. That is what the Ed Fellows program is all about. We are planting seeds and will see the impacts.”

The former Las Cruces Public Schools teacher, instructional coach and administrator added that, “We’re bringing in people who live in and understand that community.”

Like Naomilynn Macias, who has been an educational assistant for four years and is on her way to being a first-generation college graduate. One of the allures of Ed Fellows is that it allowed her to be close to home to care for a family member.

“Pena Blanca has always been home for us and being able to be a part of my community feels like I’m helping my community made the adjustment easier,” said Macias, who has been at Cochiti Elementary Middle School since the spring semester of 2022. “We can work under our mentors and learn how to teach with hands-on experience to be better prepared when it is our turn to take the reins.”

The fellows support targeted small-group or one-on-one intervention, high dosage tutoring and enrichment. Some have started clubs around books, as well as science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Participants who must have a high school diploma or equivalent and be seeking a degree that will lead to licensure are working in urban and rural areas, in large and small schools across the state. The program has been funded through the American Rescue Plan Act but can continue to exist through continued legislative support and funding.

Bobbie Shack is an Ed Fellows coach since spring 2022, taking the lead in supporting high indigenous-serving districts and schools. Last year, more than 15% of fellows were Native American. Twenty-five percent of them were seeking bilingual licensure.

Shack, a member of the Zuni Pueblo, is proud of her education story, one robust with mentors who lifted her to reach for her dreams, including multiple college degrees and college teaching and administrative jobs in multiple states.

“NM Ed Fellows is such an important program because it can empower communities,” she said. “Many of the Ed Fellows participating in our program are working in school districts within their own communities. How powerful that is for students to see their own community members in front of classrooms and leading lessons! Our fellows send the message to their students that they, our fellows, are working to become teachers.”

Eric James, Bernalillo Public Schools’ associate superintendent of human resources, loves this aspect of the program and appreciates the unique features of Ed Fellows, including how it creates a sustainable pipeline of teachers that come from the same background as the students in his district.

“It has allowed us to integrate these wonderful teacher candidates into our instruction,” he said. “They are more than teacher assistants. They provide direct instruction and tutoring in the classroom. This experience will be invaluable as they achieve their teacher certification and prepare to take on their own classes in the future. We are providing them additional supports and training to make sure that they are supported and prepared to become our future teachers.”

This fellowship is ideal for individuals who enjoy interacting with youth in a school setting, have good communication skills and enjoy working with diverse populations experiencing a range of social needs. The fellowship provides critical hands-on experiences in the education arena and a solid foundation for those who are planning to enter the profession.

“As coaches, we connect with our fellows and provide the encore round of applause, that virtual fist bump, to show them that we know they’re doing their best and that we’re all so incredibly proud of them as a collective group of coaches,” Shack said.

Dee Hagan, an Ed Fellow in a fifth-grade classroom at Bernalillo Elementary School, is right where she needs to be.

“I couldn’t pass up this opportunity of a lifetime to help, contribute, build and grow in not just myself but with the Bernalillo community,” she said.

For more information, click here or contact Amber Romero. In addition, Ed Fellows is featured on the PED website.

Kelly Pearce

July 31, 2023

Gadsden School District Receives Leadership Award

Gadsden Independent School District’s commitment to boosting student achievement led to an honor from an organization dedicated to elevating education across the country.

The Southern Regional Education Board presented the southern New Mexico district with its District Leadership Award earlier this month at the 2023 Making Schools Work Conference in Florida. The organization applauded Gadsden’s continuous improvement processes over more than a decade that are helping to transform classroom practices and schools, including student test scores and readiness for college and careers.

“Gadsden embodies a continuous improvement culture and their students are winners because of that,” said Dr. Gary Wrinkle, SREB director of state and district partnerships. “From the superintendent to campus principals to teachers, what sets them apart is a willingness to examine current practice, seek feedback, learn from it and make adjustments ─ always with the attitude that they can continue to do more to improve student outcomes.”

New Mexico Public Education Sec. Arsenio Romero was impressed when he heard about Gadsden in the limelight.

“This district is a shining example of how consistency, perseverance and a commitment to change can transform education and school culture at all levels,” he said.

Representatives from SREB, which covers 16 states, have visited Gadsden, reviewed its career pathways, as well as curriculum and instruction, and provided strategic planning as the district has met its bold goals.

“The Gadsden Independent School District is humbled to receive this national recognition and proud the spotlight of success is shining on our students, teachers, staff, administrators and parents,” said Nicholas Wohlgemuth, director of Gadsden’s secondary schools. “This accomplishment would not be possible without all members of the school community focused on what is best for our students. In addition, it validates the long-standing partnership we have had with SREB that has helped us to reflect on our practice, maintain high expectations and focus on student outcomes.”

This work has resulted in documented gains during the time Gadsden has partnered with SREB. For example, when it comes to the four-year graduation rate, four Gadsden high schools are over 80%, and the district average outpaced state performance by 6%. In math and reading achievement, there was an increase of 10% or more. In addition, elective offerings at the high schools were transformed from stand-alone options and traditional vocational courses to defined career pathways. Professional learning has been infused across campuses and contents, in part encouraging educators to become school leaders who want to remain in the district.

Change takes time, Wohlgemuth said.

“It is not linear and will have many starts and stops, along with challenges and success,” he said. “If we foster collaboration, embrace necessary change and remain focused, we will continue to improve our system to more completely meet the needs of all the students.”

For more information on this honor, click here.

Kelly Pearce

July 21, 2023

Student Sculpture Takes Up Temporary Residence Inside PED Building

SANTA FE – Art, science, technology, engineering and math intertwine for the creative fifth-grade students in the Salazar Elementary Art Squad.

The visionary sculpture, which was carefully designed and methodically assembled, was installed at the New Mexico Public Education Department’s Jerry Apodaca Education Building today and will be on display for the next month.

“My students are remarkable young artists, and I am always trying to increase the authentic audience for their work,” said their teacher, Anna Gibson. “I am incredibly pleased that they will have the opportunity to show what they have done at a venue representing the heart of our educational system in New Mexico. It is the type of opportunity that I believe they deserve!”

PED Sec. Arsenio Romero welcomed the students during Friday afternoon’s event to debut the sculpture inside the building. He praised their artistic ability.

“Your sculpture shows how things you learn in school can unite into something thought-provoking and beautiful,” he said. “I think we have started a new tradition — having student art in the building.”

The inspiration for the Santa Fe students’ work was twofold, Gibson explained. The interlocking and transforming panels were inspired by a vintage set of Charles Eames’ House of Cards and the laser engraving and cutting by Santa Fe Public Schools’ STEAM lab development in area schools.

“We are incredibly lucky to have a dedicated lab at Salazar that includes many types of technology, including a laser cutter,” she said. “The art squad booked the lab each month to explore technology in art with the teaching and support of our school’s digital learning coach, Aoife Runyan.”

