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Posted December 9, 2014

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Now is the Season to be Thankful

Read Dr. Winter's Dec. 9 column in the Albuquerque Journal.

I love the music, food and festivities of the holiday season but, most of all, during this time of year I find myself thankfully reflecting on the wonderful relationships we’ve built and nurtured within our community.

At Albuquerque Public Schools, we’re all about community. Our first job, of course, is to deliver the best education possible, and we do so using innovative curriculum and cutting-edge technology. But really it all boils down to people. Our teachers, students, parents, staff and friends never cease to amaze me.

It’s dangerous to single out the accomplishments of a few because there are so many who deserve praise, but the timeliest accolades go to the seven APS middle school teachers who will be honored in 2015 by the Golden Apple Foundation of New Mexico.

Two of those teachers – Randy Martin of Desert Ridge and Doris Merzweiler of Hayes/Wilson – are being recognized for Excellence in Teaching. Five more have been named Teachers of Distinction: Michelle Freeman of Wilson, Dominic Pettine and Alice Webb of Washington, Claire Porter of Madison, Russell Thompson of Desert Ridge and Shirley Srouji of Jefferson.

In a few weeks, we’ll learn the names of the latest National Board Certified Teachers. APS has several dozen teachers earn this distinction each year.

All of these exemplary professionals love what they do. Their enthusiasm sparks a hunger for learning that benefits us all. It fills me with pride when I think about the positive impact these teachers and so many like them will have on the lives of young people as they step onto college campuses, enlist in the armed forces, enter the work force, raise families of their own and realize their own dreams.

While our emphasis as educators is on academics, we often find ourselves in other roles as well. We know kids can’t learn if they’re hungry or cold or scared. I am grateful for all of those who work and volunteer with the APS Title I Homeless Project that serves more than 6,000 of our most vulnerable students and their families each year.

Many of our families struggle to get by. Last year, we stepped in to take over management of the Community Clothing Bank, which provided more than 3,000 students with basics like new socks, underwear and shoes. The APS Education Foundation continues to raise money and accept donations for our neediest students. Keep them in mind as you do your holiday shopping. You can drop off donations at our administrative offices.

And speaking of giving back to the community, you may have seen the national news coverage on the food pantry at Comanche Elementary School that was started by first grade teacher Marvin Callahan and counselor Karin Medina. Thanks to their initiative, and the support of staff, parents and donors as far away as Dubai, dozens of kids don’t go hungry over the weekend.

Many more of our students will have presents under the tree this year thanks to the generosity of community partners like Holman’s USA, a local technology company that stepped in when money got tight to help the Albuquerque Woodworkers Association and APS high school woodshop classes build and distribute toys. The 2,100 wooden cars, trucks, prams, whales, birds and doll beds with doll and quilt will be given to students in the coming weeks.

Cultivating partnerships like these is essential to having a healthy community.

You can see why I love this season. There’s so much to be thankful for – especially the children we serve, the employees we work with and the community that supports us.

From all of us at Albuquerque Public Schools, thank you for your support and friendship; we simply couldn’t do it without you.

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