HU Alumna Named New Mexico Teacher of the Year


Jessica Sanders
Courtesy Photo

Las Vegas, New Mexico – A New Mexico Highlands alumna said she loves going to teach every day ready to empower young scientists to pursue science careers.

New Mexico’s Public Education Department selected Jessica Sanders, a science teacher at Roswell’s Berrendo Middle School, as its 2019 Teacher of the Year.

Licia Hillman is the principal at Berrendo Middle School, where Sanders has taught for three years.

“Jessica is very good at reaching all levels of learners, keeping students engaged by differentiating her assignments to match their abilities so all students find success,” Hillman said. “She’s extremely effective at making connections with kids, reaching out to understand a little about each one, from their interests to their goals.”

Hillman said Sanders is an inspirational and strong leader in Berrendo Middle School, heading the Science Department and acting as a teacher mentor.

“Jessica has an infectious personality and students and other teachers like to learn from her. She’s also a leader at the state level in education, where she’s the president-elect of the New Mexico Science Teachers Association. We’re so proud of her,” Hillman.

Sanders said she decided to be a teacher when she was in middle school.

“I had teachers who actively invested in my life at that time and I wanted to be like them and do the same for others,” Sanders said. “What I like best about teaching is having a positive impact on future generations. Building community in education is also very rewarding. We all come together for the greater good of building knowledge that improves our students’ lives and ability to compete for careers.”

New Mexico Education Department Secretary Designate Christopher Ruszkowski made the surprise announcement for Sander’s award at her school Oct. 17.

“There will be no finer ambassador for our profession than Mrs. Sanders,” Ruszkowski said. “She exemplifies the best of our profession — a true teacher-leader with commitment to high expectations, accountability and results, professional development and training, science and the humanities. She is driven by student data and her devotion and love for the whole child.”

Sanders, who has taught for 12 years, has received a number of other accolades. In 2018 she earned a Golden Apple Excellence in Teaching Award and in 2017 the New Mexico Public Education Department named Sanders the New Mexico Outstanding Science Teacher.

“Science has always been my favorite subject because it ties everything in life together,” Sanders said. “Teaching science is my passion.”

Sanders earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Highlands in 2003 and her master’s degree in curriculum and instruction in 2010. She made the dean’s list every year as an undergraduate, and also played varsity volleyball for the Cowgirls, earning multiple Academic All-Conference Team honors.

“Dr. Alice Menzor and Dr. Joseph Sabutis helped guide my educational path at Highlands and were wonderful mentors,” Sanders said. “They were among the many excellent professors who equipped me with the skills I needed to enter my own classroom and be an effective teacher. I’m so grateful for my Highlands education and lasting relationships with people in Las Vegas.”

Sanders said she enjoyed the school spirit when she suited up to play Cowgirl volleyball. She coaches the 8th grade volleyball team at Berrendo Middle School.

“I love that my experience playing volleyball at Highlands carries on through coaching now. I hope to send some of my players to Highlands,” Sanders said.