Personal tools

News from the Foundation

Posted: March 15, 2024

Outstanding March Employees

This month's honorees include two educational assistants, a police officer, and a Medicaid manager.

From left, Lorena Brown, Rene Mares, David Rael, and Joann Sanchez.

From left, Lorena Brown, Rene Mares, David Rael, and Joann Sanchez.

Albuquerque Public Schools has many dedicated professionals who devote their time and talent to helping the district meet the needs of students.

For the sixth year, the district recognizes at least a few of these outstanding employees through the Employee Recognition Program.

All staff members employed for at least six months can be nominated, though we ask that you not nominate yourself.

March’s Honorees

  • Lorena Brown
  • Rene Mares
  • David Rael
  • Joann Sanchez

The honorees are being featured on APS electronic billboards around town and will have an opportunity to visit with Superintendent Scott Elder or his representative. They also will receive a lasting memento.

Nominate an APS employee!

Learn More About March’s Nominees

Lorena Brown – Educational Assistant, Coyote Willow Family School

Lorena Brown is something of a superhero at Coyote Willow Family School. She is a shared educational assistant, which means she’s assigned to support six teachers and more than 120 students. But she will go wherever she is needed, whenever she is needed, including into the upper elementary grades and into the middle school.

Her colleagues note that she tackles her work with enthusiasm, flexibility, and good humor. In a typical week, Brown can be seen:

  • Creating classroom materials – beautifully and precisely made — for multiple classrooms, juggling and prioritizing multiple requests
  • Stepping into classrooms for an hour to support center rotations while the teacher conducts small group lessons.
  • Providing one-on-one help to students who need academic support in their independent work.
  • Helping a teacher support a student’s social-emotional development plan
  • Cooking and bringing in delicious home-cooked food for teachers to cheer them up.

And that’s just scratching the surface.

“In short, Ms. Lorena is a tireless, enthusiastic champion of our district’s and school’s mission of educating students and maximizing their potential,” one teacher said. “If Ms. Lorena finds out it needs to be done, it is not only done, but done at a high level of quality.”

She makes a huge difference in the lives of the students she serves, the teacher said.

Rene Mares – Special Education Educational Assistant, Duranes Elementary

When a special education teacher at Duranes Elementary School went on maternity leave, educational assistant Rene Mares stepped up to ensure that students in the class were taken care of. Beyond making sure students were getting the academic instruction they needed, Mares made sure the students felt supported and loved.

In many ways, Mares is the face of Duranes Elementary. She’s at school bright and early every morning, welcoming families, and in the afternoons, she’s out front sending students home.

“Mrs. Mares is not only loved by the students, but she is loved by staff and our Duranes families,” one of her colleagues said. “She always goes out of her way to help, even if it’s using her spare time or her own money.”

That desire to help takes many forms.

She’s known for bringing flowers for colleagues, a gesture, that makes them feel appreciated and seen. She sometimes shows up with burritos for everyone. And she’s always volunteering for such things as extra duties, even though there’s no extra pay.

“She is definitely one that APS can count on to bring positivity and light to our schools,” a colleague said. “Our school is a Title 1 school, and our families need extra support. Mrs. Mares makes everyone feel welcomed and important.”

David Rael – Police Officer, APS Police Department Field Services Bureau

In the roughly two years since Officer David Rael joined the APS Police Department, he has developed a reputation for going above and beyond to help his colleagues and keep students, staff, and community members safe.

Rael gets to work early, leaves late, and is always willing to step in to help, even if he has already finished his shift. In one such instance, he was driving home when a call came in about several juveniles who got into a school after hours. Rael heard the call, was in the area, and went to the school to help. He managed to apprehend the four juveniles who fled the school while two other officers were searching it. It wasn’t the first time the officer has stepped in to help after his shift had ended.

“Officer Rael’s willingness to help his fellow officers doesn’t go unnoticed,” one of his colleagues wrote. “His actions continue to create a positive for law enforcement and the Albuquerque Public Schools Police Department.”

Another colleague recalled the time Rael responded to a call involving an individual experiencing a mental health crisis and putting a student at risk.

“Officer Rael was able to de-escalate the situation and ensure the individual in crisis was able to obtain the necessary care,” he wrote. “Officer Rael subsequently remained on scene and ensured the student was safely placed in a relative’s care.”

While Rael has been with APS Police for about two years, he is a law enforcement veteran with more than 20 years of experience. He regularly shares his knowledge and experience with junior officers. Since joining APS Police, Rael has become a certified Field Training Officer and a Certified Law Enforcement Instructor.

He “truly cares about the students and staff of our district,” one of his bosses said, adding that Rael is quick to identify a need and fill that need, without expecting anything in return.

Joann Sanchez – Medicaid School-Based Services Manager, Accountability and Operations

Medicaid provides low-cost or no-cost medical care to those who need it most while covering such services as speech, occupational, and physical therapies; audiological services; mental health services; social services; nursing services; nutritional assessments and counseling; and transportation for program-related services.

Medicaid School-Based Services Manager Joann Sanchez and her team promote wellness, serve as liaisons with local health community agencies, and provide resource materials, training, and information to school staff regarding Medicaid billing procedures and guidelines. Essentially, they do the behind-the-scenes work that helps many APS students tap into the services they need.

“Joann understands the entire process of Medicaid in the School system and can answer almost every question or will research the answer quickly and efficiently,” one of her employees said. “I have admired Joann as a leader in Medicaid and her untiring ability to always move on with the work and make sure her staff is learning and growing in job knowledge.”

Another colleague praises Sanchez for her exceptional ability to combine empathy with action, and her unique combination of selflessness, innovation, positivity, and passion.

“Joann’s innovative approach to problem-solving and her passion for her role have yielded tangible, positive results,” the colleague said. “She doesn’t merely meet expectations; she surpasses them by introducing creative solutions and approaches that have enhanced the efficiency and effectiveness of her team.”

She also noted Sanchez’s “unwavering positivity and welcoming attitude,” which creates a positive atmosphere and fosters collaboration and a sense of community.

How to nominate an employee

You can nominate an employee by filling out the Employee Recognition online application. Nominations must be completed by someone other than the nominee. Self-nominations are not eligible for consideration.

Award recipients will be selected monthly by a Peer Praise Task Force.