Dominique Sandoval and Elizabeth Wernsing are two of the artists, both soon to be sixth graders. They helped plan and execute the laser-etched drawings that appear on the acrylic panels.

“It was really a community project,” Elizabeth said. “It took a long time. Having the finished piece here is kind of cool.”

The art squad is an SFPS pilot program that provides advanced instruction and opportunities for art at higher levels, with students selected through a standardized drawing test, teacher observations and self-nominations. They participate in learning and creation during and after the school day. Salazar principal Alyssa Maestas and district arts coordinator Cristina Gonzalez support the project.

“Our research leader Steve Heil was concerned with the issue of our incredibly talented students dropping out of art-related pathways as they moved through their time in the schools,” Gibson said, adding that it allowed for participation by students of diverse backgrounds.

Heil now works at PED as a policy analyst.

Equity work knows no bounds; art is one of the many subjects where privilege leads to opportunity,” he said. “But Anna’s dedication to developing her students’ identity, agency, culture and talent is also limitless. I’d like to see more of a statewide effort to stop leaks in the artist pipeline.”

The public may view the sculpture at 300 Don Gaspar Avenue in Santa Fe during business hours.

Kelly Pearce

July 19, 2023

Charter Schools Conference to Celebrate Innovation as the NM Movement Turns 30

Charter school pioneers took part in an interview that was filmed in June at Media Arts Collaborative Charter School.

SANTA FE – Class sizes often are small. Students can immerse themselves in environments that cater to their interests. Innovation abounds.

This year, the charter school movement in New Mexico turns 30, as 1993 was the year the charter school law was enacted. The annual charter school conference will take place Monday-Wednesday in the Albuquerque area to celebrate the journey, success stories and collaboration.

There are about 100 charter schools in New Mexico, with most overseen by the Public Education Commission and others under the authorization of school districts.

In August 1994, Turquoise Trail Charter School opened its doors to elementary-age students. It expanded to welcome middle schoolers in 2018.

“As the oldest state charter school, generations of New Mexicans built their educational foundation at Turquoise Trail Charter School,” said Head Administrator Stephanie Behning. “We are dedicated to providing students with a hands-on approach to learning through arts integration and bilingualism that fosters a creative and innovative mindset.”

Centered in the Santa Fe Art community, students can better understand how innovation infuses every subject, Behning added.

Its focus on individuality is a common theme in the charter school landscape.

“One size does not fit all,” said Michael Kaplan, who helped get the first charter schools up and running and is the current chair of Santa Fe’s New Mexico School for the Arts governance council. “We have had to think outside the box to create our future. There are other ways to learn.”

He was among a group of charter school pioneers who participated in an interview filmed in June at Albuquerque’s Media Arts Collaborative Charter School. It will debut at the conference next week.

Raphael “Rafe” Martinez, executive director of the Albuquerque Sign Language Academy, shared the story of his eldest son, who is deaf and was the impetus for his charter school.

“All kids deserve a place to learn,” he said. “When you get your key to open your school, you owe it to students to serve their needs.”

Today his adult son is “flourishing,” he shared, adding that individualized learning can make all the difference in the world for learners.

PED Sec. Arsenio Romero will address those at the charter school conference on Tuesday morning.

“Charter schools are making a difference for our students, offering them safe places to explore their passions in unique settings,” he said. “These schools will continue to be incubators for innovation. Let’s acknowledge and celebrate them.”

For more information about New Mexico’s charter schools, click here.

Kelly Pearce

June 26, 2023

PED Secretary is Making it Happen, According to ISTE

Copyright © 2023 Santa Fe New Mexican. Photo by Gabriela Campos. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

PHILADELPHIA – Education Secretary Arsenio Romero will receive the “ISTE Making It Happen” award from the International Society for Technology in Education at its conference in “The City of Brotherly Love” at 10:45 a.m. MT today.

The award recognizes individuals who do outstanding work to improve learning for all students and create systemwide change in the field of education. The two other awardees this year are Sharif El-Mekki, CEO & founder of The Center for Black Educator Development in Philadelphia, and Gregg Behr, founder, co-chair and executive director of Remake Learning, The Grable Foundation, in Pittsburgh.

“It’s always great when ISTE has the opportunity to recognize changemakers in the field of education,” said Richard Culatta, ISTE CEO. “This year’s recipients stretch across the globe from Tunisia to Canada and beyond, showcasing the innovative work taking place across national borders. It is an honor to award these individuals and school districts. Dr. Romero understands the importance technology plays in education, especially as we continue to ensure students have access to quality internet wherever they live.”

According to ISTE, those receiving the award move forward and don’t look back, see students as real people, use technology in innovative ways to support learning goals, teach through relationships – inspiring, encouraging and nurturing, recognize that further change is necessary but understand that it’s a process, realize that teacher empowerment is key to transforming learning, expect success, and motivate through awareness and access to information.

“Thank you for this deep honor,” Romero said. “During my 27 years in this field, I have strived to ‘make it happen,’ because I know the power that a quality education has in our lives. New Mexico’s students are the reason I get up each morning to collaborate, ask questions, take risks and help pave the way for a brighter future, one in which technology will continue to play a leading role.”

Dr. Romero, a native New Mexican and son of an educator who became the state’s Education Cabinet Secretary last February, has spent the last quarter-century serving New Mexico communities as a school and district leader. Prior to his appointment as Public Education Department Secretary, he served as superintendent of Los Lunas Schools and superintendent and CEO of Deming Public Schools.

New Mexico’s education secretary also oversaw district curriculum as assistant superintendent for instruction and transformation for the Roswell Independent School District. Since 2013, he has been a lead performance coach/executive coach for PED. He started his career in education as an elementary school teacher and principal for Las Cruces Public Schools. In addition, Romero has taught at New Mexico State University since 2014 and joined the NMSU Board of Regents in 2020.

Others across the country will be honored with ISTE awards for Impact, Distinguished Districts and “20 to Watch.”

ISTE is a nonprofit organization that works with the global education community to accelerate innovation in education through the smart use of technology. The society sets a bold vision for education transformation through the ISTE Standards, a framework for rethinking education and creating innovative learning experiences. ISTE hosts ISTELive, one of the world’s most influential education events, and offers a wealth of professional learning opportunities focused on technology in education. For more information about the ISTE’s 2023 awards, visit

Kelly Pearce

June 16, 2023

72 Schools Across New Mexico in the Literacy Spotlight

SANTA FE – Eight schools across the state have been named Structured Literacy Model Schools by the New Mexico Public Education Department.

