No break for teachers

Freedom New Mexico: Argen Duncan Portales High School teacher Alex Lopez flips through a grade book. He said he checks the past grades of students new to his class to learn about them in preparation for teaching them.

By Thomas Garcia: Freedom New Mexico

While the students head out to play during the winter break, it is business as usual for area high school teachers.

When the last bell sounds, high school students have a few weeks to leave behind the books and homework.

But for area teachers, the winter break is a chance to catch up, regroup and develop a battle plan of sorts for the coming semester.

“I left the school with a bag full of books,” said Renie Smith, a senior English teacher at Clovis High School. “I, like many other teachers, am taking home books to work on lesson plans.”

Smith said some of the books she has taken home include “Ten plays by Euripides” and “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich” by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

Smith said the winter break gives teachers a chance to assess what has worked, what did not and what new techniques could be used to better reach the students.

“Every teacher is working during winter break all in an effort to better educate the students,” Smith said.

Smith said she will research on the Internet and seek out new resource guides to become a better educator.

“It is a lot of work but we do it for the children,” Smith said. “Most think when the school bell rings and the students leave, the day is over for the teacher. That is simply not true.”

Smith said teachers are working long hours after school ends grading papers, projects and looking ahead to tomorrow’s lesson.

“Even in the summer we are still busy,” Smith said. “We are attending professional development workshops and developing the coming year’s plan.”

When school is in session, teachers have a chance to meet and get to know their students. They see first hand how a student reacts to the way a lesson, subject or topic is being taught to them.

“We (teachers) get a chance to know the students from August-to-December,” said Alex Lopez, Spanish teacher, Portales High.

“You get to see if the way you are teaching a subject is being well received by the student,” Smith said.

Lopez said it is not uncommon to have to change teaching strategy to better reach the students.

In Lopez’s case, he is going from one subject to another when the winter break ends.

“I was teaching U.S. history,” Lopez said. “Now I will be teaching Spanish.”

Smith said the complete change in subject and language makes for an interesting winter break.

“I have a lot of work to do,” Lopez said. “Luckily I will have a lot of resources at my disposal.”

Lopez said the toughest part will be familiarizing himself with the new subject and curriculum in such a short amount of time.

“We are hired by the district to teach,” Smith said. “They will move us around to best suit the educational needs of the students.”