Coffee Break With New Mexico Teacher of the Year Ivonne Orozco

This interview is the second in a series of Q&As with New Mexico educators, parents, policy makers, wonks, leaders, and students. Find the entire series here


 
 

Name: Ivonne Orozco
Hometown: Chihuahua, Chihuahua, Mexico
Current City: Albuquerque, NM
Grades Currently Taught: 9th - 12th
School and District: Public Academy for Performing Arts Charter School

Ivonne’s family immigrated to the United States, from Mexico, when she was twelve years old. As a first-generation college student, immigrant, queer woman of color, Ms. Orozco has found her educational voice through her intersectionalities. Ivonne recognizes students are real people with unique experiences and that the sociopolitical context of their lives matters. Read more on her here and here.


We are about to start a new school year, which always filled me with both excitement and anxiety. How are you preparing for the new school year? And how does coffee figure into your teacher routine — a cup a day, a gallon, not at all? 

I absolutely love the beginning of the school year. I like to prepare by cleaning my classroom and making sure my bulletin boards are blank and ready for students to post their best work. I love working in my classroom with the anticipation of the school year ahead. There is a smell that school has in August; a mixture of confidence in new outfits, freshly waxed floors, and textbooks waiting to be checked out with just a hint of my favorite coffee: Guatemala Roast from Michael Thomas Coffee in Albuquerque. So important to buy local. And only a cup a day for me, I’m already way too excited about school!


You are about halfway through your tenure as New Mexico’s 2018 Teacher of the Year. What has been most surprising about the experience so far and what do you hope to accomplish in your remaining time with the esteemed honor?

This year has been an incredible honor. I have grown so much as a teacher and a person. The most surprising part of this year has been having the chance to find my voice as a teacher leader in our state. There is so much work to be done and with the remainder of the year I plan on keeping on advocating for teacher leadership and voice in our state to be elevated, particularly as we head into the election in November. I am advocating for diverse teacher recruitment and retainment and the continuation of systems that work and treat teachers in our state like the professionals that we are. New Mexico State Teachers of the Year are also creating a chapter that will allow all of us to be readily available resources to our state and its educational needs.

 
2018 New Mexico Teacher of the Year Ivonne Orozco recalls the lessons she learned from her high school running coach, who was incredibly devoted to helping her and bringing out the best in her. As a result, Orozco has carried that forward in her teaching.
 

 

Ivonne and her wife recently grew their family with the addition of a beautiful baby girl.

 

You’ve talked about your family a good bit and how much of an influence they’ve had on you. What would you say to families about the best ways to support both their students and teachers to work towards a strong working relationship?

The best ways to support children are to realize they are people with input and say, we should listen to what students have to say in order to meet their needs. The same goes for teachers, in order to support everything that goes on in school families must communicate with teachers and allow the working relationship of a team to flourish.


 
 

We are both proud Lobos! While I did not study Education as an undergraduate, you did. As a relatively recent multiple time graduate of the University of New Mexico, what are some of the highlights and missing aspects of the training and preparation you received? What has helped your practice most and what could use some updating? 

I am so proud of being a University of New Mexico alumni. UNM opened opportunities for me and allowed me to learn so much about myself and become the teacher I am today. The biggest highlight for me is my recent completion of an MA in Education through MARP (Master of Arts in Reflective Practice), a cohort program of current in-service teachers who focus on learning through action research in their own classrooms. This program truly saved me as a teacher. Two years ago I was seriously considering leaving the classroom - I felt isolated and thought teaching may not be for me. MARP allowed me to focus back on what matters most: My students.

Not only did I learn to observe my own practice and take action to make changes in my own teaching, I also learned the fundamentals of social justice in education and the way my practice is responsible for ensuring equity in the lives of students through education. If there was something missing in my BA preparation as a teacher, it was the understanding of inequity and my role in creating change. However, during my BA preparation I thoroughly enjoyed my student teaching experience in which I worked with Natalie Figueroa (Volcano Vista High School). She really understood the power of her mentorship and worked really hard to assure I was ready to hit the ground running once I was in my own classroom.

But there is work to be done, coordinating teachers (those mentoring student teachers) should be recognized for their work not only through Domain 4 of NMTEACH but through financial compensation for their work. We are professionals and deserve to be acknowledged as such, through fair pay for the work we do, particularly mentoring future teachers.


 
 

What's the one change in New Mexico education that's the most needed or would have the biggest impact?

The one change that I believe would make the biggest impact would be to provide professional development that reflects the diverse needs of our communities. I believe that New Mexico is headed in the right direction through NMPED's Teacher Leader Network (NMTLN).

They truly believe the power of change begins in the classroom with the teacher. In hopes of supporting teachers NMPED has offered an abundance of professional development covering a wide range of topics surrounding education, and helped to develop teacher created resources to enhance instructional methods and teaching practices.


 
 

New Mexico is in the midst of a Governor’s race where education is getting a lot of attention. Politics aside (though sometimes that seems impossible, I admit), what do you want both candidates to know? What considerations would you like to see? And what, if any, questions or suggestions do you have for both? 

I want candidates to know that all schools in New Mexico are working hard to provide our communities with what they need. All schools in New Mexico need resources to support students. The best thing each candidate can do is get out on the field and get to know administrators, teachers and students and hear from us about what we need and the way they can support our systems and therefore the future of our state.

I also strongly advice for each candidate to seek meetings with teacher leaders in our state, including the New Mexico Teachers of the Year Chapter. Because, while I never pretend to have all the right answers or questions, I know that, collectively, all teachers in our state do.


Lastly, and crucially, red or green?

Green all the way. I cannot wait for the Autumn roast.