Las Cruces Public Schools announced that David Nuñez, social studies teacher and track and field coach at Oñate High School (OHS), has been selected as the 2019 LCPS Teacher of the Year (TOTY), and Noel Martinez, lead welder at the LCPS Physical Plant Department, has been selected as the 2019 LCPS Educational Support Personnel of the Year (ESPOTY). Both honorees were recognized at the LCPS Foundation’s Annual Celebration of Excellence in Education Awards Dinner, Monday, May 14, at the New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum.
“As leaders in our schools and our community, these two honorees embody the spirit of what we strive to achieve as public servants. They selflessly invest their time, talents and resources to support students and staff every single day,” said LCPS Superintendent Dr. Greg Ewing. “I’d like to thank both of these talented individuals for their work to create a safe, engaging and effective learning environment for our school community.”
At the awards dinner, LCPS officials also announced that Silvia Mariscal, a bilingual teacher at East Picacho Elementary School, was named the runner-up for the TOTY award, and Joe Holguin, lead custodian at Mesilla Valley Leadership Academy, was named runner-up for the ESPOTY award.
As part of the recognition, all of honorees received a commemorative clock and will be recognized at an LCPS Board of Education meeting, Tuesday, May 15. Additionally, the TOTY also received a $1,000 check from First Savings Bank, the ESPOTY received a $1,000 check from Century Bank and each runner-up received a $250 check from Horace Mann.
In order to be considered for their respective awards, the TOTY and ESPOTY honorees were selected through a rigorous selection process which spanned nearly five months and included a nomination application and finalist interview, both of which were judged by a volunteer committee of LCPS employees who selected honorees based on factors such as professional accomplishments and community service.
This is the first year district officials have awarded campus-level TOTY awards at every school in the district, in addition to the districtwide award. The is also the first year that the district added a campus-level and districtwide awards program for educational support personnel — such as custodians, educational assistants, food service workers, secretaries and other classified staff.
As part of the new selection process, the campus employees of the year, who are selected by their respective schools, are then entered into the running for the district awards. Two selection committees — one for Teacher of the Year and another for Educational Support Personnel of the Year — then select ten semifinalists, two finalists and one winner in each of the awards categories.
Nuñez has been with district for his entire 28-year teaching career. Officials said his modern approach to education even led one of his students to write a bill which was later introduced by Senator Bill Soules and subsequently signed into law by Governor Susana Martinez.
In his nomination essay, Nuñez said, “In order to get students to become capable learners, involving them in a more authentic learning experience where students have a voice in their own learning is essential. By emphasizing communication, creativity, collaboration, critical thinking and problem solving, I help to ensure my students obtain the skills, knowledge and expertise needed to succeed in work and life in the 21st Century.”
Martinez has been with the district for the past 14 years. Officials said he has fabricated everything from handrails and basketball goals to a custom toilet seat device he designed and fabricated for a student with a disability. He also works extensively with the Excel program to teach high school students about maintenance trades and the basics of welding.
When asked to describe his experience teaching with the Excel program, Martinez said, “the learning environment has to be just right for the students so they can gain the most from the experience.” Executive Director of Physical Plant Bobby Stout described Martinez as an employee who has consistently gone above and beyond to ensure students’ safety and success.
“Noel leads by example, both with his fellow peers and the students he mentors,” Stout said. “His ability to visualize in three dimensions has led him to predict and solve future problems, before they ever become problems. He is a humble, hard-working young man dedicated to helping students and staff.”
In addition to naming the employees of the year, several teachers were recognized for earning their National Board Teaching Certification through the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS). NBPTS is an independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing the quality of teaching and learning by: maintaining rigorous standards for what teachers should know and be able to do; Providing a national voluntary system for certifying teachers who meet these standards; and advocating for National Board Certification in American education and capitalizing on the expertise of certified teachers, according to the NBPTS website.
The teachers recognized were: Ashley Cartwright, 4th grade teacher at East Picacho Elementary School; Kathleen Guitar, lead flight director at the Challenger Learning Center in Las Cruces; Heather Hinde, 3rd-5th grade Interventionist at Hillrise Elementary; Magdalena Nuñez, 5th grade teacher at East Picacho Elementary School, Yvette Ramirez-Springler, kindergarten teacher at Hillrise Elementary; and Darby Sanchez-Hoffman, 2nd grade teacher at East Picacho Elementary School.
Awards were also given to four graduating seniors who were recently named National Merit Scholarship finalists — students who earned some of the highest scores on the national Preliminary Scholastic Assessment Test (PSAT) / National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. The students recognized were: Mason Hooley and Kira Cunniff from Centennial High School, Sydnie Fossberg from Mayfield High School and Charlotte Stalker from Arrowhead Park Early College High School.
Additionally, several students who earned recognition through the National Hispanic Recognition Program, based on their PSAT scores, were also honored. Those students included: Jacqueline Cervantes-Vanderlugt from Las Cruces High School, Jazmin Collins, Andrew Angel and Angelica Maria Chavez from Centennial High School and Zachary Yoder and Noah Vigil from Arrowhead Park Early College High School.
Proceeds from the annual recognition dinner fund teacher grants and student scholarships awarded by the LCPS Foundation based upon competitive submissions. These funds allow the recipients to undertake learning opportunities not otherwise possible within current public funding.
The dinner was sponsored by: Title Sponsor Century Bank; Platinum Sponsor Mountain View Regional Medical Center; Gold Sponsor Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine; Silver Sponsors Ben and Chris Woods, First American Bank, Darin Manes Farmers Insurance Agency, Beasley Mitchell and Co. LLP,Ashley Furniture Homestore, Steinborn & Associates, Chris Dulany Edward Jones Financial Advisor; and Bronze Sponsors MT Photography, Fire Tech, LLC, Metal-Tech, Inc., Batteries Plus Bulbs, Western Heritage Bank, Beasley Legal, PC, RJ Border International LP, ASA Architects, Thomas Esparza, Jean and Julio de la Peña, Clifford, Ross & Cooper CPAs LLC, Greater Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce, Kay Brilliant and Spence Asset Management.
-LCPS Communications Coordinator Paul Dahlgren, firstname.lastname@example.org, (575) 527-5808