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Charter school teacher named New Mexico Teacher of the Year

Posted October 16, 2020 4:41 p.m. EDT
Updated October 16, 2020 4:42 p.m. EDT

In this photo provided by New Mexico Teacher of the Year Alisa Cooper de Uribe, Cooper de Uribe poses at her charter school in Albuquerque, N.M., on Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. Cooper de Uribe, a bilingual first grade teacher at New Mexico International School, is the second charter school teacher to win the award in the program's 57-year history. As Teacher of the Year, Cooper de Uribe will serve as an example to her peers and work with the state Public Education Department. (Alisa Cooper de Uribe via AP)

— An Albuquerque charter school educator has been named New Mexico Teacher of the Year.

Alisa Cooper de Uribe, a bilingual first grade teacher at New Mexico International School, is the second charter school teacher to win the award in the program's 57-year history.

As Teacher of the Year, Cooper de Uribe will promote professional development and serve as an example to her peers.

The selection comes as the coronavirus pandemic has compounded inequality among New Mexico’s students,.

“Now that the boundaries between school, home and other areas of public life have shifted and blended in unexpected ways, an opportunity has arisen to advocate for newly visible needs in our state’s infrastructure and equitable access to education,” Cooper de Uribe said earlier this month after being named one of four finalists.

A native of Raton, Cooper de Uribe says she was inspired to study languages by interacting with international students as a youth. She will represent her state in the national Teacher of the Year competition.

In a video call, Education Secretary Ryan Stewart read a series of testimonials submitted as part of Cooper de Uribe’s application for the award.

“Thank you for all of the incredible work that you’ve done, for the immense impact that you’ve had on your students not only as they go through your first grade classroom, but as they progress on into the upper grades and continue to bring that love and that passion that you’ve inspired into all that they do,” Stewart said.

New Mexico is home to 98 public charter schools that have been created since the 1990s. Funded by public dollars and subject to similar accountability rules as public schools, they are allowed to pursue alternative curricula and governance structures.

Charter school leaders see Cooper de Uribe’s selection as continued support from the state.

“It’s a testament to the work we’ve done as public charter schools and that we are public and we are reimagining education,” said Matthew Pahl, executive director of Public Charter Schools of New Mexico.

Cooper de Uribe holds a bachelor's degree in English from Abilene Christian University and a master’s degree in Spanish from Middlebury College, the Public Education Department said.

She succeeds 2019 Teacher of the Year Mandi Torrez, a teacher at Placitas Elementary.

The New Mexico Oil and Gas Association is sponsoring the New Mexico Teacher of the Year program for the second year in a row, including a $25,000 grant to support her professional development.

Unlike previous Teachers of the Year who have taken sabbaticals, Cooper de Uribe will continue teaching at her school.

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This story has been updated to correct that Cooper de Uribe will not take a year out of the classroom as previous awardees had done.

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Attanasio is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues. Follow Attanasio on Twitter.

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