They are:

  • Mountain Mahogany Community School (Albuquerque Public Schools – charter)
  • The International School at Mesa de Sol (Albuquerque Public Schools – charter)
  • Whittier Elementary School (Albuquerque Public Schools)
  • Arts Academy at Bella Vista (Clovis Municipal Schools)
  • Bell Elementary School (Deming Public Schools)
  • Vado Elementary School (Gadsden Independent School District)
  • Los Niños Elementary School (Las Vegas City Schools)
  • Truth or Consequences Elementary School and Sierra Elementary Complex (Truth or Consequences Municipal Schools)

“It is so invigorating to celebrate these Model Schools for their dedication to the Science of Reading and their efforts to ensure literacy instruction is in the spotlight,” said Education Secretary Arsenio Romero. “We are at a pivotal moment in New Mexico, one in which student outcomes are about to surpass past performances, all because the teaching of reading is our unwavering focus.”

Through a competitive grant application, Structured Literacy Model Schools were identified by the PED Literacy and Humanities Bureau in May. In addition, site visits and interviews were conducted, and schools were chosen based on observed evidence-based literacy practices in the classroom.

Cheryl Coyle is principal of one of the Model Schools. The Vado Elementary School administrator attributes the status to her staff’s commitment to ensure all students learn to read using a repertoire of instructional best practices.

Coyle received national attention when she was interviewed for the spring issue of American Educator by Dr. Carol Tolman, literacy celebrity and co-author of Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling. As a dual language school, two-thirds of her students receive 50% of their instruction in Spanish.

“We are taking what we are learning and applying the strategies to reading in English and Spanish. However, we still have much to learn and are only beginning our journey,” she said. “I am very blessed to work with such a dedicated staff. It is exciting to watch students learn to read and know that we are setting them up for success.”

During the 2023-2024 school year, PED will work with Model Schools to provide educators additional structured literacy support. Their staff and administration have a solid foundational understanding and knowledge base of what it means to provide equitable, effective instruction to all students in learning how to read.

Teachers at Model Schools have shifted their instructional practices and are implementing strategies they’ve learned from Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling training in the classroom. They will continue to enhance their skills and strategies with deeper professional learning and implementation.

In addition to the model schools, 64 schools were named Structured Literacy Support Schools, which means they are establishing a foundation and culture of structured literacy practices in their schools. Click here for the full list.

To uplift schools in need of literacy support, PED will provide $50,000 in state grant money to Model Schools and up to $40,000 to Support Schools.

Literacy professional learning for teachers and research-based Science of Reading instruction are priorities in New Mexico. About $21.5 million will go toward literacy in the next school year. Currently 6,500 educators are enrolled in LETRS training, with nearly 1,300 who have already finished. Click here for more information about Structured Literacy in New Mexico.

New Mexico Public Education Department logo

New Mexico Higher Education Department logo

New Mexico Department of Health logo

PED Contact:
Kelly Pearce

HED Contact:
Stephanie J. Montoya

June 15, 2023

New Mexico Education Departments Join to Raise Awareness about Firearm Safety

June is National Gun Violence Awareness Month

New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence logo

SANTA FE – The New Mexico Public and Higher Education Departments join a national effort raising awareness about the dangers of gun violence and share information aimed at preventing tragedies in schools, homes and communities during National Gun Violence Awareness Month.

Staff members at PED are wearing orange on Wednesdays in June in solidarity with advocates nationwide working to end gun violence. Every year in the United States, 19,000 children and teens are shot and killed or wounded, and approximately 3 million are exposed to gun violence. More than 455 New Mexicans die each year by firearm, or about one person every 20 hours.

The departments join Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, the New Mexico Department of Health and other state agencies participating in the month-long campaign to recognize survivors of gun violence and advocate for safer communities and schools throughout the state.

“An absolutely critical measure of a successful environment for education is a baseline of safety,” said Public Education Secretary Arsenio Romero. “We are committed to doing everything in our power to make sure that every child that comes to school returns home safely.”

“Too many New Mexicans suffer from the devastating impacts of preventable gun violence, which is now tragically the leading cause of death for children and young people,” said Higher Education Secretary Stephanie M. Rodriguez. “I support Gov. Lujan Grisham’s common-sense firearm policies and urge every student, parent, educator and every New Mexican to join in creating safer schools, campuses and communities by adopting gun-safe practices and keeping learning spaces gun free.”

Since 2020, deaths by firearm have surpassed car accidents, illness and accidents as the leading cause of death among children ages 1-19, with an average of 33 New Mexico children dying by guns each year.

Gov. Lujan Grisham signed two bipartisan measures this year designed to prevent unlawful access and use of firearms by minors and third parties. House Bill 9 created the crime of negligently making a firearm accessible to a minor, with harsher penalties for adults who make firearms available to minors resulting in great bodily harm or death. House Bill 306 makes the unlawful purchase or transfer of a firearm to another a fourth-degree felony.

New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence is working toward reducing firearm injury and death through public health, education, advocacy and public awareness. PED and HED are honored to partner to empower children in New Mexico to get involved in advocating for gun safety.

“New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence has been working with youth in schools for ten years. Too often, we see how scared, sad and confused our children are when it comes to gun violence in their lives,” said Miranda Viscoli, co-president of New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence. When we engage with youth on this issue, we create a much-needed space for discussion and action, while sending them a clear message that we care about their safety and well-being.”

NMPGV empowers students to become gun safety advocates. They work with students throughout New Mexico on the Student Pledge Against Gun Violence, a national program that honors the role that young people, through their own decisions, can play in reducing gun violence.

Since the program began working with Santa Fe Public Schools, there has been a 54% drop in students bringing weapons to school (Source: They have worked with hundreds of students in New Mexico and thousands have signed the pledge. The youth-driven program is art-based, with NMPGV sponsoring all supplies and working with students in their art classes, at lunch or after school.

The New Mexico Department of Health is also partnering with New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence to distribute free gun locks. People interested in receiving a gun lock at no charge can call (323) 394-1131 or email

Kelly Pearce

June 14, 2023

PED Announces “Innovation Zones” in New Mexico High Schools

Almost four dozen New Mexico high schools are poised to do innovating things.

The Public Education Department has identified 47 schools that will serve as “Innovation Zones,” transforming the traditional high school education model while improving the experience and academic outcomes for local communities.

Click here for a list of the 2023-2024 awardees who collectively will receive $11.4 million.

“Our goal is to identify best practices that can spread across the state over time to improve graduation rates by making high school more relevant and exciting to students on the cusp of adulthood,” said Education Secretary Arsenio Romero. “It is exciting that the zones expand educational pathways to college and career.”

The research-supported project capitalizes on innovations already in place in many New Mexico districts and charter and tribal schools that focus on workplace learning, career and technical education and a range of support services.

Innovation Zone schools will receive intensive professional development, guidance and technical assistance, along with awards to implement a re-imagined school experience that includes leadership teams and work-based and experiential learning. The funding – most schools will receive $200,000 – was included in the 2023 legislative General Appropriations Bill to support Career and Technical Education initiatives.

Jenelle Cummins, Director of Career and Technical Education and Community Relations for Aztec Municipal Schools, said the district was able to create positions to support college and career readiness, work-based learning and help manage grant funding with its Innovation Zone funding last school year. In addition, the district was able to update its welding shop to industry standard.

