Joe Vigil, Director of Communications - NMOGA | November 16, 2022 EDUCATOR IS FIRST-EVER PRE-K TEACHER TO BE HONORED
SANTA FE — The New Mexico Oil and Gas Association honored Tara Hughes, New Mexico’s 2023 Teacher of the Year as well as former Teachers of the Year at a reception Nov. 11, 2022.
Hughes, the first-ever Pre-K Teacher to earn the prestigious honor, teaches a four-year-old inclusion preschool class at Nye Early Childhood Center in Santa Fe, a state-of-the-art facility dedicated to educational programming for children ages three and four.
“I’m so honored to represent early childhood educators, to advocate for our earliest learners and to be a voice for young children who may not be able to speak for themselves,” said Hughes.
Hughes previously worked as a special educational assistant for two years before pursuing a master’s degree in special education from New Mexico Highlands University. Working as a student teacher in an autism-specific preschool program ignited her passion for inclusive classrooms. She has worked as a highly-structured special education teacher with Santa Fe Public Schools for nine years. Hughes said she views classrooms that include students both with and without disabilities as a way to build children’s strengths and celebrate differences.
“Inclusion is not only instrumental in changing discriminatory attitudes, but provides a better quality education for all children by broadening educators’ pedagogical approach and weaving specially designed instruction and support to help ALL students make progress,” Hughes wrote in her application. “I believe every single child and family member is equally valued and deserves the same experiences and opportunities.”
Hughes has elevated educational services and support at her school by implementing school-wide Professional Learning Communities and coaching colleagues in evidence-based classroom strategies and social-emotional development curriculums.
The New Mexico Oil and Gas Association is the title sponsor for the New Mexico Teacher of the Year program for the fifth consecutive year and will support the travel needs and professional development opportunities of Hughes.
“The New Mexico Oil and Gas Association and New Mexico’s oil and natural gas industry are proud to support our outstanding teachers across our great state, and we congratulate Tara Hughes for her recognition as the 2023 New Mexico Teacher of the Year,” said Doug Ackerman, President and CEO of NMOGA. “Ms. Hughes’ commitment and passion reflect the best of New Mexico’s teaching profession where she works diligently to provide a high-quality educational experience for her students and their families in the Santa Fe community. We look forward to continuing the partnership and collaboration to further the reach and impacts of New Mexico’s Teacher of the Year.”
Ackerman said the one thing that is infectious about these teachers is the passion they bring to such a difficult job.
“The amount of change that you have made over the last couple of years with Covid, screen learning, having to change 180 degrees in a different direction and now you have to go back is remarkable,” Ackerman said. “On behalf of the board, the NMOGA staff and our people of New Mexico, thank you for what you do.”
“Ms. Hughes’ efforts on behalf of her preschool students in Santa Fe have been nothing short of extraordinary,” NM Public Education Department Secretary Kurt Steinhaus said. “New Mexico is fortunate to have her as our 2023 spokesperson for the teaching profession and our representative in the National Teacher of the Year competition. Her dedication and high standards will serve as a model to all of us in the coming year.”
The New Mexico Teacher of the Year award was established in 1963. Each year, all New Mexico school districts and charter schools are invited to nominate an outstanding teacher to become New Mexico’s Teacher of the Year and to represent New Mexico in the National Teacher of the Year competition. New Mexico’s Teacher of the Year also acts as the spokesperson for the state’s teaching profession.
“On behalf of education and the entire state of New Mexico, the oil and gas industry lifts us up and we are very grateful for what you do for New Mexico and what you are doing for our Teacher of the Year,” Steinhaus said.