For nearly 30 years, Nickie McCarty has been either a teacher, a coach or, most recently, an athletic director.
Born in Ratón, New Mexico, over the decades McCarty has lent her talents to innumerable students and families in Taos County.
Besides her many jobs in teaching and sports, according to 2020 nominating committee member Stella Mares-McGinnis, McCarty has “organized and volunteered for Taos Feeds Taos, Taos Youth Football League, Taos Little League. She coordinated track, football and baseball – including the men’s league and girls softball; plus she’s active with blood drives, toy and clothing drives, student government, proms, homecoming and much, much more,” Mares-McGinnis said, adding that McCarty also focused on teaching life skills in a leadership class, among other things.
McCarty began as a teacher in Questa in 1992 and taught math for a couple years while also coaching for the volleyball team.
She and her husband were trying to have kids, she said, so they decided to move to Taos. That's when a job opened up in 1994 at Taos Middle School.
In 1995, she landed a job as a math instructor at Taos High School – the place where she finished out her career in education just this past summer when she retired as athletic director. She taught math until 2010 when she took the athletic director job. But one of her most impactful positions at the school was that as a student council sponsor.
McCarty had started off as a junior class sponsor for some time before, eventually, becoming the student council sponsor in 2001.
As the student council sponsor, McCarty helped bring big conventions of the New Mexico Association of Student Councils – which is a conference that spans three to four days and brings in thousands of students and teachers to the Taos area – both in 2007 and 2011.
“Those were big things,” McCarty said. “Not every school can say they did [this.] I really am proud of my student council.”
While McCarty still helped with student council after taking the athletic director position in 2010, her priorities started to change more towards sports.
But that, as it turned out, was a good thing.
As athletic director for Taos High School the past decade, McCarty has orchestrated a plethora of championships in a variety of different sports.
In 2014, 2016 and 2017 girls cross-country brought home three team titles, including an individual title from Ella Katz in 2017. In 2018, the football team won its first-ever championship. There have been five championships in cheerleading and eight championships in either boys or girls track and field, as well as numerous individual champions in cross-country, golf and tennis – all under the leadership of McCarty.
“There's nothing better than those state titles,” McCarty said. “But it's more than just those championships. It's seeing these kids who didn’t think they could do it, or were maybe kind of shy ninth graders, and by the time they are seniors they are just such good leaders.”
McCarty said winning is her favorite thing, and that all the coaches were just as big a part –
if not bigger – than hers when it came to winning championships. Because she had that mindset for so long, she was recognized as 4A Athletic Director of the Year in 2018 by the New Mexico Activities Association.
“It's kind of how I am,” McCarty said. “I don't really like to settle –
I like to be the best.”
McCarty said that the hardest part of her job was disciplining kids, because she knows that there's always more to the story.
A good work ethic has always been something that McCarty has had. She said that she got that motivation from her mom – who was also an educator.
“My mom,” McCarty said through tears. “She was such a great educator, principal – and, you know, just me wanting to make her proud.”
McCarty's mom passed away in 2004.
She also mentioned both of her sons – Kevin, 23, and Ryan, 21 – as her motivation. Faith is the biggest motivation, she said.
Lillian Torrez, superintendent of Taos Municipal Schools – and McCarty's former boss – had high praise for the work McCarty accomplished in her time as athletic director at Taos High School.
“Because of Nickie [McCarty], our athletics program went beyond athletic excellence and competition and built a culture of care and service that was building-wide from homecoming to dances to blood drives,” Torrez said “Her kindness touched so many student lives over her long tenure in Taos Municipal Schools and she touched the lives of most students in one or another in such a positive way.”
While McCarty is no longer an educator at Taos High School, it doesn't mean that she's done with helping kids.
In fact, McCarty is looking at what's next in her life – and she says that maybe becoming a public speaker or maybe a preacher will be that next journey.
“I am taking some ministry classes,” McCarty said. “And I would love to really focus hard on youth and just continuing to help them in other ways now.”