Here’s an interesting way of looking at education: It’s the parents’ role to teach their children, with the schools there to help them, rather than the other way around.
It’s time for parents to realize that, Rio Rancho Public Schools Superintendent Sue Cleveland intimated the morning of July 31 at the district’s first convocation in nine years.
The Rio Rancho High School gymnasium, aka the RAC, was packed with educators, cheering Cleveland for her praise of them for the job they’re doing in their classrooms, then later laughing at guest speaker Steven Michael Quezada’s comments about education as it pertained to him as a youngster and now as the father of three daughters.
“Why am I here?” Quezada, 60, asked, stepping down from a small stage to be on the gym floor. “I don’t know.”
But he said he knew for sure that educators “are heroes.
“Somehow, some way my story was something people brought attention to,” he said, going on to talk about “my story was something different than what was happening in education at the time.”
He holds high regard for teachers: “Without you, we’re lost. Without you, there are no opportunities,” Quezada said.
Growing up in Albuquerque’s South Valley, Quezada said, “I wasn’t successful in school.” Despite that, after graduation, “somehow” he headed to Eastern New Mexico University, telling his father he wanted to be an actor.
Ultimately, that’s what he did; many people recognize him as Drug Enforcement Administration Agent Steven Gomez in “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul.” He also does stand-up comedy.
But while at ENMU studying theater, he discovered, “I didn’t have the skill set to get to the finish line,” meaning obtaining a college degree from ENMU, but “discovered different ways of learning.”
And those “different ways” are applicable today, but parents need to take on a bigger role.
“Children are different,” he stated, and they learn in different ways on their journeys to — hopefully — success.
“Let me show you a different path,” he said, which he did while instructing a theater class in Albuquerque, and how students averse to the word “math” learned how math helped them in some projects for the stage.
Along the way, building the set, plus researching and creating a script became involved, as did formulating a budget — all most likely foreign concepts for those students, but not the way Quezada was guiding them on that new path.
It’s termed “project-based learning,” he said, “and I did not invent this.”
Still, it seems to work. (See Observer feature about Cleveland High teacher Ashli Knoell, who puts the concept to work in her classroom.)
“Education is our responsibility,” he said. “Public schools are there to assist the parents.”
More than ever, he added, parents, not teachers, are responsible for their children’s education, and they have to lead by example.”
Quezada, a Bernalillo County commissioner (District 2), lamented the fact that New Mexico’s biggest export is its graduated college students.
“All my nieces and nephews have master’s degrees — zero live in New Mexico,” he said.
Quezada also advocated for school-based help centers at the schools, where more than just difficulties in education, or students who needed more than “book smarts” and their parents, could go for assistance. This would help educators get to know the parents better and vice-versa.
Schools, after all, are important parts of the larger communities, or neighborhoods.
With the start of the new year
Cleveland said there are 140 new teachers working in RRPS for the 2023-24 school year, which is good news, and the best staffing for the start of a school year in recent memory.
“We’re short a few teachers,” she said on July 31, but the district has enough bus drivers, also good news.
Interviews took place last week for the replacement of former RRHS Principal Ryan Kettler, who accepted the job of superintendent for Los Lunas Schools last month. Cleveland said it’s possible the new RRHS principal will be named this week.