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News from the Foundation

Posted: November 2, 2009

Pepsi/APS Education Foundation honor top teachers

Alamosa Special-Ed Teacher Named Teacher of the Month

Andrea Villano, recipient of the Pepsi/APS Teacher of the Month award, poses with some of her students.

Andrea Villano, recipient of the Pepsi/APS Teacher of the Month award, poses with some of her students.

Alamosa Elementary School teacher Andrea Villano has been described by her students and colleagues as a “hidden gem” who gives generously of her time, approaches every situation with a great attitude and has an infectious, distinct laugh. 

In fact, the students in her fifth grade class were able to remember one of their vocabulary words recently by associating it with Ms. Villano’s laugh. The word: snort. 

Villano was honored this week as the Pepsi/APS Foundation Teacher of Month. Pepsi, in partnership with the APS Education Foundation, began this year recognizing APS teachers for their outstanding contributions to the classroom, school and community. The Foundation randomly selects one APS school each month, and that school’s principal is asked to choose the teacher to be honored. The teachers receive a $50 check from Pepsi and acknowledgement on the APS web site and Facebook page. 

Alamosa principal Erica Hidalgo said she chose Villano for the honor because of her dedication to all students, regardless of ability or disability. “She gets to know her kids on a level that allows her to bring out the best in each child,” Hidalgo said. “She is a huge proponent of inclusion and works very hard to make sure that her fifth grade students are ready academically, socially and emotionally for the very difficult transition to middle school.” 

Though a special education teacher, Villano’s students are immersed in a regular fifth grade class that she co-teaches with Melanie Olivas and Seth Hoover. The students rotate among the teachers as part of their preparation for middle school. 

“It can be challenging, learning to move from class to class,” Villano said. “Students have to be more organized, more independent. They have to learn to work with different people. They need to feel they can ask for help. They need to be more responsible, but they also need to know they have a safety net. And they need to know they have the ability to succeed.” 

Villano began her teaching career at a Pennsylvania high school. She taught for a couple of years at La Mesa Elementary before making the move to Alamosa a few years ago. 

Villano said she loves helping kids, making them feel good about themselves and school. “I want them to be comfortable, to feel safe and to make good choices,” she said. “These kids come with lots of good stories, and sometimes some bad stories, and I listen to them all and give them support.” 

Students in the shared class agree that Villano deserves the Teacher of the Month award. 

“When I need help, she helps me. If I don’t know a word, she helps me. She does fun things,” said Miguel Garcia. 

“She’s a nice teacher,” added Andrew Ruiz. 

“She helps us figure out stuff when we need help,” said Marissa Atler. 

After receiving the award, Villano accompanied Marissa across the South Valley school’s campus. Just as they stepped out of their classroom, it began to snow. 

“That’s funny,” Marissa told her teacher, “because in the movies, it’s always snowing when it’s a happy time. And it’s snowing now.”