In the 2023-2024 school year, Aztec will continue paid internships, professional learning and its partnership with its Native American dorm, Kinteel, to recruit students to enroll in Aztec schools, grades 8-12. Kinteel students will have access to Aztec CTE pathways, mentorship programs, college and career readiness resources, and paid internships.

“Aztec Schools focuses on being different by design for the students’ best interest,” said Cummins. “We purchased two brand-new vehicles with Innovation Zone funding and will be providing transportation to students who need it for their internships, in order to make it an equitable opportunity. Access to quality internships should not be limited by economic status or access to transportation, so we are helping bridge that gap.”

The Alamogordo Public School district also is continuing in Innovation Zone Year 2.

“It allows us to build on our long-term goals of innovating our career and technical education programs to provide students with better opportunities, growth and a more hands-on experience,” said Anna Alday, the district’s Career and Technical Education Coordinator.

The Innovation Zone pilot project fulfills a recommendation made in February 2022 in a report by PED and Los Alamos National Laboratory Foundation. It applauded disparate efforts across New Mexico to improve the high school experience and provide better college and career preparation, but it called for a comprehensive approach that can be scaled up to reach a critical mass of high schools across the state.

Schools awarded the Innovation Zone designation will work closely with their communities to determine how the local public education system should serve that community. Each Innovation Zone will create or refine a local Profile of a Graduate – a document that spells out the community’s expectations for those earning high school diplomas.

Applications were evaluated based on ability to perform the transformation work and the number of students served, with regional and cultural diversity as a priority. Click here for the core elements of successful applications.

Kelly Pearce

June 8, 2023

Public Education Commissioner Honored for Being Education Advocate

SANTA FE – The Public Education Commission’s Steven J. Carrillo was honored today by the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce as its “Education Champion of the Year” during a virtual awards ceremony.

As commissioner, Carrillo represents District 10, which encompasses northern New Mexico except for the Four Corners. There are 16 charter schools in his district. The PEC, which currently authorizes 57 state-chartered charter schools in New Mexico, consists of 10 elected Commissioners who serve staggered terms of four years with no term limits, as outlined in state law.

“I feel very honored. I’m very passionate about public education and always do what’s best for our kids,” he said. “Serving on the PEC has been a great extension of my past work as a board member for Santa Fe Public Schools. Working with students has been the most fun, important and consequential work of my life.”

Carrillo has been on the PEC since January 2021. He served on the Santa Fe Public Schools’ Board of Education from 2011-2019, two of those years as President.

Terri Cole, President and Chief Executive Officer for the Chamber, said Carrillo is a natural fit for the award.

“While we were advocating for the renewal and expansion of several high-performing charter schools this past December, we were struck by just how clearly and strongly Steve articulated the case for the launch and growth of great charters,” she said. “The kind of leadership Steve brings is a real breath of fresh air.”

Corina Chavez, PED’s Director of Options for Parents and Families, said she is happy to see a commissioner recognized for the time, commitment and contributions made to public education.

“As a volunteer, it’s amazing,” she said. “He has been a voice for accountability for all charters and is ready to celebrate charter successes.”

For more information about Carrillo and the PEC, click here.


New Mexico Higher Education Department logo

Stephanie J. Montoya
Public Information Officer

New Mexico Public Education Department logo

Kelly Pearce
Deputy Director of Communications
Public Education Department

June 7, 2023

Higher Education Department Offers $5 Million in Debt Forgiveness for Teachers

Loan Repayment Program Application Open Until August 1

SANTA FE – The New Mexico Higher Education Department is encouraging teachers with outstanding student loans to apply for debt forgiveness through the state’s Teacher Loan Repayment Program, which is now accepting applications until Aug. 1.

New Mexico licensed teachers working in high-need fields and schools statewide may be eligible for up to $6,000 per year for two years toward principal debt and interest on federal student loans related to teacher education.

The program received a record number of applications last year for the second year in a row, resulting in more than 950 New Mexico teachers supported by the program. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham approved $5 million for the program this year.

“The Teacher Loan Repayment Program is one of New Mexico’s most successful student debt relief programs and an essential tool for supporting our hardworking educators, who have chosen to further their education for the benefit of students. I thank Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham for her continued commitment to supporting educators and we encourage all public K-12 teachers to consider applying for this amazing program,” said Higher Education Secretary Stephanie M. Rodriguez.

“The continuation of this vital program is one of the key components of recruiting and keeping the highest quality teachers throughout the state,” said Public Education Secretary Arsenio Romero. “This goes a long way toward making New Mexico the prime place to be an educator.”

Gov. Lujan Grisham also approved $8 million for the Teacher Preparation Affordability Scholarship, which supports current students pursuing degrees leading to teaching careers and was expanded this year to include licensed teachers pursuing master’s degrees. However, many teachers who earned their degree before these programs were available or went on to earn advanced degrees paid for them using federal student loans. The average amount of debt held by teachers participating in the program this year is over $50,000.

“As federal policy around student debt continues to be in flux, programs like New Mexico’s Teacher Loan Repayment Program are a critical lifeline for our educational professionals. We have been long-time supporters of any and all efforts to attract – and importantly retain – educators in our public schools. We congratulate Gov. Lujan Grisham and Secretary Rodriguez’s efforts and are excited to help support their continued successes in championing our educational professionals,” said American Federation of Teachers New Mexico President Whitney Holland.

“Thanks to the Teacher Loan Repayment Program, hundreds of New Mexico teachers will experience relief from the financial burden of student loans this year,” National Education Association New Mexico President Mary Parr-Sanchez said. “NEA New Mexico deeply appreciates the commitment of Gov. Lujan Grisham, the New Mexico Higher Education Department, and policymakers to ensuring that educators can focus on their most important job – teaching students.”

The award can be renewed for additional two-year cycles if the recipient continues to fulfill the teaching commitment. Preference is also given to teachers who graduated from a New Mexico college or university and teachers from underrepresented backgrounds. Teachers benefitting from the Federal Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program can simultaneously benefit from New Mexico’s program.

Eligible teachers must be U.S. citizens, New Mexico residents for 12 or more consecutive months, hold a New Mexico teaching license, and have taught at least three years in New Mexico. Priority is given to teachers in a high-need position, including those with endorsements and actively teaching in the following areas:

  • Bilingual education
  • Early childhood education
  • Special education
  • Science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM)
  • Career technical education (CTE)
  • Teaching in a low-performing school serving economically disadvantaged populations (40% or more of students receiving free and reduced lunch)

Program applications are due by 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 1, and can be completed electronically via the New Mexico Higher Education Department’s website at Teachers who are interested can also contact the agency via email at or through the Financial Aid Hotline at 1-800-279-9777.


