Las Vegas, N.M. – Elisabeth Valenzuela is the first coordinator for the Regional School Partnership, a collaboration among Pojoaque Valley Public Schools, Los Alamos National Laboratory and New Mexico Highlands University that aims to support improved teaching and learning.
The innovative partnership, launched in October 2018, is the first of its kind in New Mexico to combine a school district, a major employer and a university teacher education program. It focuses on increasing success for youth in grades 4 through 8.
“The clinical residency program is the most exciting element of this new partnership,” Valenzuela said. “Pre-service teachers who are students in the Highlands School of Education will spend their junior and senior years working three days a week co-teaching a classroom in Pojoaque schools. These college students will work under the mentorship of a highlyqualified teacher.”
Valenzuela said Los Alamos National Laboratory has a history of working with Northern New Mexico school districts to improve teaching and learning.
“Through LANL’s Math and Science Academy, three math and science experts will work on site at Pojoaque schools to support the teachers in training, professional teachers and administrators in grades 4 through 8,” Valenzuela said.
Valenzuela brings a wealth of educator experience to her new position, including teaching on the School of Education faculty at colleges like the University of New Mexico and New Mexico Highlands. Earlier in her career, she was an elementary classroom teacher, bilingual coordinator and principal in Albuquerque Public Schools. In addition, she was a principal at Bernalillo Elementary School.
“Being familiar with public education in New Mexico in kindergarten through college has given me a strong foundation for this new position. I also had the opportunity to work with the New Mexico Public Education Department,” Valenzuela said.
Valenzuela is based at Pojoaque Middle School as the Highlands School of Education representative.
“I will be responsible for coordinating all elements of the clinical residency program. I’ll be supporting pre-service teachers to be certain their coursework aligns with the work they’re doing in the classroom. They will benefit from graduating with 2,000 hours of teaching experience rather than the traditional 600 hours of student teaching,” Valenzuela said.
The Regional Partnership School is also intended to be a model for New Mexico educators and policy makers. The initiative is based upon a national best-practice professional development school approach, where there is a partnership between a school and an educator preparation program like the Highlands School of Education.
“There’s a significant increase in academic achievement for students over time in schools that use this professional development school model. This is our goal for the Pojoaque schools,” Valenzuela said.
Valenzuela earned her Ph.D. in language, literacy and sociocultural studies at the University of New Mexico College of Education, where she also completed her M.A. in elementary education with an emphasis in bilingual education.
She is a frequent presenter at professional conferences such as the New Mexico Association for Bilingual Education and the National Association of Multicultural Education.
Valenzuela’s research has appeared in publications like the American Educational Research Association Journal.
In 2017, Valenzuela received the University of New Mexico Alumni Zia Award.