To salute area teachers for Teacher Appreciation Week last week, the Rio Rancho Observer asked administrators at the city’s two largest high schools to nominate two respected and deserving teachers.
And here they are:
• Shawnee Legere has been a math teacher at Cleveland High School since it opened in time for the 2009-10 school year.
Before that, she taught at Rio Rancho Mid-High and Rio Rancho High School. She has been teaching for a dozen years.
Growing up in Citrus Heights, Calif., she originally wanted to be a veterinarian.
“I grew up riding horses,” she said.
After graduating from high school in 2001, she enrolled in California State-Sacramento, where she had “an amazing math teacher. … She was just incredible and I changed my degree to math.”
Legere did math tutoring, helping others struggling with the subject, but for her it was the enjoyment of problem-solving that made math her favorite subject.
“It was the sense of solving something,” she said.
She transferred to the University of New Mexico, having family members in New Mexico, and later graduated from New Mexico Tech in Socorro.
Flash ahead a few years: She met her husband, Scott, at swing-dance lessons; the couple has three children with another on the way. Scott Legere is a math teacher at Rio Rancho High School, and Shawnee is the math instructional leader at Cleveland High, where she teaches trigonometry, math analysis and, her real love, she says, AP Calculus.
“I’m always willing to do what it takes to help (students),” she said, “not make them feel dumb, but to answer their questions.
“Ultimately, I want them to succeed,” she said. “I feel this is the first time they hit something that didn’t come easily.”
She’s more than happy to help them in their journey, with many of them headed to college and, someday, careers in engineering and other jobs that require a lot of math knowledge.
“I have amazing students,” Legere said.
• Amanda Bader, a veteran teacher at Rio Rancho High School, said she initially had her eyes on being a firefighter, like her father, or maybe a lawyer, but then realized “Grandma knew best.”
“My grandmother taught English for 42 years; she taught at Queen of Heaven and St. Pius in Albuquerque — and she always told me I was going to be a teacher,” Bader said. “And I thought she was full of it.”
Born and raised in Albuquerque, and a 1992 graduate of West Mesa High School, she obtained two degrees at UNM.
“I didn’t like high school; I certainly wasn’t a popular kid,” Bader said. “It’s sometimes interesting to me that I ended up here.”
Now the Social Studies head, she’s in her 19th year at RRHS. She and her husband, Drew, a retired Albuquerque Police officer, have two daughters attending RRHS, but she won’t have them in her classes.
“I teach AP World History with sophomores, Government and Economics with seniors, and AP Language and Composition, which is the 12th grade AP English course,” she said.
She makes it a point to know her students and to tell them her class isn’t the most-important thing of their day, but they have to work hard while in the classroom.
“What I try to tell them is there’s always something to be interested in, and there’s lots of things that you’re going to need that you don’t know,” she said. “The main thing I try to teach them is how to learn, how to be curious, how to ask the right questions, how to think critically and how to solve problems.
“Those are things we all need; regardless of what their career path or their chosen field is, those skills benefit all of them.”
The biggest change in the learning process she’s seen since she started at RRHS, she said, has been due to technology: “(Students) don’t have great perseverance; they don’t have great stamina — for anything — because they live in the ‘instant world.’ They flick their screen and see a million (things) all day. That’s what they do.
“If I have a strength, it’s the relationships I have with kids,” she said. “They tease me that I’m really honest with them.”