Colleagues say Jaclyn Gonzalez always ensures her kindergartners feel welcome at school while making learning fun.

Lisa Romero uses creativity to inspire kids in her kindergarten class to become little scientists with hands-on activities.

“These two teachers bring joy, fun and kindness to their classrooms and to their fellow teachers,” said Ruthanne Greeley, director of the nonprofit Partners in Education, during a Friday assembly at Nava Elementary School. “They both go beyond their classroom work to serve on committees to help plan events, and they serve as mentors for students and their other teachers.”

Nava students erupted into cheers as Greeley presented Gonzalez and Romero with 2022 Teachers Who Inspire awards.

With tears in their eyes, both teachers proclaimed it was actually Nava and its students who inspired them.

“I am honestly humbled,” Romero said. “I am surrounded by a family of this beautiful school. They’re not just colleagues; they’re my family.”

Partners in Education has operated the annual awards program in Santa Fe Public Schools since 1992, honoring seven teachers each year who are nominated by their colleagues and the community. Each awardee receives $1,500. So far, the organization has surprised six teachers with the awards this year. Another will be handed out later this month.

Greeley said the prize is for teachers, who often pay for classroom supplies out of their own pocket.

Gonzalez said she began teaching 13 years ago when she became Romero’s teacher assistant at Nava while she was going to college. She left for two years after being hired at the old Larragoite Elementary School and then returned to Nava, where she has been teaching ever since.

“I am only half of the teacher I am today because of this woman,” Gonzalez said of Romero during the assembly.

Romero said she has been teaching for 25 years and has been at Nava Elementary since 2002. She has taught fifth grade, second grade and kindergarten.

Romero teaches science by getting students to act out what they learned, whether it’s the way ants build trails or how light refracts to create a rainbow.

Outside the classroom, Romero is Nava’s science coordinator. She planned the school’s annual science fair and ensured all science materials were up to date. She also was a member of the wellness committee, which created strategies for addressing discipline and wellness issues.

She works to keep communication with parents strong by writing detailed letters about what the children do in school each day. She has often tutored children on her own time and worked with students with special needs during after-school programs.

Romero said she plans to use the prize money to pay for an upcoming eye surgery.

Gonzalez studied teaching at the University of New Mexico and has taught kindergarten and fourth, fifth and sixth grades.

She is known for teaching students about math using pumpkins by collecting their measurements and counting seeds as students make their own jack-o-lanterns.

While she keeps students engaged in the classroom, Gonzalez does not shy away from taking on extra duties outside of it. She has trained staff in strategies to help students manage their behavior; she has participated in leadership roles in which she helped make schoolwide decisions; and she has served on a committee tasked with guiding Nava’s transition to standards-based grading.

Gonzalez also helped run Nava Elementary’s yearbook, wrote a weekly newsletter for parents and helped coordinate parents’ nights.

She said the extra cash will help her household after the death of her father two months ago.

“I am so proud, and I know her father would be too,” said her mother, Ana Gonzalez. “She is a very dedicated teacher and always tries to make kids feel like they are important.”

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