How did you get where you are today, and who/what helped you along the way?
First and foremost, dogged determination and a whole lot of hard work!
In my first years in Taos, I met two teachers (Tracy Jaramillo and Ellary Simms) who also believed in creating a school model that would be student-centered and run by teachers. That was the start of our vision of the Anansi Day School and later the Anansi Charter School. I have spent all of my working years in Taos envisioning, cultivating, and collaborating with many, many people to create a unique public school where children develop their social emotional skills alongside of their academic skills; they learn to communicate, problem solve, self-advocate, and believe they make a difference.
I have had many mentors who helped me develop the vision for my work in education and the direction I took in my leadership at the Anansi Charter School. The success of Anansi is far from mine alone; I have been fortunate to work with a very dedicated and committed professional teaching staff, and build relationships with parents in our community who have worked hard to support the vision of our school and have helped to grow it to the size it is today. Through collaboration with other school leaders, and their teachers we have been working to bring the importance of education to forefront of our community.
In my personal life, I have been fortunate to have a supportive husband, son, and extended family who have joined in on the hard work of school development, supported me when I have been discouraged or tired, and understood when I put the school ahead of our life at home.
If you could go back in time and tell your 18-year-old self anything, what would it be?
Trust yourself, listen to your inner voice, and go for what gives you joy both in work and life.
How do you achieve work-life balance?
Not sure, that I have yet; however, my motto for most of my adult life has been “work hard, play harder”. I attempt to maintain 100% presence wherever I am. At work, I strive to give my undivided attention to my staff, students, and families, while I also juggle the many tasks that I must accomplish each day to keep the school on track. In my personal life, I prioritize my health through rest, diet, exercise, and a healthy dose of play (skiing, biking, hiking, dancing, and laughing).
How do you motivate yourself and stay motivated?
I am most motivated by the children we serve in our school. The excitement I see in them as they discover and understand a new concept, the smile of pride when they feel a sense of accomplishment, and their ability to start each day with fresh optimism. If I am having a tough day, I take time to observe and work with the children; I gain perspective through my interactions with them. They help me remember why I chose the tough work of school leadership.
I am an eternal optimist. I believe in the possibility, and then I work to achieve it. If a door closes, I look for a window or another door to open. I don’t give up easily.
What’s an accomplishment that you are proudest of?
Hmm. This is tough! As a mother, I am most proud of my son who recently graduated from college and is now beginning his life as an adult. It is exciting to see your child become a person with values and goals.
In my career and life’s work, I have a hard time resting on laurels; there is so much work still to be done in the world of advocating for and educating children! There are many bright moments in my years as director Anansi, and a couple exceptional milestones.
We took fourteen years to develop the school we are today, serving kindergarten through eighth grade children, building the beautiful and unique campus that we offer our students and families. It was challenging to find the funding to accomplish this. I’m proud that we have been able to develop a campus that supports our vision by giving children a place that feels safe and welcoming and consistently offers them opportunities to try their best and feel valued.
In addition, we went through a rigorous vetting process to be awarded the status of an international Ashoka Changemaker School. The educational model of Anansi Charter School has been studied through the Ashoka Network and been presented at an international conference for its work in the development of emotional intelligence.
Finally, in 2018 Anansi Charter School was one of three New Mexico Public Schools awarded a National Blue Ribbon for our work in closing the achievement gap for “at risk” students.
As an invisible mentor, what is one piece of advice that you would give to readers?
Visualize and focus upon what you hope to accomplish rather than the obstacles or fears that might get in the way. Take time to reflect, see mistakes or missteps as opportunities to learn and grow, and use your next opportunities to improve upon your efforts.
Meet all of the Taos Woman 2020 Women of Impact:
• Debbie Lujan: Community and Non-Profit Leadership
• Michele Hunt: Educator
• Jacquelene McHorse: Entrepreneur
• Yvette Ortega: Restauranteur
• Catherine Strisik: Literary Artist
• Ernestina Cordova: Community Volunteer
• Lisa Abeyta-Valerio: Athletics
• Nikki Ross: Children's Creative Opportunities
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