Janalyn Maes, a second grade teacher at Albuquerque’s Hodgin Elementary School, knows her job is not done when the school bell rings after the last class of the day. Often, some of her most valuable work gets done in after-school programs.
“Hodgin has something every month,” Maes, 49, said. “We have Dr. Seuss Meets Harry Potter Night, a program with reading at the core of it. We have Kids Cook Day. We invite parents in, we cook foods from around the world, learn geography and read a story.
“We all believe we should reach out for families and help them support their children at home. If you get the buy-in from parents, you have such a better classroom and community – after school and during the day.”
Because of her commitment to her work, her students and their parents, Maes was recently named a 2019 PBS KIDS Early Learning Champion, one of only 10 teachers in the country so honored.
This past week, she was recognized for her achievement during the Albuquerque Public Schools board meeting.
Maes received the award in November during the National Association for the Education of Young Children Conference in Nashville, Tennessee. The award program recognizes devoted teachers who work with children from infants to second graders and makes available to them a variety of community building, leadership and professional learning opportunities provided by PBS KIDS.
Hollie Lovely, early childhood education outreach coordinator for New Mexico PBS, KNME-TV, nominated Maes for the award after seeing her involvement at Hodgin with the PBS KIDS program Family Creative Learning.
“We work with teachers quite a bit, and most of the time we get a little resistance because teachers are so busy they are reluctant to take on new things,” Lovely said. “But Janalyn saw the benefit right away of taking advantage of the Family Creative Learning program. She had such a can-do spirit and was willing to step outside her normal schedule.”
Early Learning Champion educators receive no monetary award. Instead, they get more work.
Maes’ honor comes with a two-year commitment to team up with PBS to introduce PBS KIDS educational programs and tools to other early learning teachers in the Albuquerque Public Schools.
“I told her, ‘This is the next phase of your career, teaching other teachers to be as amazing as you are,’ ” Lovely said.
Maes grew up in Santa Fe, graduated from Santa Fe High School, did her undergraduate work at New Mexico State University and earned a master’s degree from Grand Canyon University.
She taught in Arizona for two years and Tularosa for 12 years before coming to Albuquerque in 2007. She was on the teaching staff at Zuni Elementary for a few years and is now in her eighth year at Hodgin, 3801 Morningside NE. She has taught pre-schoolers, kindergarteners, first graders and second graders. She thinks second graders are really special.
“Kids 7 to 8 years old are fabulous,” she said. “They are kind of independent, and they have personalities. They say things that make you crack up. But they love school. They want to be here and learn. ‘Wow, we are going to do subtraction.’ ”
Through local PBS stations, such as Albuquerque’s KNME, PBS KIDS offers children 2 to 8 the chance to explore new ideas and worlds through television, digital media and community-based programs.
For example, the PBS KIDS Family Creative Learning program brings parents and kids together in four sessions over four weeks at places such as libraries or school cafeterias.
“We had eight to 10 parents at Hodgin,” Maes said of the Family Creative Learning sessions at her school last spring. “We worked with parents to show them how technology can be used for learning, not just for babysitting. And there was some craft-making involved. We made stuff, showed stuff.”
Lovely said participants in the Family Creative Learning program also eat together during the weekly get-togethers.
“The program helps (parents and kids) develop relationships with their schools,” Lovely said. “It really helps parents with supporting their kids and cuts down on absenteeism.”
Maes is working now with PBS’ AIM Buddy Project at Hodgin. Interactive media featuring characters from the PBS series “Arthur” are used in this program to aid in social, emotional and character development.
A special element of the AIM Buddy Project is that students are paired with partners from another grade – fourth graders with second graders in the Hodgin program. Partners work together on interactive comics and games that focus on specific topics.
“The project teaches them about empathy, forgiveness, generosity and learning from others,” Maes said. “It teaches them the difference between bullying and teasing. There are some really good conversations between the fourth graders and the second graders.”
Maes said she was honored and surprised to be named an Early Learning Champion.
“And of course I am excited about the opportunity to further my learning and to help my students, school and family,” she said. “I will be helping other teachers to use these (PBS) resources.”
Lovely said Maes is a humble person.
“She said, ‘I don’t do anything more special than everybody else,’ ” Lovely said. “But she’s really something. I am so excited to be working with her.”