The SFPS Board of Education presented 15 New Mexico School Boards Association (NMSBA) Excellence in Student Achievement Awards at its April 21st, 2022 regular meeting. This statewide award program, sponsored by NMSBA and presented by local school boards in New Mexico, seeks to promote student achievement and assist local school boards in recognizing school leaders, staff and other individuals who have played an important role in improving student achievement at the district level.
“I am so excited for all those recognized by the Board for their excellent work on behalf of SFPS students. They have carried learning forward this year, leaving such a positive inprint on our school community. Each, from unique backgrounds and experiences, truly uplifted students during a time like none other in our history,” said Hilario “Larry” Chavez.
The award recipients are as follows:
Georgia Baca, principal at E.J. Martinez Elementary School
Terry Bryant, director of assessment and accountability
Lina Dominguez, kitchen manager at Atalaya Elementary School
Cody Dynarski, SFPS public information officer
Rita Hemmig, school counselor at Cesar Chavez Elementary School
Yolanda Jacobs, a transportation driver with the District for 20 years
Kristen Lewis, instructional specialist
Christopher Lopez, in his second year as principal at Gonzales Community School
Peter McWain, executive director of curriculum and instruction
Mandela International Magnet School
Office of Student Wellness
Daniel Pastrana, elementary bilingual coach in the Language & Culture Department
Santa Fe House and Senate Legislative Delegations
Barbara Teterycz, computer science teacher at Capital High School
Felicia Torres, in her third year as principal of Amy Biehl Community School
Georgia Baca, in her fourth year as principal at E.J. Martinez Elementary School, has created exceptional Professional Learning Community structures and lead the way in collaborating with Chaparral Elementary and Nava Elementary so their small schools can have weekly grade-level teacher meetings together. This has allowed for staff collaboration in analyzing data and informing best practices that might otherwise have been difficult to do given their school sizes. The most current iMSSA data at E.J. Martinez demonstrates considerable on-target growth for reading, language usage and math. She has led and shared her expertise with other administrators and instructional leaders in the District’s standards-based teaching and learning initiative, brings a positive mindset to her steadfast leadership and is always solutions oriented. Because of her leadership, E.J. Martinez is one of 13 schools slated to launch standards-based grading in 2022-23.
For Terry Bryant, director of assessment and accountability, it’s always students first. His philosophy that student testing must be beneficial aligns with his tireless efforts to ensure that the testing process provides every student with an equitable opportunity to demonstrate what they know and can do. He has forged positive relationships and supported collaboration between the Assessment, Technology, Language & Culture, Special Education and Curriculum and Instruction departments. This, combined with the inspired efforts of principals, school testing coordinators and test administrators, has resulted in student testing being intentionally and purposefully delivered on behalf of students. Under his leadership, the Assessment Department is furthering excellence in student instruction and contributing to accelerating and advancing student achievement.
Lina Dominguez is the kitchen manager at Atalaya Elementary, which also provides satellite service to Acequia Madre and Wood Gormley Elementary schools. Despite having four staff in a kitchen that really needs a minimum of six, she has never complained, working with the school communities to provide quality meal service. Through it all, she has remained positive and continued to complete her work on time, always loving the students. Said Betsy Cull, director of student nutrition, “She is an overall great manager and sets a positive example for others. I am very grateful to have her on my team.”
Top-notch communications with parents and the overall SFPS community are essential to learning. Cody Dynarski, SFPS public information officer, raised District communications to new heights in 2021-22 through ushering in the Remind education communication platform with the Technology Department and launching a new District website, electronic Peachjar digital flyers and the new Inside SFPS podcast. He also developed the COVID Dashboard, which has been critical to keeping the SFPS community informed of COVID cases and spread. His video productions, including for the 2021 State of the Schools, have been highly successful and helped further understanding of educational efforts taking place in the District. He is a treasured advocate for SFPS and rising star who is much valued by all.
Rita Hemmig, a school counselor at César Chávez Elementary School, is deeply committed to providing social and emotional support to all students and staff. A firm believer that her role is to ensure that each student is emotionally healthy for lifelong learning, every morning she guides a mindfulness moment after the morning announcements to ground students and staff for the day. She always keeps a positive and open mindset and consistently advocates for student wellness opportunities. She is part of the District’s crisis team and often supports other sites with emergencies and challenges. Even during brief emergency encounters, she builds powerful relationships. According to her principal, Fernando Morales, “We wouldn’t be as successful as we are without her.”
