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APS Art Teacher Recognized as 'Promoter of Peace'

Posted May 2, 2024, 12:40 PM. Updated June 29, 2024, 1:32 PM.

Cibola educator became a teacher because she wanted to create a space where students feel safe.

A Cibola High School art teacher is being honored with the Paul Bartlett Ré Emerging Promoter of Peace Award for creating a classroom environment that fosters kindness, mutual respect, and inclusivity.

“Through art, I instill in my students the importance of empathy and openmindedness, teaching them that our differences are strengths that enrich our society,” art teacher Kelly Luzzi wrote in her application for the award.

Cibola High Principal Kimberly Finke praised Luzzi.

“We see her live these values every day, and we are so proud of this accomplishment,” Finke said.

The Ré Peace Prize is awarded to a member of the University of New Mexico community who has “promoted peace, harmony and understanding among people of the world, both within him- or herself and outwardly through tangible works.” The prize is administered by the UNM Foundation and comes with a $500 honorarium.

Luzzi, who earned both her Bachelor of Fine Arts in studio arts and Master of Fine Arts in art education from UNM, has been an art teacher for more than six years. She has worked at Albuquerque Public Schools for three years and currently teaches art and computer graphics at Cibola.

“I became a teacher because I wanted to support students who did not have a good support system at home,” she said. “I wanted to create a space where students could feel safe, successful, and cared for. I am a strong believer that it only takes one person to change someone’s life, and I have made it my mission to be that person for anyone who needs me.”

While she’s also taught elementary students, Luzzi said she’s passionate about teaching at the high school level because the teachers who made the biggest impact on her life were high school teachers at Cibola – Mrs. Aleita Kiwanuka, who was her drama teacher, and Mrs. Frances Duff, who ran the Best Buddies club.

She called winning the award a tremendous honor, explaining that it reinforces that what she’s doing and her approach to teaching is meaningful and will spawn change. She plans to use the $500 prize money to help fund a photo printer for her students and to begin pursuing her administration certificate.

Luzzi said she genuinely cares about every student she interacts with, whether they are in her class or someone she encounters in the hallway or at a school event.

“I lay down the foundation for a calm classroom environment by using restorative justice techniques, social and emotional learning techniques, and focusing on relationship building at the beginning of the school year,” she said. “I respect my students as equals. I often ask for their opinions and do regular anonymous check-ins through Google forms.”

She calls it the most important aspect of her job “because the hour and a half they are with me might be the only time they feel at peace and safe.”

“I constantly remind students that they do not know what others are experiencing in their lives and that it is our responsibility to create a space that is functional for all,” she added.

Luzzi firmly believes that each of us is capable of helping build the community we want to be a part of—but it requires action. Toward that end, she has a challenge for us.

“Find a moment in the day where you choose to be someone’s positivity, whether it is holding the door open, complimenting someone you interact with regularly or taking the time to reflect on how we make choices that directly impact others.”