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Golden apple for teacher

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — They teach business, drama, Spanish and world history at public and private schools around the state.

They are among the seven teachers recognized as outstanding in their field this year by the Golden Apple Foundation of New Mexico, which has been giving out the awards since 1996.

Teachers are nominated by peers, students, administrators, parents and community members, and are picked based on essays and classroom observations. The winners get $1,500, a computer donated by Intel Corp. and $4,000 toward their professional development plans.

Among this year’s crop is a brother and sister who teach at Albuquerque High. Furthermore, both Sherry Lober and Eric Strauss teach business.

Some of the winners said at the Golden Apple’s annual ceremony this month that they had given up other choices to become teachers and did not regret it.

Strauss said the high point is “that magnetic moment when you set something in motion.”

Kevin Cummins, an English teacher at Bosque School, said, “To teach well, one must not only love children but love to spend time with them, guide them and cheer them through failures. A failure is an event, not a person.”

Several of the teachers took a shot at the state’s education reforms, including what they said was a greater emphasis on high-stakes testing.

“Education is difficult, right now more difficult than ever,” Lober said in her remarks. “You should be concerned that we have many of our veteran teachers retiring. Their knowledge and experience is priceless.”


Kevin J. Cumminscummins

Teaches ninth- and 12th-grade English at the independent Bosque School.

“Teaching high school English, I offer students an alternative culture — literature. Older than computers or TV, literature, to quote Franz Kafka, is ‘the axe that breaks the frozen sea within us.'”



Jonathan L. Hagmaier IIhagmaier

Teaches drama, digital film and stagecraft at Del Norte High School.

“I recently went to lunch with a former student of mine and, as we were wrapping up our meal and preparing to leave, he stopped me and said, ‘I need to thank you.’ When I asked him why, he said, ‘I have a job because of you. I get to use the things you taught me every day. I think I learned more in your class that I actually use every day than I learned in any other class. I know I learned more about life from you than I did anywhere else.'”


Sherry L. Loberlober

Teaches business at Albuquerque High School.

“Honestly, I love teaching! It has been my passion and my mission in life to teach and inspire young people and help them find success.

“It’s not for the money,” she said at the ceremony. “I know my students drive much nicer cars than we do.”


Eric Straussstrauss

Teaches business at Albuquerque High School.

“One year, I took a group of students to Hawaii on a hospitality and tourism marketing trip. … One student told me he dreamed of a better life, and that the trip had changed his view of school and life. Tragically, he died a few months later, but it gives me great solace to know that he had an amazing life experience before he left this world far too soon.”


Sean Thomasthomas

Teaches world history, government, AP psychology and philosophy at Eldorado High School.

“There are many standout moments in my teaching career that have inspired me … . At the end of a service-learning trip, where students worked with families in poverty, cleaned rivers and open spaces, packaged food in the food pantries and worked in soup kitchens … I had several students approach me with tears in their eyes. One of the students stated he felt completely powerless in a world he lived in and contemplated suicide. He told me that this trip made him feel like he could make a difference and that it empowered him to work for the change that he wanted. He said he no longer felt helpless. I don’t think I could have wished for a more important lesson to be learned.”


Mario T. Vigilmariovigil

Teaches 10th-, 11th- and 12th-grade Spanish at Pojaoque Valley High School.

“When students are not only learning Spanish, but also life lessons, it shows that they are truly dedicated to self-actualizing. Hearing a student say that he was able to give directions to a native Spanish speaker, interact more fully with grandma who is monolingual or experience academic success in college is music to my ears.”



Rachel L. Weiheweihe

Teaches world history at Del Norte High School.

“For me, it is more than the test scores, grand award or newspaper articles that inform me of my effectiveness as a teacher. It is the simple ‘thank you’ from a student, parent or colleague that speaks volumes.”