This is part of a series of Q&As with New Mexico educators, parents, policy makers, wonks, leaders, and students. Find the entire series here.
Full Name: Hope Morales
Hometown: Roswell, NM
Current City: Roswell, NM
Grade(s)/Subject(s) Previously Taught: 1st-3rd, 7th, and Teacher on Special Assignment
School and District: Roswell Independent School District
As a mother of three, what are you most excited about for this upcoming school year? And what role does coffee play in your life?
I must start each morning with a cup of coffee and extra vanilla creamer. That’s my “you got this” start to the day.
This year means lots of firsts and lasts for my children. My son just began his final year in middle school as an eighth grader and my youngest has started her adventure in pre-k. What has remained consistent are the talks with all of my children about our expectations of them regarding effort and attitude.
We have reached the point with my two oldest where they lead the conversation about their goals and dreams. They have an understanding about their personal role in reaching their goals. Because of my work, they also understand how their teachers are partners in their education. I even talk with them about accountability for each party in their educational partnership, so they get it.
Tell us a bit about your background and what inspired you to become a teacher in the first place.
I grew up like many children in New Mexico. My family was poorer, but consisted of hard working people. I was the first in my family to graduate high school with honors and the first to receive a bachelor’s and eventually a master’s degree.
I always wanted to teach in my community. It was important to me that children with similar backgrounds had a teacher who understood their circumstances, but didn’t allow that to be their excuse. I had to push them to be better than they thought they could be, because they deserve futures with limitless opportunities.
As you think about the race for governor this year, what do you wish both candidates knew as we get closer to the big election day in November?
Education is very important to all New Mexicans and I think both candidates understand this. I would like both of them to fully understand the potential of our youth. We have to offer our children more; we have to help them become better than we are.
In order to do this, we need to challenge them to learn skills and strategies that will prepare them for college and careers. As a student, my teachers never talked to me about college, so I didn’t understand my potential. We must work to realize the potential of our diverse population and treat it as an opportunity, not a deficit. Our state leaders need to know where “we” as a state are overall and use that information to guide challenging decisions.
A large part of your current role is encouraging and sharing a diversity of teacher voices. What have you learned through these efforts and what advice do you have for teachers who would like to speak up but maybe haven’t yet?
I have learned that many teachers want to use their voice and be partners to improve education. The challenge is, many teachers don’t know who to talk to or don’t feel as if they know enough to get involved. The good news is, teachers don’t have to be the expert in everything; in fact, most education folks aren’t.
Teachers offer a unique perspective that only classroom educators can provide. They are the ones actually implementing state, district, and school policies. My advice to teachers wanting to get more involved is to research the topic they want to talk about to help them become informed. They also need to suggest possible solutions to challenges they raise. It is easy for anyone to put a spotlight on a problem, but solutions are what move us forward.
Speaking of families, we know how important that support is for students. What do you say to families about the best ways to support both their students and teachers to encourage a strong working relationship?
Family support is really important for student success. I know parents are very busy. It is always great when parents can read at home or ask math questions in the car. However, the best way they can support is simply by bringing their students to school everyday. Attendance is a big factor in student success.
Beyond that parents should try their best to engage in communication with teachers so they can be a strong team. Communication and involvement looks different depending on the family situation, but it is important that an effort is made to communicate as much as possible. We are in the age of communication and that is key in supporting a child's success.
What’s next for Teach Plus New Mexico?
We have exciting opportunities for teachers to engage in. We will be recruiting for our third policy cohort in October to launch in January. We will also offer opportunities to teachers outside of our Policy Fellowship who want to have an opportunity to use their voice. We will continue to provide high quality training to teachers in policy, advocacy, and research, and will also support teachers in building relationships and using their voice to offer recommendations to specific policy topics to enhance our profession. And above all, we will continue to work toward ensuring a high-quality, equitable education for our students.
What gives you the most hope as you look at public education across New Mexico? Where do you find optimism to keep up the good, hard work?
I have seen a shift in the culture of education. I have come across many teachers who are not only great classroom teachers, but they are ready to get involved in policy. I am excited that state legislators are now talking more with actual classroom teachers.
As a parent, I’m excited that the mindset of my children is focused on grit. This is going to help them throughout their educational career and beyond. I think of the possibilities for other children with the same mindset. As a teacher, I always loved looking at data. I’m excited about our state data and those pockets of excellence throughout our state. I am hopeful that these pockets will continue to grow. The most exciting thing of all is understanding the high standards we hold for our students and knowing that more and more students are rising each year. I know firsthand how education can be life-changing and hope that many more of our students have more opportunities as a result.
And, our most controversial topic of all, red or green?
I really hate to answer this one; I actually don’t like chile. It’s not the chile, it’s me ...