Reporter’s note: Addition information has been included in this article.
Teachers from the Roswell Independent School District (RISD) were recognized with a dinner and three speeches from local leaders.
Hope Morales, Teach Plus NM state policy director, said around 270 teachers with the exemplary and highly effective designations from the Public Education Department’s NM TEACH evaluation system were invited to the dinner Monday and about 100 of these teachers were in attendance. Of these teachers, 58 earned the distinction of exemplary teachers and PED excellence in teaching awards amounting to $5,000 or $10,000 in some cases.
Over plates of barbeque and glasses of iced tea, the attendees sat with rapt attention as local leaders thanked them for their work in the schools. Robin Scott, an RISD teacher, provided slide guitar and songs for the teachers and a photo booth was set up at the end of the night.
Morales introduced Mayor Dennis Kintigh and RISD Superintendent Dr. Ann Lynn McIlroy to the teachers and their guests at the Hi-Q Venue at 208 N. Virginia Ave. on Monday night. Morales thanked the following community partners: Krumland Auto Group, Pioneer Bank, Sunrise Optimist Club of Roswell, Tabosa Developmental Services, Teach Plus New Mexico, the city of Roswell and RISD.
Mayor Kintigh said he was raised by an educator, married to an educator and the father to an educator. Kintigh said he saw firsthand the sacrifices teachers make to influence the lives of their students for the better, in and out of the classroom.
“If Roswell is to become a better place — and I will do all I can — I know it will not be my efforts that will change it,” Kintigh said to the teachers. “It will be yours because you will change the lives of young people and make this into an even better and greater community that it is. For that, thank you.”
Dr. McIlroy roamed around the room with the microphone in hand during her speech and said she could not celebrate or thank teachers enough for the work they bring to the RISD classrooms.
McIlroy reflected on her time in Roswell since school began four months ago and reminded the teachers that her vision was to have systems in place at RISD that would encourage kids to be excited, engaged and want to be at RISD. She shared the biblical parable of the fish and loaves to illustrate the limits teachers can feel and encouraged them that what they have can matter and grow to affect the lives of their students. For some of the teachers, McIlroy said she has seen how much kids “love” going to their teachers’ classrooms and added that these teachers help achieve the vision for the district to have kids “running to school.”
“God gave you something,” McIlroy said. “He gave you a talent for making connections with kids. He gave you a talent of compassion and of love, of perseverance and grit, of a never say no — never say can’t attitude — that no matter what comes my way, I’m going to find a way. That’s why you are here because that’s who you are as a teacher, as a highly effective and exemplary teacher. That’s what you represent. You have a talent. You might think it’s insignificant or small, but you think about it in my 30 years of education … I’m talking thousands and thousands of lives I had the opportunity to work with. That’s no small thing and so you need to think about that, too.”
Whether they were starting out or have been in education for a long time, McIlroy said educators have the opportunity to touch “thousands of hearts, thousands of minds” during their careers.
“You give our kids a voice and you give them the intelligence and the reasoning ability to speak that voice and to use their voice in their own lives and in the lives of their community,” McIlroy said. “So thank you. Thank you for that. Our country needs that desperately right now and I applaud you and I appreciate you that you do that every day for our kids.”
Known for saying her standards are based on the measurement that if it is not good enough for her own children — it is not adequate for anyone else’s children. McIlroy said the teachers at RISD were welcome to teach her children and grandchildren because she knows her children and the children of Roswell would get a quality educational experience and have interpersonal connections for someone to believe in them and potentially change their worlds.
Morales spoke as an educator and as a mother. She personally thanked the teachers on a large scale and showed gratitude for the teachers that impacted her own children. Morales thanked the families of the educators for supporting them.
“For our families here, I want to help make sure that you truly understand what it means for your loved one to be rated highly effective or exemplary,” Morales said. “It means that when a child goes to your class, they are having more than one year of learning happening in your classroom. So for kiddos who are going to your class and they’re coming in behind, you are helping to close that achievement gap because they have the opportunity to learn from one of our best educators. Now imagine if our students can learn from a teacher, our highly effective teachers or exemplary teachers, year after year.
“Imagine the opportunities that they’re going to have whenever they complete high school. They’re going to have an opportunity to be successful at college to be able to pick a high-quality career. You can change generations just by doing what you are doing in class.”
“It was encouraging … and inspiring,” Shari Hicks, an educator at El Capitan Elementary School, said of the dinner. “Finally seeing that hard work, the going home early and not going out with your friends all the time was finally appreciated.”
“I think being honored for something that you truly love — there’s really not even a word to describe it other than just amazing,” Lauren Boyes, a teacher at Military Heights Elementary School, said. “And I think being recognized just encourages us that our hard work is paying off and that we are being recognized for a job well done.
“Personally for me, it inspires me to keep pushing and it keeps inspiring me to work those extra hours and push myself every day as an educator. So recognizing us for a job well done I think is necessary to keep this ball rolling.”
City/RISD reporter Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.