San Juan Elem.Teacher Named “Teacher Of The Year”

Antonia Herrera outside the School Board meeting on Wednesday, Nov 4. Valley Daily Post photo

San Juan Elem.Teacher Named “Teacher Of The Year”

By Robert A. Naranjo

SAN JUAN ELEMENTARY – Antonia Herrera fell in love with teaching almost as soon as she saw the bright eyes and enthusiasm of little kindergartners at Abiquiu Elementary School where she worked as a kindergarten Educational Assistant. The playground activity that convinced her to decide to pursue teaching is skipping. It’s interesting that skipping, an activity that almost all children love to do, caused her to have an epiphany that directed her to teaching. More on the skipping later.

Antonia Herrera was named teh Espanola Valley Public School’s “Teacher of the Year” at a School Board meeting on Nov. 4. Herrera has been teaching for 25 years. She said she was an Eastern NM University graduate and started her teaching career at El Rito, NM.

Asked what exactly made her decide to pursue teaching as a career, Herrera told the Valley Daily Post, “Well, actually I started at Abiquiu as an Educational Assistant. That’s when I started in the education field. It probably just took about a week or two to discover and decide that it was what I wanted to do. It was like a dream come true, kind of, and it all fell into place.”

“What was it that you liked exactly? Was it the eagerness to learn by the students?” Herrera was asked. “I was a kindergarten assistant and I guess one of the things that caught my eye was that I thought everybody could skip,” Herrera responded. “The Kinders – some of them couldn’t skip and I guess I just assumed everybody could skip,” she explained. “Skip rope?” the reporter asked. “No, skipping, you know – not running or walking but skipping. We had to teach them to skip and it was the neatest thing. Some of them did it automatically and some of them didn’t know how to skip so we had to teach them. I think some never learned,” she said. So it turned out that this activity was a sample of the learning ability of the students, the reporter asked. “Exactly,” she said.

Herrera then related a time when she was assigned to a disabled student at Abiquiu, whom became another motivational factor in deciding that teaching was for her. “I was assigned to student who was a disabled child. Just watching her learn and interact with the other children was inspirational and interesting. That’s what kicked it off,” she said.

Herrera at Wednesday's School Board meeting where she was formally named the district's Teacher of the Year. Valley Daily Post photo

After college, Herrera’s formal teaching career began at El Rito. Then a few years later, she went to San Juan Elementary. She said that it was quite a surprise for her when she went from a school of a little over 1OO students to one with over 4OO students. “So being that I was the new kid on the block, they gave me the tough students. I was assigned to the sixth graders. The sixth grade students were something to behold. There were so many things – one example was that the school required a science project,” she said. Each student was to create their own science project but some had never done one.

“So, I created a science project. There were about 6-1O kids in the class so my idea was to create a science project that they all could work on. So from there they all discovered their own science project. It was a great experience on that one. As simple as it was, a teachable moment is what you may call that,” she said with a hint of pride in her voice in the accomplishment of her students that first year teaching sixth graders at San Juan.

Antonia Herrera also taught fourth grade, ESL (English as a Second Language) and then back to sixth grade. Speaking of that grade level Herrera said “It’s always been my favorite grade.” And, likely, Antonia Herrera, 2O15 Teacher of the Year was the sixth graders favorite teacher, too.

All because of kindergartners learning the art of skipping and one amazing disabled girl that launched the career of an award-winning teacher, Antonia Herrera, whom personifies the old adage: “If you love what you do, you never work another day in your life!”