Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal
In a 28-minute speech to a ballroom full of teachers, Gov. Susana Martinez kicked off this year’s New Mexico Teacher Summit with anecdotes that touted her administration’s work, gave kudos to teachers who “hold students in your hands” and reminded them of their responsibility.
The event – a two-day, state Public Education Department-hosted professional development conference at the Albuquerque Convention Center – brought in teachers from across the state, with some traveling from as far as Texico and Shiprock.
Dawn Bilbrey, an eighth-grade English language arts and U.S. history teacher at Texico Middle School, traveled four hours to be there.
“I plan my summer around this,” she said.
The teacher of nearly two decades has participated in the summit since it launched three years ago, seeing it grow from 300 attendees to 1,300 this year, the largest group of participants to date.
She told the Journal that she was nearly ready to quit her career in teaching a couple of years ago.
“I was almost maxed out,” she said.
But she rediscovered her passion for the profession through collaboration with other teachers and workshops offered at the conference.
The summit, which is available and free for all teachers, offers about 300 sessions that range from how to balance physical fitness with work to how to interpret and apply teacher evaluations.
“What we are doing here is so unique because it’s teacher-driven,” Bilbrey said.
The middle school teacher was one of the many teachers who registered. Seventy-five districts had teachers at the summit, with Albuquerque sending at least 180.
Martinez extolled accomplishments during her two terms, saying more students in the state are taking Advanced Placement classes than in previous years, and noted increases in state pre-kindergarten funding and district participation.
“Education in New Mexico is on the rise,” she said.
The summit kicks off as gubernatorial candidates on both sides of the aisle – U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who won the state’s Democratic nomination, and Republican candidate U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce – have said they would overhaul teacher evaluations, which has been a pivotal and controversial part of Martinez’s education efforts.
“God bless you and everything you do,” Martinez concluded her speech to the teachers.