New Mexico Public Education Department logo

Kelly Pearce
Deputy Director of Communications
Public Education Department

New Mexico Early Childhood Education logo

Jessica Preston
PR Specialist
Early Childhood Education and Care Department

June 5, 2023

ECECD and PED Announce Summer Food Programs Across New Mexico

SANTA FE – The New Mexico Early Childhood Education and Care Department’s Family Nutrition Bureau and Public Education Department launched Summer Food Programs for ages 1 to 18 now through July 30, in most parts of the state.

Federal funding, provided by the United States Department of Agriculture, allows the state to provide nutritious meals to children and youth at more than 700 locations across New Mexico. Most serve breakfast and lunch with some serving dinner options.

Both ECECD and PED are working to expand access to program services as part of Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s efforts to combine resources and bring statewide agencies together, targeting and closing gaps to halt persistent childhood hunger and food insecurity. Summer feeding programs are essential tools in the Governor’s battle against hunger, and both agencies are prepared to carry out any effort to that end. 

“Healthy and nutritious meals are vital to the well-being and development of young children,” said ECECD Cabinet Secretary Elizabeth Groginsky. “The Summer Food Program provides a stable and predictable source of meals for families during summer. With hundreds of sites all over the state, we encourage New Mexico families to seek out a program nearby to access free, ready-to-eat meals for your children.”

“Making sure that our children have what they need for success year-round is the charge for those of us in public education,” said Education Secretary Arsenio Romero. “Ensuring access to free, healthy meals all summer long is paramount among that charge. We are glad to partner with our colleagues at ECECD in delivering meals to our children.”

Since the beginning of the Governor’s administration, there has been a decrease in child hunger. Still, 1 in 5 children in New Mexico experiences food insecurity and many rely on school-based food programs to receive their main source of nutrition.

The program’s primary purpose is to provide free meals to fill the nutrition gap during summer school closure. These meals are served on a first-come, first-served basis and are available to all children regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, disability, reprisal or retaliation for prior civil-rights activities. No registration or enrollment is required to participate in this program.

Visit for participating meal sites or call 1-800-328-2665 for more information.

Kelly Pearce

June 2, 2023

PED Literacy Conference will Feature Mascot, Children’s Book

SANTA ANA PUEBLO – Literacy is taking flight in New Mexico, featuring a book written by a Public Education Department leader and the unveiling of a mascot.

Ricky the Roadrunner will make an inaugural appearance at the 2023 Literacy and Humanities Summer Convening titled “SoaRing to New Heights With the Science of Reading” on Tuesday and Wednesday. National and state speakers will spotlight the Science of Reading across content areas from cradle to high school, providing educators tools and resources to engage students in literacy.

The bilingual picture book that includes Ricky as one of its main characters, titled “This Is New Mexico/Esto Es Nuevo México,” was written by Severo Martinez, director of PED’s Literacy and Humanities Bureau. Its illustrator, Jorge Reza, was born and educated in New Mexico, as was Martinez. Class sets will be distributed to educators at the conference.

“The primary purpose of this book is to inspire every student to embrace the superhero within themselves and become avid readers,” Martinez said. “Its pages paint a vivid picture by showcasing popular landmarks, towns, pueblos and cities of New Mexico, allowing students to see themselves in the illustrations. Leading the journey are Ralph the Reader and Ricky the Roadrunner, who embark on adventures to explore the diverse cultures of New Mexico. Through their captivating stories, the book instills a sense of pride in students for their unique identities and emphasizes the importance of cherishing their beautiful home, New Mexico!”

Literacy projects are a priority of PED with $21.5 million earmarked for initiatives in schools, the most dollar amount in state history. About 6,500 educators across New Mexico are enrolled in Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling (LETRS) training. Taught by 154 facilitators, 1,274 teachers have finished the two-year training that includes both synchronous sessions as well as internet-based lessons that swivel around evidence-based strategies to support all students, particularly those who experience reading challenges.

To engage students in the 2023-2024 school year, PED will launch a “Level Up New Mexico” reading challenge at more than 70 schools, spotlighting star readers and providing incentives. Ricky the Roadrunner will be a frequent guest in schools.

Kelly Pearce

May 26, 2023

Internships Provide Paid Opportunities for New Mexico Youth

PED Overseeing Program for Third Summer

Courtesy of Summer Enrichment Internship Program

Courtesy of Doña Ana County.

SANTA FE – For the third summer in a row, the New Mexico Public Education Department is proud to share an opportunity for high school students across the state to learn on the job – and receive a paycheck.

Overseen by the College and Career Readiness Bureau, the 2023 Summer Enrichment Internship program is taking place in 30 government and tribal entities across the state. Earlier this year, the New Mexico Legislature approved $8 million for the initiative.

In 2022, the paid internships grew by 60% over the previous year. More than 500 community members hosted 2,100 high school and at-risk interns. The students spent up to 30 hours per week for six to 10 weeks with government agencies and community organizations, including county, tribal and municipal placements. Initial interest this spring likely means the program will continue to blossom this summer.

“This is the ideal time to engage our youth in these types of summer opportunities, helping them see how their education can lead them down career paths they never considered before,” said PED Secretary Arsenio Romero.

In Sandoval County, all 20 of its intern positions are filled already. The third summer in the program, types of jobs available will vary from office settings to outdoors.

“This is a great opportunity for our youth, because it allows them to gain the hands-on experience they will need in the workforce, meaning that they are learning to communicate and work as a team when needed,” said Ana T. Chavez, Sandoval County Human Resources analyst. “This also allows them to stay active and motivated throughout the summer while earning some money.”

To the south in Valencia County, officials anticipate 40 interns this summer, doing administrative and clerical assistance jobs in various departments. Some will distribute meals to seniors while others will walk dogs and interact with the public.

“This is a great opportunity to expose youth to the workings of local government and show the ‘soft skills’ that are needed to effectively serve constituents, while also obtaining trainings and certification that can follow them their entire career,” said Jeremias Silva, Valencia County Grants Director.

Still further south in Doña Ana County, where the program has taken root since it started in 2021, young people are considered county employees and are covered by workers’ compensation and insurance. They can earn up to $3,000 for the summer doing such things as working in offices, agriculture, hospitals, animal services, transportation companies, restaurants and catering, and non-profit settings.

Noted on the county’s website, starting this week, students are being placed based on their “interests and the needs of the organization.” The county will likely have more than 1,900 interns.

“Through this enrichment internship program, youth in Doña Ana County and across New Mexico have the opportunity to learn, grow and develop their skills alongside industry professionals and gain experience that will benefit them throughout their academic and professional careers,” said Board of County Commissioners Chair Susana Chaparro.

For more information about the Summer Enrichment Internship Program, click here and here.

