At 26 years old and in her fourth year of teaching, Ivonne Orozco just added a prestigious line to her résumé: 2018 New Mexico Teacher of the Year.
Orozco, a Spanish teacher at the Public Academy for the Performing Arts high school in Albuquerque, was surprised in her seventh-period Spanish II class by family, friends, co-workers and New Mexico Education Secretary-designate Christopher Ruszkowski on Tuesday afternoon.
Most of the class whipped out their cellphones, recording the moment as well as cheering and clapping for their instructor.
“Ivonne’s years of service to students at the Public Academy for the Performing Arts in Albuquerque exemplify the best of the teaching profession in New Mexico,” Ruszkowski said. “She believes that education provides students with the tools to create real change in their world.”
Orozco, who came to the United States from Mexico as a child with her parents, said she uses real-world events and experiences in conjunction with a standards-driven curriculum to engage her students.
Her parents, Alfredo and Fernanda Orozco, were part of the group that surprised their daughter at work.
“The best kids come from good homes,” Ivonne Orozco said to her parents in Spanish, as tears welled in the eyes of her father. “Without that, this would not be possible.”
Orozco also encouraged those interested in changing the lives of children to choose teaching.
“If you really love children and if you really want to make a difference then the classroom is the way to go and the classroom is where to be,” she said. “… When you go home, maybe, yeah, there’s a little bit of paperwork, but when you come in and you get to see your students and you get to work with them, that is the greatest reward.”
Orozco was chosen from 14 semifinalists by a committee of educators.
She’ll represent the state in Washington, D.C., when the National Teacher of the Year will be announced by the president.
A New Mexico teacher has yet to win the award, which has been given by the Council of Chief State School Officers since 1952.
Orozco was nominated by Public Academy for the Performing Arts Executive Director Doreen Winn, who called Orozco a “success story.”
“I think in education, there are times when somebody so magnificent comes along that they need that recognition,” Winn said.
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