LAS CRUCES — The energy, the give-and-take between David Morales and his students is non stop.
It’s fun and contagious, too.
“On a scale of one to 10, he’s an 11,” said Kathryn Trujillo, a 16-year-old junior enrolled in Morales’ ENLACE — Engaging Latino Communities for Education — class, at Mayfield High School. “I changed my grades dramatically (for the better) because of him.”
Morales, who teaches ENLACE and New Mexico history at Mayfield, has been named the New Mexico Teacher of the Year. He was selected from teachers in 89 school districts across the state. A panel of past New Mexico Teachers of the Year, school district superintendents, board certified teachers in New Mexico, school administrators and other teachers picked Morales as the state’s best.
“Mr. Morales is one of a kind and is a superb example of teachers who deeply care about their students lives,” said Stan Rounds, Las Cruces Public Schools (LCPS) superintendent, in a press release announcing Morales’ award. “He interacts with students and builds long-lasting, positive relationships.”
Morales’ state award follows his selection as Las Cruces Public Schools Teacher of the Year in April. In the spring, he will go to Washington, D.C. to meet President Obama. Morales is also now eligible for the National Teacher of the Year Award.
Although proud of the state award, Morales directed most of the attention to students and fellow teachers.
“It’s really not so much about me,” Morales said. “It’s about them (the students), and the teachers I see walking up and down the halls, and those at other schools. Those are the people I admire and have a lot of respect for.”
If the old saying is true, that respect is earned and not given, Morales shows that he is worthy of respect.
“He cares. He wants to know me as a student,” said Beatriz Felix, a Mayfield junior.
Even those not in Morales’ class, those students who don’t go to Mayfield High School, know of him and would gladly, gratefully be one of his students.
“Even though I don’t go to Mayfield I still know he’s a great teacher,” said Perla Torres, a Las Cruces High School senior.
Morales was born and raised in Las Cruces. He grew up in the north Mesquite Street Historic District, in the neighborhood near Mesquite Street and Juniper Avenue.
“We weren’t the wealthiest family but we had enough,” Morales said. “My parents worked hard to give us as much as they could and impress on us a strong family bond.
“I was a horrible student, but my parents stressed to me that I could have a chance (at a good life).”
Morales, who has been a teacher for 11 years, can relate to many of his students who struggle to find their own identities and believe they can be good students and good citizens. Morales wasn’t kidding, either, about the impact and influences other teachers have had on him.
“I’m a master thief,” Morales smiled. “Any teacher I see I’ll take what effective tools they’re using to communicate with students and use those same qualities on my students.”
But what has helped him become an outstanding teacher, and communicator, is a simple understanding.
“It’s all about becoming family,” he said. “That’s how we unite.”
“He showed me how to care,” said Alexandria Garibay, a junior at Mayfield. “I care because I want to go to college. Before I was in his class I didn’t think high school was relevant, I didn’t think it would take me places.
“But he taught me (high school) is everything, it determines your future.”
Christopher Adams, regional coordinator for southern New Mexico’s ENLACE program said Morales’ methods are exactly what students enrolled in the program need and want.
“Don;t ever let education get in the way of learning,” Adams said. “Education, so often, doesn’t connect to life. For education to be relevant, it has to center on (students’) lives. …That’s why we say we’re family first.”
ENLACE, a college preparatory program, began in New Mexico in 2000. Each of the state’s five regions that have ENLACE programs share $200,000 in state funding. Although that doesn’t mean much funding for the program, Adams said ENLACE’s high school graduation rate in New Mexico was 97 percent, and 91 percent of high school students who completed the program were able to move on to higher education.
“David is a great representative for all of the hard-working, dedicated educators who make up the vast majority of our employee pool,” said Patrick Sanchez, president of the Las Cruces chapter of the National Education Association, in a LCPS press release. “He continues to give all his students the opportunity to succeed.”
Steve Ramirez can be reached at 575-541-5452, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and on Twitter @SteveRamirez6.
©2015 the Las Cruces Sun-News (Las Cruces, N.M.)
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