“Retriever Territory” has lost another one.

Just completing her 27th year in education, Yvette Flores has retired from teaching – elementary kids, that is – after a long career with Rio Rancho Public Schools.

She’s been working for Rio Rancho Public Schools mostly with ESL – English as Second Language – students, helping them learn English when they come from homes using other languages, mostly Spanish, but occasionally Asian or Native tongues.

She knew at an early age that teaching was to be her way of life.

“I actually decided I wanted to be a teacher in second grade because I loved my second-grade teacher,” she said.

She graduated from Las Vegas Robertson High School – Tim Flores went to West Las Vegas High School, so it’s a mixed marriage of sorts – and headed to nearby New Mexico Highlands University for undergrad work, later obtaining her master’s from the University of New Mexico, along the way nearly putting the brakes on her plans to teach.

“Everybody was telling me teaching was not the field to go into: It was hard, there wasn’t good pay,” she recalled. “Another reason I wanted to be a teacher was because my parents never had anything positive to say about school, because when they went to school, they both spoke Spanish – and they got punished for that.

“It was a time when they wanted you to speak English,” she said. “So that’s when I got into bilingual.”

She and her husband were part of that great migration from Moriarty High School, most of them too brand new Rio Rancho High School; David Latham, Scott Affentranger, Toby Manzanares, Bobby McIntyre and Gary Tripp were also among that flock.

Yvette Flores started her RRPS career at Enchanted Hills Elementary, then gave birth to a son and took a year off. Then she did a “split position” for ESL at Vista Grande and Enchanted Hills.

“And then I actually was at Vista Grande for 15 years,” she said. “I decided to try something new, so I went to Eagle Ridge and taught three years; then COVID happened, and I wanted to be back in elementary.”

That took her to Joe Harris when it opened in August 2021, when she was reunited with Principal Trent Heffner, and became part of what’s known as Retriever Territory – a Retriever is the school’s mascot, much as a Golden Retriever had always been close to the late Joe Harris during his days as a school resource officer.

“When she opted to work with me here, it was a no-brainer,” Heffner said. “She just has a great heart for kids,” Heffner said. “She’s passionate about helping kids; she’s a great role model, a great colleague – just somebody you want working with kids on a daily basis.”

For the past two years, Flores said, “Any student, when they enroll in school and mark that they have a second language at home, I give them a ‘screener,’ and the screener determines if they need help from me to  develop their academic English.” She also played a role in the short-lived SpaRRk Academy, headquartered at Joe Harris.

“English is very hard to learn,” she said. “So I work with their reading, their writing, and they take a test from the federal government every year.”

Married almost 32 years, the Floreses have three children, and all started at Vista Grande Elementary – their daughter was among the first kindergarteners there.

With bilingual parents, it’s OK to assume the trio of siblings also learned Spanish, but “not as much as they should have, because I kinda dropped the ball on that,” she said, laughing heartily.

“One’s going to be a lawyer, one’s going to be a mechanical engineer,” she said. “And one is an educator.

“But Tim and I are both proud because we were first-generation college (students),” she said.

It’s all worked out pretty well for her, “being with the kids, touching their lives, and just loving them and having them love me, and hearing from them later – I still get invitations to graduation parties,” she said. “When I was at the middle school, I would get emails saying the impact on them.

“Today was a little emotional, because I was so close to the families,” she said. “And I still keep in touch with the families at Vista Grande – I was always the one that would translate for them, and they sometimes reach out to me when they need help with stuff. They know where we live and they come to our house.”

What’s next: Working for Cooperative Educational Services, as an instructional coach.

Yup, she’ll be following in the paths of so many former teachers: Work your 25 years, retire and receive your pension, and get another even-better paying jobs.

“CES reached out to me. This opportunity came up and I decided to give myself a raise,” she said, adding a hearty laugh.

She thinks she’ll be at CES for five or 10 years. Her husband has been full-time with CES since January, and she’s done some part-time work for CES, too.

It turns out she gave herself more than a raise; she also has an itinerary for this month, with a three-week jaunt to Spain and Portugal.

“I never had a passport until October,” she said, laughing again.