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Honoring Rio Arriba Teachers 2017

Above: Centerra Director of Protective Force Operations & Training Lennie Upshaw congratulates San Juan Elementary School 5th–6th grade teacher Trina Allander-Lujan on winning the Rio Arriba County Excellence in Teaching Award; LANLF Vice President of Institutional Advancement & Scholarships Tony Fox awards the check.

Bringing Encouragement & Support to the Education Profession in Rio Arriba County

Successful teachers are passionate about education and work to excite learning in their students. A career in education can be rewarding but is also demanding and complex. We often hear more of the negative stories than successful outcomes, but Centerra-Los Alamos sought a way to shift the conversation and bring encouragement and support to the education profession and boost teacher morale.

As the Laboratory’s protective force contractor, Centerra-Los Alamos (CLA) has many employees who reside in Rio Arriba County. General Manager Ted Spain’s desire to appreciate and honor those who help shape the future workforce led to a partnership with the LANL Foundation and the creation of the Rio Arriba County Excellence in Teaching Award in 2016.

For the second year, awards were given to seven outstanding educators during surprise assemblies. The 2017 winners of the Rio Arriba County Excellence in Teaching are:

Trina Allander-Lujan, 5th–6th Grade Teacher at San Juan Elementary School
Cecile Canete, Kindergarten Teacher at Tony E. Quintana (Sombrillo) Elementary School
Tonya Gallegos, 2nd–3rd Grade Teacher at Gallina Elementary School
Alice Gonzales, 5th–6th Grade Head Teacher at Dixon Elementary School
Mark Gonzales, 9th–12th Grade Teacher, Española Valley High School
Kathleen Leyba, 5th–6th Grade Teacher at Chimayó Elementary School
Becky Martinez, 6th–8th Grade Teacher at Dulce Middle School

Each of the teachers was surprised and expressed gratitude, giving credit to their students for inspiration.

“My students are the awesome ones,” said Trina Allander-Lujan. “They motivate me.” She also emphasized that parents and teachers work together to create student success.

LANL Foundation staff, along with Ted Spain, CLA Human Resources Manager Alfonzo Gonzales, and CLA Director of Proforce Operations and Training Lennie Upshaw presented the winners with an engraved award and a personal check for $1000.

“We believe that teachers are the most important assets in Northern New Mexico and everywhere. They set the foundation for students’ success,” said Upshaw. “We’re proud to honor teachers in Rio Arriba County doing an outstanding job. We want to make sure their dedication and efforts are the recognized.”

Forty teachers were nominated by current and former students, administrators and their colleagues through a form submitted to the LANL Foundation. Each nominee’s impact on his or her school, students and community; leadership qualities; cultivation of positive culture; and inspiration of lifelong learning in others was considered. Winners were chosen by a selection committee made up of invited community members and staff from both sponsoring organizations.

“Everyday, all teachers deserve awards,” said Gwen Perea Warniment, LANL Foundation Director of K-12 Programming. “This is our way to cast a bright light and celebrate them and appreciate what they do.”

Tonya Gallegos expressed her gratitude in a letter to the LANL Foundation:

“I am writing to express my sincere gratitude to your organization for choosing me for the Rio Arriba Excellence in Teaching Award. I was honored and humbled to learn of my selection and I am deeply appreciative of your support and recognition. I am truly blessed to work in such a wonderful community with students, staff and administrators who show exceptional support in educating students. While I am the one who received this honor, there are many dedicated faculty, staff and administrators who deserve recognition for all that they invest in educating students. I would just like to say how fortunate we are to have the LANL Foundation that provides innovative opportunities for our students. The LANL Foundation and educators as a united group, work together to give our students opportunities to grow and flourish. Again, thank you for your kindness and recognition. Today I am more committed than ever to the education community and the future it will provide for our students.”

The following year’s nominations will be accepted in the fall after the start of the school year.  For more information, visit


Centerra General Manager Ted Spain (left) and selection committee member and Española YMCA Director Ben Sandoval (right) present the award to Dixon Elementary School 5th–6th grade teacher Alice Gonzales during an Española Public School Board meeting. Superintendent Bobbie Gutierrez and Board Member Patrick Herrera celebrate.


Centerra’s Ted Spain and Ben Sandoval also presented Española Valley High School JROTC teacher Major Mark Gonzales his award during the Española Public School Board meeting.


LANL Foundation (LANLF) K–12 Program Director Gwen Perea Warniment, Centerra Human Resources Manager Alfonzo Gonzales, Dulce Independent Schools Superintendent Dennis Bissmeyer, Dulce Middle School 6th–8th grade teacher winner Becky Martinez, and nominating teacher Carlos Manzanares.


Chimayó Elementary School 5th–6th grade teacher winner Kathleen Leyba (center) surrounded by LANLF staff and Centerra’s Alfonzo Gonzales (right).


Gallina Elementary School 2nd–3rd grade teacher winner Tonya Gallegos with LANLF Inquiry Science Education Consortium (ISEC) Professional Development Specialist Doris Rivera.


Tony E. Quintana (Sombrillo) Elementary School Kindergarten teacher Cecile Cañete receives her award from LANLF’s Gwen Perea Warniment.