Alisa Boswell: Freedom New Mexico Terri Damron, a sixth-grade teacher at Zia Elementary in Clovis, helps student Jace Piepkorn, 12, with an assignment in an empty classroom Friday afternoon. Damron is Piepkorn’s favorite teacher because she is “always happy and really nice.”
With school back in session, Freedom New Mexico decided to ask students past and present who some of their favorite teachers were and why. Local residents from 12 to 90 years old shared memories of the positive influence their educators have had.
Tommie Haislett of Rogers said she was one of the first students to graduate from the Rogers school district after it was started.
She said her favorite teacher was her first-grade teacher, Burma Parks, from the Longs school district in the late 1920s.
“She loved all of us and wanted all of us to achieve,” Haislett said.
Don Reid of Clovis said his favorite was Clovis’ Highland Elementary teacher B.J. Pierce.
“He was a man who not only cared if you learned school curriculum but also cared that you learned about life,” Reid said of his sixth-grade teacher. “And he also cared about the students themselves as individuals. I see him occasionally and sometimes we have lunch together and talk about the old days.”
Reid said Pierce had a great impact on his life.
Portales Junior High student Kaycee Leary said the teacher who had the biggest impact on her was Sally Smith, her third-grade teacher.
“For one, she was Australian and I love the Australian culture,” Leary said. “Plus, she pampered me. I was kind of a teacher’s pet.”
Carol Erwin, an Eastern New Mexico University English professor, reminisced about some of the teachers who influenced her life and led her to her current career.
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She said the first teacher to inspire her Mary Ann Cortese, her English teacher in her senior year at Fort Sumner High School.
“She sent me in the direction of majoring in English,” Erwin said, telling how Cortese saw a talent for writing in Erwin she did not see in herself.
Erwin said she was also highly influenced and inspired by two of her college English professors, Bailey McBride and Nina Bjornsson.
“It was a really empowering class,” Erwin said of the English literature course she took with Bjornsson. “It gave me the ability to articulate thoughts I had been pondering for years.”
Jace Piepkorn, a sixth-grader at Zia Elementary in Clovis, said his favorite teacher overall is his current one, Terri Damron.
Piepkorn said his family has known Damron for years and he is best friends with her son, but his love for her as a teacher comes from more than that.
“She’s always happy and really nice,” he said.
“I definitely have a passion for teaching,” Damron said. “Every child has strengths. They just need guidance and someone to believe in them.”
Damron said her favorite teacher was Dorothy Orman, a Zia Elementary third-grade teacher in the 1970s.