Writer: Michelle Valverde
For the Sun-News
When you turn to any form of media these days, you are likely to hear something about formal education. This shouldn’t be a surprise given the important role of education in the United States and the enormous potential for it to positively impact the well being of our society.
In the College of Education at New Mexico State University, through the Alliance for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning, we strategically support educators in the critical work they do by tapping into, linking and strengthening already existing resources in our state.
New Mexico has many human and cultural assets — for example our linguistic diversity, our strong family and community networks, and a deep understanding of how to collaborate effectively. Thus it makes sense to cultivate local resources in support of education in the state given the mission of NMSU as a land-grant higher education institution: to serve the educational needs of New Mexico’s diverse population through comprehensive programs of education, research, extension education, and public service. It also makes sense given the mission of the Alliance, which is to contribute to the academic success of children and youth by drawing on cultural and linguistic diversity, enacted through collaborative partnerships.
Given these missions and the tremendous needs in the K-12 system today, Alliance members and partners have been very busy during the 2013-14 academic year. Moreover, during the past year, the Alliance started closely coordinating efforts with the College of Education’s Borderlands Center for Educational Studies, thereby allowing outreach connections that were not possible before.
In working directly with school personnel, Alliance staff and partners enhanced the efforts of Camino Real Middle School, the Rio Grande Preparatory School, and the Arrowhead Park Early College High School by linking NMSU resources with the schools and/or supporting research. Alliance personnel also connected College of Education faculty and staff with public school educators in four rural school districts in the eastern part of the state to build capacity in reading, math and science.
In addition to these activities focused on linking local resources, the Alliance joined forces with Cooperative Educational Services by coordinating a professional development training for educators in Roswell in February on the topic of student assessment. In order to augment statewide efforts in education, the Alliance recently hosted the first biannual networking meeting with the directors of the Regional Educational Cooperatives from throughout the state and the CES Director for Southern Services.
An Alliance member also actively serves on the board of the New Mexico Coalition of Educational Leaders, another statewide effort that acknowledges and builds on the skills and talents already present in New Mexico.
On the community engagement side of the equation, though still with an emphasis on education, the Alliance is active on the Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce Education Subcommittee, the Doña Ana County Place Matters team, the Ocotillo Institute for Social Justice’s youth leadership conference planning committee, NGageNM’s collective impact initiative in education, and the Doña Ana County Hispanic Education Task force.
Alliance staff recently helped to connect NMSU faculty and resources to protective services in the Children, Youth, and Families Department and Shakti Rising, a nonprofit agency that fosters leadership development in southern New Mexico. The Alliance also supports the efforts of the early college high schools and dual credit initiatives by partnering with the Bridge of Southern New Mexico.
Deliberately building local capacity in the area of education in our state by tapping into existing resources is the best way to ensure sustainability for future generations. In this way, funds generated in the state by New Mexicans are kept here and used to maximize resources while meeting the needs of local educators.
It is important to point out that there are many other examples of this occurring in the college, at NMSU, and via other partner agencies throughout the state. We strongly believe in harnessing the assets and strengths present in the education system in our state. There is no doubt that continued outreach is critically needed — but perhaps even more important is the reality that we have much to learn from each other as we work together to improve outcomes for all children.
For more information about any of the initiatives or organizations mentioned in this article, please feel free to contact the Alliance staff at 575-646-1358.
Michelle Valverde, Ph.D., is director for the Alliance for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning in the NMSU College of Education.