New Mexico Indian Education Department logo

IAD Contact:
Sherrie Catanach

New Mexico Public Education Department logo

PED Contact:
Kelly Pearce

New Mexico Early Childhood Education logo

ECECD Contact:
Micah McCoy

New Mexico Higher Education Department logo

HED Contact:
Stephanie J. Montoya

May 17, 2023

Gov. Lujan Grisham, tribal leaders hold semiannual Government-to-Government Summit

Discussions centered on improving educational outcomes for Native American students

TAMAYA – Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, state education leaders, and dozens of leaders from sovereign Native American tribes, nations, and pueblos in New Mexico came together for the two-day Government-to-Government Summit held last week.

“Meaningful government-to-government relations are paramount in our shared mission to ensure Native American students are receiving the education they deserve,” said Gov. Lujan Grisham. “These meetings are always incredibly productive, and I’m grateful to tribal leadership for their steadfast partnership in the education space.”

The Semi-Annual Government-to-Government Indian Education Summit was held last week at the Santa Ana Star Casino Hotel. It explored solutions and opportunities to improve outcomes for Native American students statewide. Last school year, 47,463 Native American students were enrolled in K-12 schools, 13,704 Native American students were enrolled in a New Mexico college, and 6,427 Native American children were enrolled in early childhood care programs and services.

“I am dedicated to listening to tribal leaders to make sure that we are building what is identified as priorities in terms of student educational opportunities and outcomes,” said Public Education Department Secretary Arsenio Romero. “The Governor and all the education leaders are in lockstep on the critical nature of that mission.” 

“As we work to strengthen efforts to improve education for New Mexico’s Native American students, the Indian Affairs Department remains committed to fostering productive and innovative partnerships with tribal leadership, tribal education experts, families, and state agencies,” said Cabinet Secretary Designate James R. Mountain.

The Early Childhood Education and Care, Public Education, Higher Education and Indian Affairs departments participated in the meetings, presentations and panel discussions, including updates on this year’s legislative session.

“ECECD is honored to continue its partnership with the 23 pueblos, tribes, and nations and look forward to supporting the unique educational priorities of each community,” said ECECD Cabinet Secretary Elizabeth Groginsky. “We know that culturally and linguistically relevant early education and care is vital to ensuring that Native American families and children are thriving. We are excited about the Legislature’s expanded investments in Tribal early education, and look forward to working in consultation with Tribal education departments to increase access for thousands of Native American families to programs and services, prenatal to age five, that reflect their culture, language, and values.”

“The New Mexico Higher Education Department went into this year’s legislative session with our sights set on measures that directly benefit Native American students, educators, and communities, and with the strong support of Gov. Lujan Grisham and Tribal partners, we delivered,” said Higher Education Secretary Stephanie M. Rodriguez. “With full, recurring funding for the Opportunity Scholarship, substantial investments in the Tribal College Dual Credit Program, capital outlay dollars at Tribal colleges, and $2.25 million to establish two statewide technical assistance centers, we are empowering Native American students and families to be successful from cradle to career.”

Gov. Lujan Grisham is dedicating $51.6 million to Native American education in FY24, starting from birth to career. The Indian Education Fund received an investment of $20 million, the Early Childhood Education and Care Department received additional funds for the Tribal Investment Strategy, and Native American students will have continued access to tuition-free college through the Opportunity Scholarship. Additionally, the state enacted the Tribal Education Technical Assistance Centers Act with support from Tribal leaders, and the new law will support tribal entities.

Photos from the event are available here.

Kelly Pearce

May 16, 2023

PED Secretary Shares Vision with Legislative Education Study Committee

His Leadership Dream Team Ready to Work for New Mexico’s Students

BERNALILLO – With the theme “Delivering Success for New Mexico’s Students,” Secretary of New Mexico Public Education Arsenio Romero shared the agency’s vision with the Legislative Education Study Committee today, one in which teaching and learning are elevated to new heights.
During a meeting at Bernalillo High School, he highlighted policy wins from the 2023 legislative session, celebrated the department’s leadership team, some of whom flanked him at the table, and laid out the agency’s priorities.
Romero asked the committee to hold him to his top goal and challenge.
“You are going to see outcomes, not just little outcomes,” he said, adding that they will come in months, not years down the road, guided by data-driven, collaborative decisions. “If we do this work together, we will do it fast.”

The education secretary thanked Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and lawmakers for the wins from the 2023 legislative session.
Education-related bills signed into law earlier this year include:

Members of the secretary’s new leadership core shared their educational experiences with the committee. All expressed the great honor it is to serve New Mexico’s youth.
Each leader is “ready to do the hard work,” Romero said. “This team is amazing.”
Next, the education secretary shared game-changers, initiatives that will make a difference, including residencies to grow more school leaders, professional learning for school superintendents and alternative pathways into the teaching profession.
Romero ended his presentation by listing potential topics of legislation for the 2024 session, including:

  • Supports for special education​
  • Attendance improvements and dropout reduction
  • Reduction in suspension and expulsion of students​

Senate President Pro Tempore Mimi Stewart, a Democrat from Bernalillo County, said she was impressed with what she heard today.

“I think we are getting back to normal,” she said. “Your team gives me a lot of hope. What you presented today gives me a lot of hope. We have a lot to be proud of. I think we are going to rocket to the moon, like you said.”

Kelly Pearce

May 8, 2023

Education Secretary Unveils Leadership Team

Ready to Work Together to Elevate Education

New PED Leadership

SANTA FE – New Mexico’s Secretary of Education Arsenio Romero has announced his top leadership team, comprised of educators eager to make a difference in the lives of students across the state.
Two cabinet members are internal, two come from leadership roles around New Mexico and one heralds from a diverse area of Texas. All are committed to ramping up student success across the state.

  • Seana Flanagan is Managing Director. She had been in the post on an interim basis. Previously, she was Division Director of Educator Quality and has been with PED since 2014. Before joining the Public Education Department, Seana was a middle school educational assistant and teacher in Vermont. She also worked in retail leadership and training for multiple companies, including Apple.
  • Gregory Frostad, former interim Policy and Legislative Affairs Director and Safe and Healthy Schools Director is Assistant Secretary of Policy and Research. During his nine years with the agency, he has managed the COVID response for schools, supervised the successful submission of more than $20 million in competitive grants and worked with the legislature and Governor’s Office to achieve the largest funding for New Mexico schools in history.
  • Amanda DeBell, current Albuquerque Public Schools Zone 3 Schools Associate Superintendent, is Deputy Secretary of Teaching, Learning and Innovation. As part of her role, she will support educator quality and curriculum, instruction and assessment. Community and charter schools, as well as struggling schools, fall under her purview.
  • KatieAnn Juanico, who most recently worked for the San Felipe Pueblo as the Education Director, is Assistant Secretary of Indian Education. As part of her job, she will lead Indian Education Programs, Native American language and culture projects, and tribal consultations.
  • Candice Castillo, current Executive Officer of Student Support Services at Houston Independent School District, is taking the role of Deputy Secretary of Identity, Equity and Transformation. She will oversee such things as federal programs, safe and healthy schools, language and culture, and the Black and Hispanic education acts, as well as student, school and family support.

