For 24 years, kids in Taos have had a friend in Alfred Córdova, the beloved principal of Taos Middle School, who is retiring from a career in education at the end of June.
"The best job in the world -- no doubt," said Córdova, 56. "I firmly believe that I've been very, very blessed to be able to serve our community in this capacity for 14 years." Córdova was a teacher at TMS for 10 years before becoming the school principal -- he also taught in Santa Fe and Pojoaque.
"He ran a tight ship. He was a no-nonsense administrator, but he was so compassionate," said Lillian Torrez, superintendent of the Taos Municipal Schools District. "He had an open door policy, and he was very highly respected."
"I don't think he's ever called in sick. So he's got a whole year of sick leave," said Torrez. "He comes in early and he stays late -- he's that kind of dedicated administrator."
Córdova, as well as vice principal Sue Martin-Trujillo, are stepping down from their roles at the end of the month. His last contract date is June 18. His successor will be Linda Martinez.
"It's been the most difficult professional decision I've ever made," said Córdova.
Born from educators
Córdova's parents were both educators -- his father, Alfred Senior, was the principal of Taos High School, a teacher and a Central Office administrator. His mother Susan also taught in Taos.
"Education was in my blood," said Córdova. "My wife is the principal at Ranchos Elementary School. So when we get together -- just the four of us -- we have well over 100 years of experience."
"I'm very fortunate," he said. "My parents, along with my wife Lourdes, have been very supportive throughout my career, especially as an administrator. And it takes the support of your family -- you have to have that support."
Passing the torch
Córdova passed along the importance of a good education to his two children. "I went to New Mexico State, and I worked in Santa Fe for a while. That's where I met my wife," said Córdova. "We had our first child -- Alfred the third. I'm very proud of him."
Córdova's son has an undergraduate and a master's degree in mechanical engineering, and works for the tech giant Intel.
His daughter, Mica, was born in Taos a few years later. "I'm very proud of her too. She has her undergraduate degree in biology, and will be getting her master's in biomechanical engineering in December from UNM."
A record of accomplishment
Córdova said there are two programs he's instituted over the last few years that he's proud of. "Taos Middle School is a certified AVID school. You have to meet certain criteria to become a certified AVID school, and we've met that criteria," he said. "We're very proud of that."
The AVID program is a national initiative that places student mentors in the classroom to give kids the opportunity to learn from their older peers.
"The other one is our math program called Teach To One," he continued. "Students that potentially would be going into the sciences, medicine, engineering -- this has really made a difference in some student's lives, where now they like doing math."
After school plans
Córdova owns a small ranch in San Cristóbal, and plans to spend his retirement there. "I think ninth generation on the land that we're on now."
"I have a few head of cattle, a bull and some calves. There's always something to do," said Córdova. "You're always checking the fences, checking your animals."
"It's fun, though, because my family gets together -- my parents, my sister comes over. And we're in partnership with my parents in the ranch. We all have a vested interest in making sure the business is taken care of."
A parting message
Taos Middle School faculty and staff threw Córdova a going-away party on Friday (June 4) at Casa de Valdez on Paseo del Pueblo Sur.
"It's been a privilege to be able to help as many students and work with so many families over the course of my tenure here. The schools have gone through a lot over the course of the last year. And I'm hoping that we get back to some kind of normal learning environment for the fall," said Córdova.
"But I see so many teachers going above and beyond, and trying to provide the best learning experience for the students. My message to the community would be 'work towards having a positive relationship with your child's school.' That would be super beneficial for their child -- our students."