New Mexico Teachers: Let's Be Heard

Often when education is discussed or debated, vital and necessary voices are left out: us teachers. Who better to provide perspective on schools than those of us working with students every day? Who better to speak about teacher pay, class sizes, educational spending, and many other topics than those of us who personally grapple with these issues?

It seems as though some policy makers want teachers to use their voice, but only while we are in the classroom. I’ve seen first-hand that those days are over and the time for direct teacher voice has arrived.

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Summer Side Hustles for Teachers

By Joyce Wilson│Wednesday, June 6th, 2018

Side "hustles" have become more popular as people realize they can easily make a little extra money to make ends meet or save away. You may have heard of the sharing economy, which allows you to make money doing things like driving for a ride-sharing service or renting out your home to tourists. These types of opportunities have grown exponentially over the past decade.

Many teachers are in a unique position for side gigs because of summer vacation, which leaves them with some rare extra time. Teachers also tend to be masters of multi-tasking, often working on many things at once. Money aside, pursuing interests outside of the classroom provides a great creative and intellectual outlet.


A side gig doesn’t have to be all about the sharing economy though. There are plenty of good-paying gigs out there that allow teachers to work for themselves and set their own hours. You might even incorporate a hobby you love into your new job, such as making jewelry or selling vintage clothing in an online shop. A helpful aspect about these part-time gigs is that you can keep them all year if you decide to.

Keep reading to find out more about side gigs that can work this summer, or any time of the year.


Become A Tutor

Tutoring is often a natural transition for teachers during summer months. Talk to parents of your students and let them know you’re available for tutoring sessions. You can even spread the word on social media. This is the kind of side hustle that permits you to set your own hours, and you may be able to do it from the comfort of your own home in some cases. Just make sure you keep your lesson plans transparent and keep communication open with your clients.

Be A Tour Guide

Museums, historical locations, and cities with high tourism rates are great places to find a summer gig that could turn into a year-round side job if you enjoy it. Put all your knowledge to good use as a tour guide, which will often allow for flexible hours and seasonal work. Just be prepared to be on your feet for several hours at a time.

Teach English Online

There are several online tutoring and teaching jobs that can help you earn quite a bit of extra cash over the summer, including teaching English as a second language. The great aspect of this job is that you can do it from home while you’re in sweats. Visit here for more information.

Freelance and Contract Work

Many teachers make great writers; not only because they’re knowledgeable about so many subjects, but because they have so many great stories to tell! If you have a flair for writing and have something to say, consider doing some freelance work.

There are plenty of blogs and online companies who are willing to pay good money for your words. Just watch out for scams and companies that promise to make you thousands of dollars in a week. Freelancing won’t make you rich, but it can certainly help pay the bills. You can also start a blog of your own, although monetizing it can take a while.


For teachers serious about making money outside the classroom, it’s important to remember to create an ideal workspace that can help you stay on-task. An uncluttered desk in a room free of distractions can be your best friend. Check out these great tips on how to make a workspace that boosts your productivity.

Finding the right side job for you can take a little time, so try to be patient. Keep in mind that what works for one person may not work for you. A side gig should be both fulfilling and worth your time in order to become a success.

With a little research and a good plan, you can find a side hustle you enjoy and that will sustain you all year round.

Joyce Wilson - Retired Teacher and Co-Founder of

Joyce is a retired teacher with decades of experience. Today, she is a proud grandma and mentor to teachers in her local public school system. She and a fellow retired teacher created to share creative ideas and practical resources for the classroom.

Being Prepared Changes Everything in the Classroom

By Aja Currey│Wednesday, May 23rd, 2018

I clearly remember feeling nervous and excited my first day as a student teacher. It was the end of my teacher prep program and I knew I had just one semester to figure out how to do the job of teaching.

Still, I didn’t know if I was prepared enough to be the teacher I knew I wanted to be.

Eight years later, I know the reality is that I’ve spent this entire time preparing. Each year, I seek to become better for the next. I now know I was not truly prepared for the classroom at the end of my preparation program - and that I’m not alone in that feeling.

My first year, similarly to that of the many other teachers I know, was a sink-or-swim experience.

As a special education teacher, I realized quickly that the extra time I spent learning about different disabilities in my program didn’t touch on the reality I would face in my classroom. I wasn’t prepared to work with my nonverbal students with autism, or to manage the more severe behavioral problems such as when my students would kick and punch.


