Opinion: The year of educators' voices rising

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As your 2018 New Mexico Teacher of the Year, I am honored to be one of your teacher-leader voices.

The diversity among us in New Mexico is an asset. My family immigrated here from Mexico when I was 12 years old. I was an English language learner in middle school and later took honors courses in high school, I ran cross country and track, and I graduated in the top 10 percent of my class. I am a proud University of New Mexico graduate. Go Lobos!

But I did not get here alone: I had teachers and family that set core foundations along my journey that contributed to my success. These included having high expectations, staying the course, building a strong voice and valuing teachers and education.

Every day in my classroom, I keep in mind that all students can be successful no matter where they traveled from to get here in the morning, or how much money their parents have, or how much they still have to learn. I keep my expectations high.

It's unclear why some people still have a misconception that students facing challenges at home can't succeed at school. That is false.

Lowering standards for any of our kids is a disservice. They deserve high-quality standards, options and teachers.

My mission for my students at Public Academy for Performing Arts (PAPA) in Albuquerque is to make sure they achieve high academic standards while pursuing artistic excellence. Staying the course is critical to long-term success in life and in our public education system.

As a young teacher, I have witnessed the distress caused by constantly changing systems. Every few years things change with exams, evaluations and leadership just as we start to adjust to the last set of changes.

I won't be complacent when provided the opportunity to sit at the table with policymakers on this issue. I do not have all the answers, but I know that teachers in our state, who work hard and are passionate about their students, do have collective answers. In my role representing the state's teachers, I will be a conduit of teacher voices in those conversations.

One way I have decided to take a stance on my beliefs is by using my voice. For far too long, teachers' voices have not been properly represented.

But in recent years, the New Mexico Public Education Department has created opportunities with a Teacher-Leader Network that includes the School Liaison Program, the NM Dream Team and the Secretary's Teacher Advisory. I have taken part in these programs.

They are creating a network for passionate teachers to advance student learning, to learn more about policy, and to express concerns. We are leading the nation with this work, and we must sustain it.

We must also focus on recruiting the next generation of teachers. Many teachers work within 20 miles of where they attended high school, which means tomorrow's teachers are sitting right in front of us today.

We must show our students the rewards and gratification of being a teacher. Many of my students see themselves in me, and I take that seriously as I advocate for my profession and for them. They deserve hope.

As a Dreamer, I know how important it is to know that someone is fighting in your corner. I will continue to stand up for my community and future generations in the fight for a permanent solution for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients. I want to thank Secretary Christopher Ruszkowski and the PED for giving me this role and platform and for recognizing my work in cultivating student achievement growth.

I hope I am a reflection of the beautiful diversity of our state. I hope that students and teachers can see themselves in me.

I will continue to give you my all for the remainder of 2018, demonstrating that educator voices like mine are truly on the rise in New Mexico. I will see you throughout 2018.

Ivonne Orozco is a teacher in Albuquerque.

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