Yolanda Jacobs, a transportation driver with the District for 20 years, embodies what it means to have the heart of a servant, demonstrating this daily by tirelessly giving everything she can to help her students get to school and be the best they can be. She understands that for our kids to get a quality education, we first have to get them to school in the right frame of mind. Every student on her route looks forward to seeing her every day because of how well she takes care of them and uplifts their spirits. During the height of COVID, she showed up every day, taking personal responsibility for doing everything she could for her students.
Christopher Lopez, in his second year as principal at Gonzales Community School, and Felicia Torres, in her third year as principal of Amy Biehl Community School, have created exceptional Professional Learning Community structures that have allowed for staff collaboration in analyzing data and informing best practices. The most current iMSSA data at Gonzales and Amy Biehl demonstrate considerable on-target growth in all grade levels for reading, language usage and math. Both have served on the District’s calendar committee and standards-based teaching and learning task force and both bring a positive mindset to their steadfast leadership, which is always solutions oriented. Because of Ms. Torres’ leadership, Amy Biehl is one of 13 schools slated to launch standards-based grading in 2022-23. Under Mr. Lopez’s leadership, Gonzales saw an 11% increase in the number of students proficient or on target in language usage in beginning- and middle-of-year in-house assessments.
In 2021, fifteen Mandela International Magnet School students earned prestigious International Baccalaureate (IB) Diplomas, representing a pass rate of 94%. These students demonstrated strong academic performance in six areas--Language & Literature, Language Acquisition, History, Experimental Sciences, Mathematics and the Arts. Said Randy Grillo, Mandela principal/head learner, “Each one of these courses is essentially a two-year college-level endeavor. We are so proud of these students and their ability to show that even a year of virtual learning and the uncertainty of a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic would not blur their focus. Our staff deserves special recognition for their solidarity and dedication to each student’s success.”
As new leaders in the teaching and learning department, Peter McWain, executive director of curriculum and instruction, and Kristen Lewis, instructional specialist, have developed positive relationships with site teachers and principals. Along with being solutions oriented, they bring a positive mindset to all aspects of their work. They have provided extensive support to school sites in analyzing student data and developing assessments to help drive instruction, have assisted sites with implementing and supporting their Professional Learning Community structures and have provided suggestions on instructional practices to align with the District’s standards-based teaching and learning initiative. Both analyze District data to determine trends and collaborate with all departments. They have made numerous site visits to support schools in utilizing their federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) funds in a manner that aligns with teaching and learning initiatives.
In 2021-22, Office of Student Wellness staff ensured student and staff health and safety despite the intense spread of COVID, particularly during the winter. They have communicated with countless parents about quarantines and the Test to Stay program, which the state required to be implemented mid-year. Under director Sue O’Brien’s leadership and with Lead Nurse Anita Hett, the Office has advocated with the NM Public Education Department and Department of Health on behalf of students, parents and staff and thought creatively and outside the box to meet mandates like vaccine verification. Every staff member, including each school nurse, is to be highly commended for their efforts.
As an elementary bilingual coach in the Language & Culture Department, Daniel Pastrana has developed positive relationships with principals and teachers, including those from Spain and Mexico, by working in grade-level Professional Learning Communities to develop lesson plans and instructional practices using the District’s curriculum and standards-based teaching and learning initiative. He also provides classroom management support by helping teachers engage students in their learning, approaching his work with a positive, open mindset.
The 2022 legislative session resulted in $3.8 billion for public education, the most ever appropriated by the legislature, which represents an increase of over $400 million. This year in particular, with salary minimums increased $10,000 across the board and raises for educational staff, we give a tremendous thank you to our Santa Fe House and Senate legislative delegations. Their actions will further our ability to attract and retain staff in schools and classrooms across the District. We are deeply grateful for their leadership and advocacy on behalf of education and the Santa Fe Public Schools.
Barbara Teterycz, computer science teacher at Capital High School (CHS), brings students to new heights in computer science. Her students have taken home honors from the Governor's STEM Challenge, Third Congressional District App Challenge and National Center for Women & Information Technology Aspirations in Computing. Her recognitions include being the 2021 and 2022 Educator Award Winner selected by Aspirations in Computing and receiving the 2021 Teacher Who Inspires Award from the Partners in Education Foundation, the Teacher Appreciation Award from the 2021 Supercomputing Challenge and the 2020-2021 CS Teaching Excellence Award Winner selected by CSTA and Infosys Foundation USA. The New Mexican said that she “merrily describes herself as a ‘walking computer’ and is endlessly passionate about the need for students to learn coding.”