Aja and her students at Rio Gallinas Charter School for Ecology and the Arts in West Las Vegas


I’m lucky I had an excellent mentor who taught me to manage students in a variety of different ways. I also had support from a good school director and seasoned teachers. Other new teachers are not so lucky.

If we want our students to continue to grow and make progress every year - academically, socially, and emotionally - we need teachers who are ready for the challenge. We lose many teachers before they ever get the opportunity to feel comfortable in the classroom because they are unprepared.

This is a national problem: Forty to 50 percent of teachers leave the profession within the first five years, including includes the 9.5 percent that leave before their first year is over. It took me until my sixth year to feel truly ready, but almost half of new teachers don’t wait that long.

I see a number of things we can do to prepare new teachers to be ready on day one.

One priority should be to update our teacher training programs with expanded classroom time. Programs must provide new teachers with hands-on experience to best meet the needs of today’s students. This first-hand experience must include expanded student teaching time, more guided time with classroom management in a real classroom, and supervised lesson planning/delivery early in the program.

We must also understand which teacher preparation programs are doing well - and which aren’t.

Soon, the Public Education Department will release the first ever Educator Preparation Program report cards for New Mexico. The goal is to maintain and monitor standards for our universities.


The National Center for Teacher Quality (NCTQ) also provides teacher preparation reviews here:


The report cards aim to provide New Mexico’s teacher preparation programs the opportunity to grow and improve in order to best meet the needs of up-and-coming teachers. This would have helped me and my students tremendously when I entered the profession nearly a decade ago.

We need far more collaboration between all the moving parts that train and create our teachers.

Our universities, local school districts, and state education department should continue to work together. Universities and local school districts need to create model learning schools or classrooms together, with the support of great teachers. And our state education department should partner with professors at universities to create learning experiences for college students that are relevant to what today's students need.

I hope to see more excited student teachers ready to make a difference in our classrooms as soon as they graduate. New Mexico’s students and teachers deserve it.


Aja Currey - Special Education Teacher in West Las Vegas, NM

Aja Currey is the head special education teacher for 1st thru 8th grades at Rio Gallinas Charter School for Ecology and the Arts in West Las Vegas Schools. She is a Teach Plus New Mexico Teaching Policy Fellow.

Preparing “Day One Ready” Teachers

by Elizabeth Long│Friday, May 4th, 2018

A version of this post originally appeared at Teach Reach NM and is republished here with permission.

Recently, there's been a lot of talk about how to improve schools—and improving instruction should be at the top of the list. Our teacher preparation programs have a solemn responsibility to produce quality teachers who deliver student achievement.

Take my story, for example. I’ve wanted to be a teacher since first grade. Yet, after my first year of teaching, I was ready to give up on this dream I had as a little girl. It was devastating. I had not been adequately prepared.

Luckily, I chose to stay in the classroom and found school resources to push myself to my full potential. In fact, most recently I earned an “Exemplary” rating as a middle school teacher in Gallup, a school that has gone from a D to a B over the past three years. Unfortunately, not every teacher has access to the resources I had, nor the resolve to keep pushing internally. And that is how New Mexico continues to lose potentially life-changing teachers.

The reality is this: when teacher preparation programs improve across New Mexico then the quality of teaching, and thus the quality of education across the state, will improve as well.

There is a positive trickle down effect when teachers enter the classroom “Day One Ready”.


Elizabeth and her students at Gallup Middle School


So, what does “Day One Ready” mean exactly?

“Day One Ready” means that teachers are not surprised by, but rather prepared for, what they walk into on that first day in their classroom. It is not about perfection, but rather about teachers who are prepared for the opportunities and challenges of teaching our students.

“Day One Ready” teachers are confident that the experiences in their teacher preparation program align with their upcoming classroom experience. As teachers, we must accept personal responsibility for our craft, and for our students’ learning. And this mindset is developed largely via our training.

The summer after my first (tough) year of teaching, I went back to the basics. I ordered Harry Wong’s classic books about classroom management, and read his words as scripture. One may ask, didn’t I do this in my training program?

