Las Vegas, N.M. – Jim Abreu, a former School of Education dean at New Mexico Highlands, received the Administrator of the Year award from the New Mexico Coalition of Educational Leaders.
Abreu’s distinguished career as an educator spans 43 years, with 26 of those years spent on the Highlands faculty. For the last eight years, he has served as the executive director for the Northeast Regional Education Cooperative.
“Dr. Abreu is a legendary New Mexico educator who has had tremendous impact in both K-12 and higher education,” said Scott McMath, president for the New Mexico Regional Education Cooperative Association. “His experience and knowledge are vast as a teacher, superintendent, dean of the Highlands School of Education, professor emeritus, and now as Regional Education Cooperative #4 director. He’s well respected across the state and is an invaluable education resource.”
McMath said one of the things he appreciates most about Abreu is that he’s a very kind individual who cares deeply about people.
“He’s passionate about improving education outcomes for all students,” McMath said.
Stan Rounds, executive director for the New Mexico Coalition of Educational Leaders, said Abreu is a quiet gem among school leaders in New Mexico.
“The honor Jim received is well earned in his servitude to New Mexico children,” Rounds said.
Abreu said the Northeast Regional Education Cooperative, which is based at Highlands, is a liaison with the public schools.
“The cooperative serves the Pecos, Mora, Santa Rosa, Wagon Mound, West Las Vegas and Las Vegas City Schools districts,” Abreu said. “We provide supplemental education services, professional development, technology assistance, grant administration, special education support, and administrative support.”
The New Mexico Public Education Department and New Mexico Legislature established the 10 regional education cooperatives in 1984.
“Our mission is to support our schools in providing excellent education to the children of New Mexico,” Abreu said.
Abreu, a Las Vegas native and West Las Vegas High School graduate, said he was inspired to be an educator by local teachers as well as his father and uncle.
“I wanted to be able to have a positive impact on Las Vegas and New Mexico through education. I’m driven to help people reach their full potential. I believe in nurturing student’s dreams,” Abreu said.
Abreu joined the Highlands faculty in 1977 and served as the School of Education dean from 1994 – 2003. He also chaired the Human Performance, Leisure and Sport Department from 1992 – 1994, among other positions.
“The biggest highlight for me as dean was leading the School of Education in 1998 to its first national teacher accreditation recognition with the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. It was an honor to lead a group of brilliant education faculty at Highlands,” Abreu said.
After leaving Highlands, Abreu was the West Las Vegas Public School District superintendent from 2007-2010.
“It was a unique opportunity to lead the school district I came from and try to make a difference,” Abreu said.
Abreu earned his doctorate from the University of New Mexico in recreation administration with a minor emphasis in education administration.
The Highlands alumnus holds two master’s degrees from the university, one in education administration and one in K-12 physical education and health. He also earned his bachelor’s degree from Highlands in English and physical education.
“My outstanding education at Highlands gave me the chance to make my mark on the world,” Abreu said.
Outside the classroom, Abreu earned Cowboy varsity letters for football, basketball and baseball.
“I was the head baseball coach at Highlands from 1980 to 1984 and it was exhilarating to coach young student athletes at my alma mater,” said Abreu, who also was an assistant football and basketball coach at Highlands during his tenure.
For Abreu, being an educator is a family tradition. His late father, Ernie Abreu, was also a teacher who later served as a superintendent for West Las Vegas School District and went on to direct the Northeast Regional Education Cooperative.
“I followed my father’s path as an educator and coach. I liked to kid him that he wasn’t ever the four-letter word of dean,” Abreu said.
Early in his education career, Abreu was a high school English teacher in Taos Municipal Schools.
“My experience as a classroom teacher was very rewarding and motivated me to get better at my teaching craft,” Abreu said.