My Turn: Sonya Romero, an extraordinary educator with roots in Peñasco

One of our own, Sonya Romero, just received statewide and national recognition as a distinguished teacher.

Ted Sahd
Posted 4/16/15

One of our own, Sonya Romero, just received statewide and national recognition as a distinguished teacher. She has been honored for teaching excellence, for attentiveness to her student’s needs, and for her generosity.

For those who know Sonya …

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My Turn: Sonya Romero, an extraordinary educator with roots in Peñasco

One of our own, Sonya Romero, just received statewide and national recognition as a distinguished teacher.

Posted

One of our own, Sonya Romero, just received statewide and national recognition as a distinguished teacher. She has been honored for teaching excellence, for attentiveness to her student’s needs, and for her generosity.

For those who know Sonya there is little doubt of her competence as a teacher and of her humanitarian instincts. Now many more know her story. In late January, she was nominated for and received KOB TV’s “Pay It 4ward” $400 award. The story was then picked up by The Washington Post as part of an article on the problems confronting today’s teachers, problems above and beyond the simple teaching of facts and the honing of learning skills.

On March 19, Ellen DeGeneres made her the subject of an on-air award of $10,000. That award was duplicated with an additional $10,000 grant to Lew Wallace Elementary School in Albuquerque. Most recently she was the subject of a front page article in the Albuquerque Journal.

Originally educated as a bilingual teacher, Sonya now teaches kindergarten as part of the faculty of Lew Wallace Elementary School. There she encounters children who do not come to school prepared to learn. For various reasons, including poverty, they have needs beyond simple exposure to learning.

In November 2014, Sonya voluntarily took into her home two of those children designated to be placed in foster homes. She is raising them as if they were her own. With those children she found what she frequently encountered in her classroom. They were ill fed, ill clothed and generally insecure. In her classroom, Sonya maintains a drawer with socks and other items of clothing to help her students.

Sonya is the granddaughter of Alfredo Romero, the ex-Superintendent of the Peñasco Independent Schools (1949-1955). Alfredo not only taught in Peñasco after his stint as superintendent, but also taught in the Taos school system. Her great grandfather, José Romero, of Las Trampas was a great believer in education. In the late 19th Century, the Romero family migrated to the Peñasco area from the town of Córdova in what is now Rio Arriba County. In the 1920s, Jose sent his son, Alfredo, to Menaul School in Albuquerque. Alfredo’s education beyond secondary school continued in a seminary in California, New Mexico Highlands University, and Regis College in Denver.

Alfredo returned home to marry Emelina Rodarte and to teach in Peñasco public schools, then staffed and administered by Dominican nuns. In the late 1940s, after the Dixon case determined that the nuns could no longer administer public education, Peñasco established the Peñasco Independent School system and installed Alfredo as superintendent. Later he would teach in the Taos public schools. Even after he retired Alfredo stayed active as a small rancher and as a firefighter in the Tortugas, Peñasco’s nationally recognized forest firefighting team.

Sonya’s parents, Tommy and Dila, both former Peñasqueros, as well as her son Blaine have reason to be proud of her accomplishments. Certainly, her scholarly grandfather is looking down with pleasure given the recognition bestowed on her. Her story began in Las Trampas with her great grandparent’s faith in the power of excellent education. Sonya’s accomplishments are perfect illustrations of how teachers matter.

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