The answer is “sort of” - I read many famous teaching texts, but often wasn’t exposed to the application side of these theories. Without a classroom of my own, or a classroom to visualize myself in, it was hard to imagine how to put these theories into action. I had some great courses along the way, but the problem is often cohesion and my classes were, to be honest, hit or miss.

I was also shocked by how inadequately I was prepared for the student diversity we find across The Land of Enchantment. Many universities give a “cookie-cutter” view of English Learners (ELs) and culturally relevant teaching with limited connection to New Mexico’s specific students and history.

Our students have unique needs, and these must be addressed in teacher preparation programs. Further, we must celebrate student diversity while never lowering the bar for any student, regardless of background.

This wasn’t always the message I received.


The National Center for Teacher Quality (NCTQ) also provides teacher preparation reviews here:


The purpose of sharing my thoughts and experiences is not to demonize any specific program. Rather, as I have mentored over the years, I have seen many new, promising teachers come and go. In my experience, teacher preparation program experiences correlate with whether teachers stay in the profession and thrive, endure or exit.

It’s common sense to me that our teacher preparation programs should be held accountable, increase the quality and duration of student teaching experiences, and align programs more closely with state and district expectations.

We know that, more than anything else at the school site, teacher quality is causal to student success. Certainly teacher preparation is the very foundation of that concept.

I am thankful I remained teaching. Even with all the challenges, teaching is one of the most rewarding professions out there. And I have my students’ academic growth and their changed life trajectories to show for it, which is everything to me.

As I look back, I wish I would have been better trained to be more successful on day one, rather than questioning what has become my life’s passion. Thankfully, I stuck around, but so many new teachers don’t. There’s no excuse for that.


Elizabeth Long - Middle School Teacher in Gallup, NM

Elizabeth Long is finishing up her 7th year of teaching. She is originally from Ohio, and her family moved to the Navajo Reservation when she was sixteen. Not only is she a passionate teacher, she also enjoys photography, nature, traveling, and spending time with her family and dogs.

Education as Liberation: An Albuquerque Family Is Rewriting Their Future

by Seth Saavedra│Sunday, April 17th, 2018

This post first appeared on The 74 Million and is republished here with permission.

In the South Valley of Albuquerque, a chaotic morning ritual familiar to many families plays out. “Luciano! Time to get up.” Bows in their hair, Milani, 6, and Jazalea, 3, are ready for the day ahead. They beckon their 10-year-old brother, Luciano, to hurry up and finish his scrambled eggs.

Monique Giovine orchestrates every minute of this intricate dance for her three children. She’s been up for an hour already, seeing her husband, Roberto, off to work before rousing the little ones.


The Giovine Family


Luciano rushes out the front door, catching the bus to the local elementary school, where he’s a fifth-grader. The girls hop into the family Honda to take Milani to school.

The difference in their departures tells another story familiar in New Mexico: Luciano’s education at the zoned neighborhood school stands in stark contrast to Milani’s.

Luciano’s school bus ride ends each morning at Los Padillas Elementary, part of Albuquerque Public Schools. The school, like the neighborhood where it is located, has struggled, and is in the midst of the state’s Most Rigorous Intervention process, or MRI.


Located in the South Valley of Albuquerque


MRI is a designation enacted by the New Mexico Public Education Department for schools earning five or more consecutive F grades. Besides Los Padillas, three other schools must reorganize under the program to improve student learning. All four had until today to resubmit their turnaround plans after their first proposals were rejected by the state.

That Los Padillas has languished for decades is well known in the neighborhood. In its most recent ranking, fewer than 10 percent of fifth-graders were proficient in reading, meaning only three of the students in Luciano’s class are at grade level. He’s not one of them.


His younger sister, in contrast, is doing well in kindergarten — she even helps her older brother with his homework — after her name was drawn in a lottery last spring for a charter school called MAS that her mother found out about by chance.

In fact, Monique wasn’t sure what she was hearing when she first learned of the school; it sounded like mas — “more” in Spanish. But MAS, Mission Achievement and Success, was recruiting students from Albuquerque’s South Valley, offering busing and a different approach to education. And that school with the funny name unlocked a newfound belief in what’s possible for the Giovine family and their children.

Founded in 2012, MAS has earned three A ratings in a row and unapologetically focuses on college and career preparation for all students. With student proficiency rates two or three times those of schools with similar demographics, MAS is defining new realities for Albuquerque’s most vulnerable students.

