ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Seven New Mexico high school teachers have earned the prestigious Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching for 2020, officials announced Monday afternoon.
The winners will receive a cash stipend and $4,000 to be used toward their professional development, officials said in a news release. They also become part of an ongoing professional community of outstanding teachers called the Golden Apple Academy of Fellows.
“(This) is the proudest day of the year for us,” said Golden Apple Foundation of New Mexico Executive Director Brian O’Connell in a statement. “These teachers are inspirational, and it is a major honor to reward them for their hard work and commitment to educating New Mexico’s children.”
For 24 years, the program has selected outstanding recipients from across the state, nominated by their communities including parents, fellow teachers, principals, community partners.
Finalists complete a rigorous application, site visit and vetting process to earn the award.
The seven 2020 recipients are:
• Shantel Dixon, Capital High School in Santa Fe Public Schools
• Lesha Dawn Harenberg, Eldorado High School in Albuquerque Public Schools
• Hope Montoya-Encinias, New Mexico Connections Academy
• Carman Moon, Capital High School in Santa Fe Public Schools
• Richard Pitman, Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe Public Schools
• Elgenia “Jeanie” Stark, Del Norte High School in Albuquerque Public Schools
• David Ubinger, Chaparral High School in Gadsden Independent Schools
The seven were selected from among 88 teachers from 26 different New Mexico communities around the state. In addition to the teaching credentials, their methodology, professional development experiences, community volunteerism, and other aspects of their teaching philosophy are examined, officials said in a news release.
In the final stage of the process, selection committee members conducted a full-day site visit at each 16 finalists’ schools, observing them in the classroom and interviewing the principal, other teachers, parents, students, and the finalist.
Winning teachers also demonstrated a commitment to their profession and their own professional growth as well as that of their colleagues.
The selection committee also is honoring an additional nine finalists as Golden Apple Teachers of Distinction.
• Olivia Casaus, Cuba High School in Cuba Independent Schools
• Jay Clack, Capital High School in Santa Fe Public Schools
• Sherry Copeland, Hot Springs High School in Truth or Consequences Municipal Schools
• Lisa Ehlers McCuller, Arrowhead Park Early College High School and Medical Academy in Las Cruces Public Schools
• Stephanie Mitchell, Los Alamos High School in Los Alamos Public Schools
• Michael Nair, Albuquerque High School in Albuquerque Public Schools
• Murray “Tony” Ray, Las Cruces High School in Las Cruces Public Schools
• Elizabeth Tafoya, Moreno Valley High School in Cimarron Public Schools
• Unna Valdez, Sandia High School in Albuquerque Public Schools
All the outstanding educators will be honored at the Golden Apple Tribute to Teacher Excellence luncheon on Friday, April 3, 2020, at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Albuquerque.
Tickets and table sponsorships for the event are available through the Golden Apple Foundation of New Mexico, (505) 268-5337, or by contacting email@example.com.
To nominate a teacher for the Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching, nominations for the 2021 (middle school) cycle will be open at www.goldenapplenm.org in December.
This story will run in the print edition of the Journal on Monday, Nov. 25.