ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — La Cueva High music teacher Deanna Amend got to her classroom at 6:15 a.m. Monday, expecting a busy morning of choir practice for an upcoming competition.
Instead, students arrived with balloons, doughnuts, chocolate milk and gifts to celebrate Amend’s recent designation as New Mexico State Music Educator of the Year.
The veteran teacher was emotional as she opened a poster-sized card signed by all her “kids from another mother.”
“You create such beauty in my life,” Amend told the class. “I cherish this time we have together.”
Sabrina Brightwell, a La Cueva senior, said she helped organize the party because her beloved choir teacher deserves recognition.
A kind, upbeat person, Amend is a mentor who can offer life advice between lessons on scales and melody.
“I love that she’s not just a teacher – you can talk to her about problems,” Brightwell said. “She understands.”
To La Cueva assistant principal Brett Rimer, Amend combines heart with high standards.
During her 32 years in the classroom, Amend’s choirs have earned numerous New Mexico Activities Association championships.
She has also held leadership positions in the New Mexico Music Educators Association, which named her State Music Educator of the Year.
In February, Amend will bring her show choir to the Lone Star Invitational competition near Dallas. Another contest in California is around the corner.
“I like to show them (the students) off because they are so wonderful,” Amend said.
Amend also focuses on giving back – her students complete at least one service project per school year for agencies such as Roadrunner Food Bank, Joy Junction, Locker 505 Clothing Bank and the Greater Albuquerque Habitat for Humanity.
Before coming to La Cueva, Amend worked at Eisenhower Middle School, Heights Cumberland Presbyterian Church, Sandia High and Grant Middle School.
Rimer said Amend is a “phenomenal educator” who excels at explaining musical techniques and the ways they can help improve performance.
Four of her La Cueva students have gone on to pursue degrees in music education.
“She’s dedicated her life to music,” Rimer said. “That’s why she’s New Mexico music educator of the year.”
The award is a cherry on top of Amend’s successful teaching career. In May, she will retire from La Cueva to become a mentor for middle school choir directors.
“It’s been an amazing journey,” Amend said. “I set out really to serve. That’s what I wanted to do.”