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Superintendent's News

Posted: April 14, 2023

No Greater Reward for a Teacher

In his weekly letter, Superintendent Scott Elder reflects on the difference APS teachers make in their students’ lives.

Albuquerque Journal staff writer James Yodice with Ruth Dickson Roberts on April 1. (Courtesy of James Yodice)

Albuquerque Journal staff writer James Yodice with Ruth Dickson Roberts on April 1. (Courtesy of James Yodice)

If you follow high school sports in New Mexico, you’re likely familiar with James Yodice, the Albuquerque Journal’s venerated prep sportswriter. He wrote a column last week recounting his reunion with the Cibola High School teacher who altered the trajectory of his life.

He ended it with four words that encapsulate the very reason most educators go into teaching in the first place.

“You made a difference,” he wrote in the touching tribute to Ruth Dickson, who in 1983 convinced 16-year-old James Yodice that he should add a journalism class to his schedule. James took the advice and was hooked.

“I’ve always remembered the ultimate weight of that talk,” Yodice wrote, noting that Ms. Dickson opened the door to a career that has been fulfilling and rewarding “and has hardly ever felt like work.”

“Without that conversation, without her taking me aside, who knows where this life might have led me,” he wrote.

I wanted to share that story with you because it’s a powerful reminder of the enormous impact we have on the lives of our students. Ms. Dickson, who now goes by Ruth Roberts, her married name, changed this young man’s life for the better. Forty years later he finally had the opportunity to tell her.

There is no greater reward for a teacher than the knowledge that they made a difference in someone’s life.

Speaking of making a difference, I want to congratulate this year’s recipients of the Golden Apple Excellence in Teaching Award. The award is given to up to seven New Mexico teachers each year, educators “who demonstrate classroom excellence, professional commitment, and a desire to elevate education in New Mexico.”

We’re fortunate to have three of those Golden Apple winners teaching at APS:

  • Fifth Grade Lavaland Elementary teacher Shannon Ryan is known for fostering high expectations and for doing whatever it takes to help her students meet them. Ms. Ryan received a Milken Educator Award in 2015.
  • Dolores Gonzales Elementary dance teacher Norma Lujan-Quiñones goes out of her way to enrich the lives of her students, spearheading or playing a key role in the school’s guitar club, theater club, and Folklorico dance club. Ms. Lujan- Quiñones is also being honored with the Henry W. Pascual Teacher Excellence Award from the New Mexico Association for Bilingual Education.
  • John Baker Elementary music teacher Julie Rombach-Kendall does an amazing job engaging her students and teaching them to play instruments and create, read, and write music, in addition to singing and dancing.

To Ms. Dickson, I say thank you for your many years of service to our district and for all of the students whose lives you changed for the better while you were teaching and coaching. To Ms. Ryan, Ms. Lujan-Quiñones, and Ms. Rombach-Kendall, I thank you for your excellence and for always going above and beyond.

And to every other teacher at APS, I hope you know that you, too, are making a difference. Thank you for all that you do.