In a state where just over 30 percent of children under the age of 18 live in poverty, exceeding the national average by 11 points, schools play a vital role in breaking pernicious generational cycles. Yet, with 77 percent and 73 percent of New Mexico fourth-graders below proficient in reading and math, respectively, to be poor is to be poorly educated.

After her first visit to MAS, Monique was immediately sold. “I saw students excited about reading and focused on academics,” she said. She completed applications for Luciano and Milani, but only Milani’s name came up in the admissions lottery.

For Luciano, it meant another year of going to school near home, in a neighborhood with deep family roots — Monique’s mother’s family carried the Padilla surname, and she has spent most of her life there.


Originally named San Andres de los Padillas, the unincorporated town has a storied past: Diego de Padilla was granted ownership of the land in 1718, after his ancestors were forced to abandon it during the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. Many families have been there for centuries.

The first Los Padillas School opened its doors in 1901, predating New Mexico’s statehood by 11 years. With such a deep history and fierce independence, change can come at a glacial pace. Los Padillas broke ground on its first public water system only late last year.

For all the beauty found in the Rio Grande Valley, Los Padillas is not without its troubles. It has a reputation for tough characters, many of whom Monique counts as relatives. To grow up here is to have a chip on your shoulder and a stiff spine.

Doubted because of their last name or ZIP code, those from the South Valley must conjure an unshakable self-confidence. As is the case in many New Mexico communities, their margin for error is razor thin, with far too many coming out on the wrong side.

Monique’s parents worked hard to ensure she never attended the school bearing her family name just down the street. They gathered the few dollars they had for tuition at a small Catholic school before transferring her to a high school in Albuquerque’s Northeast Heights, the most affluent area of town.

She would love to do the same for Luciano, but that’s not financially feasible. Roberto, her husband, puts in long hours with the Albuquerque Water Utility Authority to make ends meet for the family of five.

But through their chance discovery of MAS and sheer determination, the Giovine family uncovered one of the best-kept secrets in the state.


Mission Achievement and Success (MAS) Receiving Another "A" Grade


Oum Duvall, Milani’s teacher originally from France, describes MAS as the best school she’s experienced in her career, one that spans Europe and the U.S. “There’s an incredible sense of culture and accountability,” she said. “We are laser-focused on supporting all students and helping them climb the social ladder.”

This in large part explains why MAS has similar demographics to Los Padillas but starkly different outcomes. Nearly 43 percent of MAS students come from the South Valley and 99 percent identify as low-income, compared with 71 percent statewide. Additionally, 23 percent are English learners, compared with 13 percent across New Mexico.


As the founder and principal of MAS, JoAnn Mitchell says plainly that there is no secret sauce to the school’s success. While students at MAS have academic growth rates well beyond similar schools in New Mexico, there remains a commitment to continuous improvement.

“As a leader, I share with staff and students alike that we always need to take a moment to celebrate our successes,” she said, “but we cannot linger in the moment for too long because we know there is more work to be done and, after all, each success simply provides us the confidence and the fuel needed to forge ahead to the next.”

MAS was recently approved to open a second campus in Albuquerque, the first charter school ever given the green light to do so. The second campus aims to open in the fall, providing relief to hundreds of families who, according to MAS, are on the school’s waiting list.

Meanwhile, Luciano continues on at Los Padillas Elementary, doing well in math but far below grade level in reading. Milani is nearly through her kindergarten year at MAS, excelling in all subjects tested on the district iStation assessments.


At a recent basketball game, Milani figured out the word “roadrunner” before Luciano, despite being four years younger. Milani rarely has her own homework; she helps her brother with his. At MAS, homework is rarely assigned because the school day is longer so more direct support can be provided daily.

The biggest difference Monique sees in her children is their passion for learning. “When I drop Milani off at MAS, she can’t wait,” Monique said. “There’s a unique joy and excitement for learning there.” Meanwhile she finds Luciano is disengaged or uninspired, particularly in reading, where he has struggled.

But next fall, because siblings are automatically accepted, Luciano starts at MAS as a sixth-grader (Jazalea will be automatically admitted as well), and he’s more excited than anxious. He knows there will be an adjustment period to the challenging classwork and longer school days. But he’s ready to rise to the challenge.