February 2017 Column

 Being selected as the 2016 New Mexico Superintendent of the Year has been one of the most memorable awards I have ever received.  There is no greater honor than to be recognized by your peers.  As I reflect on past recipients, I am humbled to be considered in the same group. I am a proud New Mexican and have spent 30 of my 35 years in public education in New Mexico. The collegiality of our small populous state is one our greatest assets.
 After attending the recent National Superintendent’s Conference (AASA) in Phoenix, Ariz., I walked away with a renewed vigor for public education. “Freedom Writers” is a 2007 movie about a young teacher overcoming the odds to inspire students in a racially divided neighborhood. Guest speaker Manny Scott told of his childhood in the gang infested neighborhood portrayed in that movie.  Manny was beaten, raped and starved.  Erin Gruwell, played by actress Hillary Swank, was Manny’s English teacher.  He said that public education literally saved his life.  Ms. Gruwell was out of her league when trying to teach students from a low socioeconomic neighborhood school. Her past experience gave her nothing in common with her students.  Yet, by listening to her class and researching teaching methods, she not only connected, but turned lives around for many of the students like Manny.
  As educators we get overwhelmed by the day-to-day stresses of our profession and forget why we chose our vocation. Each and every educator who reads this article has touched the life of multiple children.  We have moved children out of poverty and given them options they could only dream about on their own. We have encouraged children to rise to heights that exceed their current situation.  We do these things because we are educators; not because we expect anything in return. I worry to think how the world would be different if the current teachers hadn’t chosen to be educators.  Whose life depended on your relationship with a teacher?
 Prior to the announcement of national Superintendent of the year, the American Association for School Administrators (AASA) recognized each state’s superintendent of the year along with superintendents from Canada and Indonesia. The 52 recipients gathered behind the stage for the initial part of the ceremony.  It was such a privilege to visit with superintendents from across the United States.  Although we are separated by hundreds if not thousands of miles, our focus is very similar. All too often the concerns we face in New Mexico are echoed throughout the U.S. Conference speakers emphasized the importance public education has on our nation repeatedly during the meeting.  The greatest indicators for student success is the relationship between student and teacher and also the relationship between staff in the schools. Kids learn from people they like and trust.
 AASA has launched an initiative which I find extremely interesting.  Standardized testing is part of our culture.  Educational assistants must pass a test to be certified to work for our schools as do administrators and teachers.  I’ve told the story many times of my son who graduated from Texas Tech University with a Civil Engineering degree, but was not considered an engineer until he passed the Professional Engineering test.  Testing is a part of who and what we are.  Although “opting out” is available to parents, I’m not sure we are giving students the skills sets to be successful in the real world.  The AASA initiative of “Redefining Ready” expresses that students are more than a test score.  It’s important to note “more than” a test score.  Testing is and will remain an important measurement, but there are additional processes to gauge a student’s readiness.  ”Redefining Ready” gives multiple indicators used to measure readiness for college or career.  I would encourage each of you to visit the website (redefiningready.org).  Hobbs School provides a great opportunity for our children to be successful. Through the  “Redefining Ready” framework we are able to demonstrate multiple methods to acknowledge student preparedness.
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