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Honoring Our Teachers 2016

Above: ETS Fairview Elementary School 2nd Grade Teacher Elias Allison and with their award checks.

Honoring Excellent Teachers in Rio Arriba County

During a surprise school assembly at Ojo Caliente Elementary school, LANL Foundation K-12 Education Program Director Gwen Perea Warniment asked the audience, “Why are teachers so important?”

“Because they help you with learning and reaching your goals,” shouted a student. “They help you do your best,” added another. “They make learning fun!“

The work of teachers is rewarding in these ways but is also challenging, complex, very personal, and goes well beyond time spent in the classroom. These are just a few reasons that Centerra-Los Alamos and the LANL Foundation created the Rio Arriba Excellence in Teaching Award.

The 2016 winners are:

Elias Allison, 2nd Grade Teacher at ETS Fairview Elementary School
Javier Arellano, 4th–6th Grade Math & Science Teacher at Ojo Caliente Elementary School
Yvette Bakken, 7th Grade Social Studies Teacher Carlos Vigil Middle School
Lisa Bradley, 3rd Grade Teacher at Dulce Elementary School
Crystal Gallegos, 7th–12th English, Spanish, and Robotics Teacher at Coronado Middle & High School
Belva Eversgerd, 6th Grade Teacher at Dulce Elementary School
Jeanette Martinez, 6th Grade Teacher ETS Fairview Elementary School

Centerra, the protective force contractor at Los Alamos National Laboratory, employs more than 300 professionals from throughout Northern New Mexico. The company’s leadership, partnering with the LANL Foundation, sought a way to reward and honor exceptional teachers who go “above and beyond” in Rio Arriba County. The goal of the award is also to bring encouragement and support to the education profession that faces high turnover, burnout and underfunding.

“Outside of the family, teachers have the greatest impact on our next generation of citizens, which will lead this great Nation through its future challenges,” said Ted Spain, Centerra General Manager. “Teachers do not receive enough recognition for their contributions. It is our honor to recognize just a few of the many outstanding teachers in our local communities.”

Teachers in K-12 public, Tribal, or charter schools in Rio Arriba County were nominated by current and former students, teachers, administrators and other colleagues through an online form. Invited community members and staff from both sponsoring organizations evaluated nominees and selected the winners from information provided.

Dulce Elementary School 3rd Grade Teacher Lisa Bradley and 6th Grade Teacher Belva Eversgerd proudly display their engraved awards with Principal Delbert Ortiz

The final seven winners were selected based on overall impact on his or her school, students, and community. Leadership qualities, cultivation of positive culture, and inspiration of lifelong learning in others were key considerations.

“The LANL Foundation sees excellence in teaching through our work in Rio Arriba County,” said Jenny Parks, LANL Foundation CEO. “From elementary school students exploring science to high school scholarship recipients who display exceptional academic achievement, and every grade in between, we know it’s the teachers’ commitment to kids that helps build a promising future for our students and communities. This award shows that we, together with our, value teachers for the important work they do.” 

A personalized acrylic award and a $1000 check for personal use were given to each winner during a surprise ceremony at their school. Each of the teachers was humbled and credited their students as a source of inspiration.

“Kids emulate you. I want to be a better role model,” said Mr. Arellano winner from Ojo Caliente. “The best students are the difficult ones, because if you can reach them to learn something new, sky’s the limit. They’ll build on that. Their progress pushes me, that’s the reward.”

Centerra Director of Business Management Graig Newell and General Manager Ted Spain present the award to Ojo Caliente Elementary School 4th–6th Grade Math & Science Teacher Javier Arellano.

Respect, dedication, charismatic leader, optimistic, willingness to help, best practices in the classroom—these are a few words Coronado Middle/High School Principal Buddy Dillow used to describe award-winning teacher Crystal Gallegos. 

“I’ve been in education for 35 years and 18 in administration. I’ve never had a teacher like Ms. Gallegos who’s had it so together with so many unique qualities and commitment,” he added. “She really stands above. We should be thankful to have her working in our school!”

“Being a teacher is truly a calling, and I’m proud to be your teacher,” said Ms. Gallegos who also credited her parents, both career educators, for their influence and support.

6th Grade Teacher of 35 years Jeanette Martinez

Roberto Archuleta, Principal at ETS Fairview Elementary School in Espanola, introduced Mr. Allison and Ms. Martinez, the two winners from his school. “This is what education is about, leading and shaping the community.”

“We do it for the kids. That’s why I stuck around for 35 years. It’s nice to be recognized,” said Ms. Martinez.

Dulce Elementary also had two winners. The awards were presented by Principal Delbert Ortiz and Doris Rivera, LANL Foundation ISEC professional development specialist, who is assigned to support the school and works closely with both teachers in the inquiry STEM program.

“Congratulations! We recognize your commitment in and out of the classroom. Thank you for everything you do to guide students and honor their culture. You are a true asset to the community,” said Rivera.

“Teaching kids science is near to my heart. It really makes them come alive,” said Ms. Bradley. “I just love the kids here and want to help them be successful. Thank you for this award. The money will go to good use.”

Ms. Eversgerd agreed.  “I’m in it for the kids. They really take you to heart and inspire me to be the best teacher.” 

7th Grade Social Studies Teacher Yvette Bakken

During an emotional final assembly at Carlos Vigil Middle School, Yvette Bakken fought back tears as she expressed her sincere gratitude for the recognition. “I want to thank my students who are the reason I am here and who have made me a better teacher.”