For Immediate Release: October 17, 2018
Contact: Lida Alikhani
Jessica Sanders, Science Teacher at Berrendo Middle School in Roswell, Named 2019 New Mexico Teacher of the Year
Secretary Ruszkowski makes surprise announcement in Roswell
Roswell, NM—Today, New Mexico Education Secretary Christopher Ruszkowski announced Jessica Sanders as the 2019 New Mexico Teacher of the Year. The announcement was made during a visit to Berrendo Middle School in Roswell, where Mrs. Sanders teaches 6th and 7th grade science. Secretary Ruszkowski surprised Mrs. Sanders in her classroom, where she was given the award before an audience of her students and family members.
“There will be no finer ambassador for our profession than Mrs. Sanders,” said Secretary Ruszkowski. “She exemplifies the best of our profession—a true teacher-leader with commitment to high expectations, accountability and results, professional development and training, science and the humanities. She is driven by student data and her devotion and love for the whole child.”
Mrs. Sanders has been teaching for 12 years, three of which have been spent at Berrendo Middle School. She plays an active role in the New Mexico Science Teachers Association, where she serves as President-elect. In November 2017, the New Mexico Academy of Science presented Mrs. Sanders with the New Mexico Science Teacher of the Year award. Last year, she was named a Golden Apple winner, and she is one of the first-ever recipients of New Mexico’s Excellence in Teaching Awards, which comes with $10,000 for math & science teachers achieving the highest distinction in their craft.
As a child with dyslexia, reading was often frustrating and disappointing for Mrs. Sanders. However, after finding the support she needed through her middle school language arts teacher, Mrs. Sanders began to thrive. Mrs. Sanders’ reading teacher helped improve her reading fluency and comprehension, and taught Mrs. Sanders to be a fighter and to leverage both triumph and adversity to her students’ benefit. Mrs. Sanders shares her passion for science with her students on a daily basis—she has previously coordinated with the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish to formulate hands-on lesson plans where students learn about New Mexico’s native ecology at Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge.
Now in its 55th year, the New Mexico Teacher of the Year Program began in 1963. Each year, all 89 New Mexico school districts and charter schools are invited to nominate outstanding teachers to become New Mexico’s Teacher of the Year. The 2018 New Mexico Teacher of the Year, Ivonne Orozco, teaches at Public Academy for the Performing Arts Charter School in Albuquerque. Mrs. Orozco has received widespread recognition for her personal story, her student advocacy and her Spanish-language instruction. She will continue to serve as Teacher of the Year through the end of the calendar year.
New Mexico’s Teacher of the Year process is based upon both classroom performance and strength of application. All of the state’s highest-performing teachers were encouraged to apply this year. The selection team reviewed each application and narrowed the pool to ten finalist teachers, and then three super finalists, and finally, to one teacher— Mrs. Jessica Sanders. According to an expert national report released last week, New Mexico has one of the best statewide teacher evaluation systems in the country. As a result, our state’s process is based primarily on merit and performance.
The Teacher of the Year represents New Mexico in the National Teacher of the Year competition, and acts as a spokesperson for the teaching profession in New Mexico for the entire year. The winner of the New Mexico Teacher of the Year also receives sponsored opportunities to travel the country, including visits to Washington D.C., Space Camp in Alabama, and the College National Football Championship—held next year in New Orleans, La. In February, Mrs. Sanders will join other states’ teachers of the year in Sunnyvale, Calif. at Google Headquarters, where she will attend the 2019 Teacher of the Year Induction Meeting.