“These education leaders embody our vision to boost student outcomes across the board. We will use data to drive decisions that are best for our culturally rich state,” Romero said. “Thought, care and intention were put into the selection process to produce a varied team of individuals poised to affect change. This is my personal dream team, and I am so honored that they are all up to the task. Our work is the future of the children of New Mexico!”

Click here for photographs of the PED leadership team.

Kelly Pearce

April 28, 2023

New Mexico Accepted into National Computer Education Organization

SANTA FE – New Mexico is one of seven new states this week to join the Expanding Computing Education Pathways (ECEP) Alliance, dedicated to education equity in schools across the country.

The new members, which also include Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, elevate the organization to 29 states and the territory of Puerto Rico. Collaborating with the U.S. National Science Foundation and, the alliance partners with each of them to boost student participation in quality computing programs.

As the Public Education Department’s Math Is Me school year winds down, Public Education Department Cabinet Secretary Arsenio Romero is eager for all students to have access to resources, as well as high-quality, culturally relevant computer science experiences.

“This ensures that New Mexico is part of the national computer science education conversation to develop interventions, pathways, partnerships and models to spur state-level computing education change,” he said. “This work supports Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s plan to offer students varied pathways in STEM and post-secondary education.”

Philip Friedman, K-8 computer science specialist at the Public Education Department, is proud to share New Mexico’s Computer Science Strategic Plan and promote #CSEverywhere. According to, 63 percent of high school students attend a school that offers foundational computer science, compared to 44 percent a year ago. This year’s state figure is up 40 percent from 2018.

Throughout the country, more diverse students pursuing computer science pathways, in school and beyond, is a boon for everyone.

“By gathering advocates from across the computing education ecosystem, ECEP states build needed to advance computer science education and educational policy reform,” said ECEP Alliance Director Sarah Dunton.

Kelly Pearce

March 20, 2023

New Mexico Educators Honored for Math and Science Teaching

The NM PAEMST State Finalists

SANTA FE – Four teachers are in the running for the prestigious Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST), serving as models and inspiration for educators and students across the state.

The finalists are:

  • Kimberly Conell, Albuquerque Public Schools (math)
  • Debbie Grothaus, Los Alamos Public Schools (science)
  • Amanda Kraft, New Mexico International School (science)
  • Christopher Speck, Albuquerque Public Schools (science)

New Mexico’s finalists are honored to be spotlighted.

“I am thankful for the opportunity to slow down and reflect on my practice,” said Kraft, a science teacher whose school is in Albuquerque. “As cringy as it feels to watch a video of yourself teaching, I’ve learned so much about what I don’t notice while I am teaching a lesson. This entire process has given me the gift of perspective.”

Speck, a teacher at Garfield STEM School, said being a finalist validates his work.

“The application process was beneficial because it helped me reflect and showcase the ways in which I work to develop students’ scientific understanding,” he said.

Meanwhile, Grothaus said being a finalist allows her to stretch her influence and be a role model.

“It was made very clear to me through the application process that good educators are not created in a vacuum, but by the influence and help of the people around them, said the physics teacher at Los Alamos High School. “Having the opportunity to truly reflect on my teaching made me very thankful for all the people that have influenced me over the years: my colleagues, my mentors and especially my students. I would not be the educator I am without them.”

For math teacher Conell, the prestige means something both personally and professionally.

“Professionally, it reaffirms my commitment to the teaching profession and motivates me to continue striving for excellence,” said the teacher at Albuquerque’s La Cueva High School. “Personally, it is a gratifying experience that makes me feel appreciated and valued for the work that I do.”

Each year, a national committee of prominent mathematicians, scientists, mathematics/science education researchers, district-level personnel and classroom teachers recommends up to 108 teachers to receive PAEMST honors.

One or two teachers — mathematics or science — from each state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. territories and schools operated in the United States and overseas by the Department of Defense Education Activity receive the award.

Educators who are selected as PAEMST national awardees receive a trip to Washington, D.C., where they attend a series of recognition events and professional-learning opportunities. They also receive a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation, a presidential certificate and join an elite cohort of award-winning teachers who can influence STEM teaching at the local, state and national level.

Kelly Pearce

March 15, 2023

Dr. Arsenio Romero Confirmed as New PED Cabinet Secretary

Ready to “Steer the Ship” of New Mexico’s Education

Dr. Arsenio Romero

SANTA FE – Dr. Arsenio Romero is New Mexico’s top education leader. It was made official today when lawmakers confirmed him as the cabinet secretary for the Public Education Department.

“Sec. Romero has lived the education experience as a student, teacher and leader,” Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said. “His expansive resume speaks for itself during this crucial moment as we increase student outcomes and elevate New Mexico education on the national stage. I look forward to seeing his continued innovation and inspiration at play as he makes changes in our public education system.”

“He is the kind of thinker we need now,” said Senate President Pro Tem Mimi Stewart, calling him “visionary” and someone who is “laser-focused on student achievement.”

Romero, who said he is here for the “long haul,” credited his mother, a first-grade teacher, as inspiring him to walk the education journey.

“I am right where I want and need to be,” he said. “I understand the vast cultural capital that exists in our state and know that our children will not succeed in spite of where they come from, but rather they will succeed because of where they come from.”

Using data to inform decision-making, Romero plans to boost graduation rates. His key areas of focus will be on Career and Technical Education, Structured Literacy and promoting the learning of other languages. He also aims to enhance teacher recruitment and retention and build connections with the Early Childhood Education and Care and Higher Education departments.

The new education secretary, appointed by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, started work March 4. Today’s confirmation on the Senate floor was preceded by a unanimous vote in the Senate Rules Committee.

Romero replaces interim Public Education Cabinet Secretary Mariana Padilla who stepped in after Dr. Kurt Steinhaus retired in late January. Padilla will continue to support PED in her role as Gov. Lujan Grisham’s Children’s Cabinet director.

A native New Mexican, the new cabinet secretary has spent the last quarter-century serving New Mexico communities as a school and district leader. Prior to his appointment as Public Education Department secretary-designate, Romero served as superintendent of Los Lunas Schools and superintendent and CEO of Deming Public Schools.

As assistant superintendent for instruction and transformation for the Roswell Independent School District, Romero oversaw curriculum. And since 2013, he has been a lead performance coach/executive coach for PED. He started his career in education as an elementary school teacher and principal for Las Cruces Public Schools. In addition, he taught at New Mexico State University since 2014 and joined the NMSU Board of Regents in 2020. Romero’s greatest source of pride is his family. He and his wife Amber, an educator, are the proud parents of four children. All were present during the confirmation today.

Those who spoke on behalf of his confirmation called him optimistic and realistic lifetime learner, as well as an honest collaborator who is student- and family-centered.

“At the end of the day, he makes the best decisions for students,” said Deborah Elder, interim superintendent of Los Lunas Schools, where she served under Romero. “We could not be in better hands.”

