Stephanie Gurule-Leyba wins Golden Apple

Ortiz Middle School teachers Stephanie Gurule-Leyba and Debra Parke were surprised on Wednesday, May 4th with Golden Apple honors from the Golden Apple Foundation of New Mexico. Ms. Gurule-Leyba, a sixth- to eighth-grade biomedical science teacher, received a Golden Apple for Excellence in Teaching Award and Ms. Parke was named a Golden Apple Finalist. Ms. Gurule-Leyba is one of seven Excellence in Teaching winners recognized statewide for "working hard every day to inspire students in New Mexico classrooms." Ms. Parke is an eighth-grade math and Algebra I teacher and catalyst who inspires students.

"We are thrilled for both Stephanie Gurule-Leyba and Debra Parke for receiving these recognitions. They are teacher heroes who are changing lives each day. It is such an honor to have their expertise, enthusiasm and committed leadership in our district and at Ortiz Middle School," said Superintendent Hilario "Larry" Chavez.

Ms. Gurule-Leyba was named the 2017 New Mexico Teacher of the Year while teaching at Capital High School. About that honor, she said that she knew she wanted to be a teacher while a senior in high school. She has said, "Teaching gives me the outlet to help my students be innovative and experience that anything is possible. I tell them dream big but dream differently! Teaching offers me a different lens through which I can see my students figuring out this 'thing called life.' I am grateful each day that I can help my students discover their abilities as they work towards their goals. Teaching is the gift that keeps on giving."

At Ortiz, she has implemented the Jr. Biomedical Sciences Career Exploration Program (BSCEP II) as a sixth- to eighth-grade career pathway. A pathway student has said, "Being a part of BSCEP II has taught me that I can have a job in healthcare and I don't have to become a doctor or a nurse. Ms. Leyba says its the quality of education that counts."

Ms. Parke was interviewed for a Sunday, May 1st article in the Santa Fe New Mexican on improving math scores. It said, "Parke has several classroom strategies aimed at easing students' anxiety and boosting their confidence: She begins teaching new material with something kids can grasp right away to ward off low self-esteem; she's ditched rows of seats for clusters of desks to encourage students to work together; a bilingual "word wall" is displayed near carefully handwritten math posters to help her Spanish-speaking students follow along more easily.... Parke estimates in most years, 90 percent of her students pass an end-of-course exam." It said that sustained growth in her classroom is what she lives for. "I have several students who say, 'I've never gotten math till now,' So that's my big smiley face right there."