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Posted: November 11, 2010

Highland Spanish Teacher Cheered As Teacher of the Month for October

Highland High Spanish teacher Lucia Leen was recognized as the APS Education Foundation/Pepsi Teacher of the Month.

Highland High Spanish teacher Lucia Leen was recognized as the APS Education Foundation/Pepsi Teacher of the Month.

Lucia Leen gracefully and gratefully accepted the cheers and handshakes that come with being the APS Education Foundation/Pepsi Teacher of the Month.

Then she walked back into her classroom and pointed all the credit to the people who are key to her success.

“I told my students, ‘This is as much yours as it is mine,’” said Leen, who teaches AP Spanish, AP Spanish Literature and Spanish language arts classes at Highland High School. “I believe that I am able to do what I do because of my students; how well they learn. They are in my class because they want to be, and they make it possible for me to be a success.”

Leen was named teacher of the month for October, her colleagues say, because her classroom is a place where students receive a high-energy, big-return brand of education.

“When you enter the room, there is a spark and the students are engaged and involved in their learning,” said Highland Principal Scott Elder. “She runs the Spanish National Honor Society and participates in Noche Bilingue, Highland’s Parent Night for Spanish-speaking parents. Her peers respect her, her students enjoy her, and she is an excellent representative for the quality of education at Highland High School.”

Leen, who grew up in Spain about 45 miles south of Pamplona, came to the teaching profession later in life. She says she became interested while volunteering to help at Hubert Humphrey Elementary School in Albuquerque’s Northeast Heights.

“I had a Spanish major and wasn’t using it,” she says. “And so I thought, all right, I’ll become a teacher.”

Leen’s popularity is evident. As she accepted the $50 check that comes with the honor, she received loud cheers from Highland’s foreign-language classes. Her popularity, colleagues say, is based on her willingness to expect more from kids.

And those expectations are paid back in full.

“I have a great group of students who come from many places, diverse Spanish-speaking countries,” she says. “They come here wanting to succeed and they are very dedicated. They know where they come from. They know they have to work, but they want to do it.

“A great day is when my students understand the concepts I’m teaching. Overall, as a teacher, when you see students succeed and continue going to college, it brings the greatest satisfaction.”