Amanda Aragon, executive director of NewMexicoKidsCAN stated: “He is absolutely the right person to lead us forward. He is personally invested in this.”

Joe Guillen, executive director of the New Mexico School Boards Association, applauded the new education secretary’s professional and vast experience.

“His leadership and ability to build consensus among diverse stakeholders is well known throughout education circles, as is his ability to serve as a spokesman and advocate on key educational issues,” Guillen said. “New Mexico’s 89 school boards look forward to working closely with Secretary Romero.”

During support on the senate floor, Sen. Linda Lopez expressed her appreciation of his ongoing work in public education.

“I know that your heart is with our children, with our communities,” she said.

Kelly Pearce

February 21, 2023

New Mexico Among States Receiving Grant for Student Well-Being

School District, Educational Cooperative Awarded Millions of Dollars

SANTA FE – Silver Consolidated Schools and Central Region Educational Cooperative (CREC) are recipients of federal money aimed to address mental health in schools in the wake of a global pandemic.

  • The school district in Silver City will get $6 million over five years.
  • The Albuquerque-based cooperative will be awarded almost $6.6 million over five years to support Estancia, Magdalena, Mountainair, Jemez Valley, Quemado, Vaughn, and Belen school districts.

The U.S. Department of Education announced the funding to 170 entities in more than 30 states this week, amounting to $188 million from the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. The money will improve access to mental-health services inside schools and provide a more robust pipeline of certified mental-health professions flowing into areas with high needs.

Research shows that students’ social and emotional needs must be met before they can fully learn, feel safe and develop trusting relationships with peers and school staff. Mental-health professionals play a key role in addressing and supporting these needs.

The New Mexico Public Education Department’s budget winding its way through the state Legislature calls for $6.5 million to fund behavioral health supports.

“Student well-being is a crucial component in our schools, without it we can’t open the door to academic success,” said Interim Education Cabinet Secretary Mariana Padilla. “I am pleased that this grant money is making its way into New Mexico, helping students in various parts of our state, including rural areas. I look forward to seeing the positive impact this will have on our students and educators.”

Maria Jaramillo, executive director of CREC, said the money will be used to hire eight licensed mental-health providers, including school psychologists, social workers and behavior interventionists to work with and strengthen schools’ existing supports by forming regional teams.

“Over the past two years, our member school districts had identified the provision of mental health supports and services for regular education students as a high priority need,” she said. “This funding will allow the CREC to provide direct student services, as well as professional learning opportunities that will meet the unique needs of these individual schools and communities.”

Other ways the grant money will be used in the seven districts include the delivery of virtual online student/teacher mental-health services and access to a comprehensive mobile app to assist students with an around-the-clock crisis center.

Mental health is a top priority for Silver Consolidated Schools, too.

“These funds will allow us to provide support for ALL of our students’ and staff’s social emotional well-being,” said Cindy Barris, associated superintendent for instruction, adding that funds will be used for additional positions, materials and training.

“When we speak about mitigating the effects of adverse childhood experiences, we are hoping to change the trajectory of the lives of those in our community who have suffered through various unspoken personal traumas,” she said. “In turn, we expect to improve the quality of life for future generations in Grant County.”

Kelly Pearce

January 26, 2023

New PED Deputy Cabinet Secretary Starts Work

Jacquelyn Archuleta-Staehlin Brings Vast Experience

Jacquelyn Archuleta-Staehlin

SANTA FE – The Public Education Department is proud to welcome Jacquelyn Archuleta-Staehlin as its newest deputy cabinet secretary.

“I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to do something to make a difference,” said the product of Santa Fe Public Schools who was born in New Mexico.

As part of her role, Ms. Archuleta-Staehlin will oversee the action plan related to the Martinez/Yazzie Consolidated Lawsuit, which creates an equitable system of supports for students, especially those who are English learners, Native Americans, have an Individualized Education Program and/or are socio-economically disadvantaged.

“I am beginning with the end in mind,” she said. “By devoting our work to the mission of making sure that these student groups have the resources, support and creative partnerships to unlock their inherent gifts, we are writing the playbook on access to high-quality education.”

Secretary of Education Kurt Steinhaus agreed. “We know Jackie will champion positive educational experiences and improved outcomes for all New Mexico students. Her experience will fit in well with the work we are doing to move the education needle.”

Formerly a partner in the Santa Fe office of Cuddy & McCarthy, Ms. Archuleta-Staehlin focused on education and disability law during much of her 30 years there. She has served as a Commissioner for the State Bar of New Mexico and president for the New Mexico Women’s Bar and is a member of the Hispanic Bar Association. She received her bachelor’s degree from New Mexico State University and her law degree from the University of New Mexico.

The new deputy cabinet secretary has an adult son who lives in Japan with her three granddaughters.

Although she had contemplated retirement, Ms. Archuleta-Staehlin took the job “to make things better,” she said, adding, “let’s see what the new adventures hold.”

Kelly Pearce

January 5, 2023

PED Receives $300,000 Grant to Benefit Social Studies and Art Teaching and Learning

Money Earmarked for Engagement and Learning

SANTA FE – A $300,000 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation will make it possible for the New Mexico Public Education Department to partner with educators to expand culturally and linguistically responsive instruction in social studies and art classrooms around the state.

“We are excited about this opportunity for education leaders to help ‘move the needle’ on learning activities that directly relate to a child’s background and culture,” said PED Secretary Kurt Steinhaus.

The grant award fits nicely with Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s unwavering focus on education during her first term. In her inauguration speech last Sunday that kicked off her next four years in office, she spotlighted educators, calling them an investment that New Mexico’s students depend upon in their communities.

The Kellogg Foundation, created in 1930, funds projects that help vulnerable children succeed individually and contribute within their families and communities.

The two-year award will include in-person and virtual opportunities in regions and communities across the Land of Enchantment, the continuation of Communities of Practice in social studies and art, teacher stipends and coverage of leadership training conference fees.

“The dedicated staff at the Literacy and Humanities Bureau saw that there was a great need for providing teachers with professional development support that puts diverse student needs at the center,” said its director, Severo Martinez, adding that this is the first time his bureau has received a Kellogg grant. “This grant allows us to provide a variety of high-quality professional development, which is a crucial tool during this time of transition into the new social studies standards and in support of bolstering more robust art programs that focus on the whole child.”

Both teachers and students will benefit from the grant, according to Lorraine Archibald, PED humanities specialist who will oversee the management of the funds.

For example, projects will ensure social studies teachers are supported when it comes to the new standards and educators learn how to integrate art across content areas. They will be provided guidance about how to be “culturally competent and empowered to meet the needs of their students,” said Archibald.

Meanwhile, the grant will boost student engagement by emphasizing social and emotional well-being, as well as valuing and celebrating cultural backgrounds.

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Page last updated June 27, 2024