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Posted January 7, 2014

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Veteran Teacher Keeps on Learning

Emerson fifth-grade teacher Clara Gonzales-Espinoza is this month's Pepsi/APS Education Foundation Teacher of the Month.

Clara Gonzales-Espinoza has spent more than three decades teaching students and mentoring colleagues, but what she likes most about being an educator is her own continual learning.

"Teaching provides me the opportunity to be a continual learner, through opportunities created by me and my colleagues, the district, the university, and our teacher’s union," said Gonzales-Espinoza, this month's Pepsi/APS Education Foundation Teacher of the Month. "It is my responsibility as an educator to seek opportunities that strengthen and sharpen my repertoire of teaching strategies, so I can meet my overall goals of meeting student needs."

Gonzales-Espinoza has been teaching fifth grade at Emerson Elementary for the past couple of years, but has taught at several other schools during her 32-year career including Garfield Middle School, Chamiza and Edward Gonzales elementaries and the University of New Mexico, where she was the staff of the Teacher Enhancement Program . She also has worked as a mentor for struggling teachers, serving as the first teacher in APS to pilot peer assistance and review.

Gonzales-Espinoza said she values her time with her students and looks forward to watching and listening to them learn. She said her classroom is a safe place where the children can "practice" being students without the fear or ridicule. "As their teacher I have to be fully engaged. I look forward to the daily interactions I have with my students. When I look into their eyes, I see hope. Hopefulness must be pervasive and every single students should be able to feel it, see it and hear it daily."

Gonzales-Espinoza said she is proud to be a part of the staff at Emerson, which was transformed into a Common Core State Standards Demonstration Magnet School last year. "The opportunity to meet regularly with other teachers, study current educational research, and develop in-depth and ongoing conversations help me to build further understanding and insights into teaching and learning, which has an impact on my students."

She said the administrative climate of Emerson encourages creativity, innovation, and risk taking. "Because of this support and encouragement I have been able to get a bigger picture of what I really need to do for my students."

Pepsi, in partnership with the APS Education Foundation, is recognizing APS teachers for their outstanding contribution to the classroom, school and community.  The Foundation randomly selects one APS school each month, and that school’s principal or staff chooses a teacher to be honored. The teacher receives a $100 check from Pepsi and acknowledgement on the APS website, Facebook page and electronic billboards at Cibola, Del Norte and Eldorado high schools and Wilson Stadium.

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