Student athletes from Las Cruces High School’s football team recently recognized and celebrated teachers from throughout their educational careers who have had a lasting impact on their lives at the José M. Serna Teacher Impact Awards. The ceremony, which took place on Sunday, April 29, was the brainchild of LCHS Head Football Coach Mark Lopez.
“The award ceremony was designed to recognize outstanding teachers and create an opportunity to ‘pay it forward,’” Lopez said. “José M. Serna is my late father-in-law, and he believed strongly in education and helping those who are less fortunate.”
Serna, a mathematician who spent his career working as Program Manager for Applied Analysis at New Mexico State University’s Physical Science Laboratory, retired from the university in 1998. After retirement, Serna co-founded Border Health, a partnership which assisted New Mexico small business owners expand their markets. He joined the board of Border Environmental Health Coalition where he was elected president and became a vital part of the organization.
Sixteen Bulldawg football juniors — next year’s senior class — each picked one teacher they’ve had in their educational career who has had the biggest impact on their lives, Lopez said. The players then wrote short essays about why the teachers were so impactful and presented those thoughts during the awards ceremony.
Ivan Molina, one Bulldawg football player who participated, chose to recognize Jan Gallegos, an academic support teacher who spent her lunch breaks twice a week tutoring him.
“[At first,] I was pretty shy around her,” Ivan wrote. “As we got to know more about each other and became more comfortable around each other we became super close. She became a second mother to me because she is constantly on me about turning in school work for all classes and she is always checking my grades and showing her care for me.”
Gallegos even tutored Ivan for the ACT test during the summer of 2017 “because she cares that much for me,” he said.
Bulldawg John Romero recognized Victoria Griffin, his sixth grade Language Arts and Social Studies teacher.
“Mrs. Griffin helped to make my sixth-grade experience one I’ll remember. She understood who I was because she took the time to get to know her students,” John wrote. “I appreciate the time and effort she took to get to know me and to make sure I did well. I want to thank Mrs. Griffin for positively impacting my life by showing me that school didn’t have to be boring all the time. She helped me become who I am today. She helped me on my way to becoming a more responsible student and made me realize that, while school was hard work, at the end of the day, I could accomplish whatever I set my mind to.”
The LCHS Football Booster Club raised funds specifically for the awards ceremony, and at the end of the event two teachers were each presented with a $250 pay-it-forward grant to be used in the furtherance of the education for less-fortunate students in their classrooms or schools. Griffin won one of the $250 grants. Paul Gasse, nominated by Chase Chaloupek, won the other. All other nominees were given $50 pay-it-forward grants.
“I applaud Coach Lopez and his team for going out of their way to honor the outstanding teachers in our district,” said Las Cruces Public Schools Superintendent Greg Ewing. “It was a great joy to witness first-hand the appreciation shared between our teachers and their students, and this is a great way to honor Mr. Serna’s legacy.”
-LCPS Director of Communications Damien Willis, firstname.lastname@example.org, (575) 527-5811