By Bill Knief
I had a chance to talk with four remarkable women, sisters, all born and raised in Ranchos, who share a love of community, a lifelong commitment to education, and dedication to their professions. And one thing more: they are all graduating from UNM-Taos at Commencement ceremonies May 15.
They have families of their own now and careers in their chosen fields, but they have all been able to commit the time and summon the perseverance to reach their educational goals. Rose Marie Martinez will receive an Associate of Arts in Early Childhood Multicultural Education. Joella Frances Apodaca will get her Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education. Victoria M. Romo will graduate with a BUS degree in University Studies in Sociology and Psychology, and Teddie Angela Zarasua will get her Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education.
The four sisters were so busy they didn’t realize until recently that they were all going to graduate at the same time, and I wanted to know how this came about.
“We support one another,” Teddie explained, “and our kids have encouraged us. Rose and Joella volunteered at school when their kids were young, and I’d volunteer when my son was young.”
“Our mom, Evangeline Martinez, had an eighth grade education,” Joella said, “and I think we had different influences within the community as well. For me, it all began with Headstart. I loved school and teachers were my inspiration….then UNM-Taos provided the avenue where I could put my family first, take classes at night and not have to leave Taos.”
“I got on the job training in special needs while I was still in high school,” Rose said. I love being a teacher’s aide with special needs kids because you get to focus more on the child. I love touching hearts.”
“I work in the courts,” Victoria said. “and I enjoy helping the public. When people get in trouble it is a hard time for them, and when they don’t have a friendly face or someone they can come to it can be frightening….You can’t turn your back on them. You have to do the best you can to lead them in the right direction, get them educated so they can become self sufficient. It’s a personal choice to say I want to be a better person for my child, my family, my community, myself.”
All four women spoke of the significance of role models in their own lives, and the importance, now, of being a positive role model for kids trying to stay in school and lead productive lives.
“I like to be friends with my students, but they know that when I put my teacher cap on it’s time to learn,” Joella said. “I need for them to respect me as a teacher. I don’t baby them but try to bring them up to a higher level because I want them to get the best of what’s out there.”
“My fifth grade students know I’m graduating, and I took my cap and gown in and told them, if I can do this, you can do this,” Teddie said. “It has taken me many years and I’m a mother of two, but I’ve never sacrificed my children’s interests. I’ve always been there for them and UNM-Taos has really helped to support that, because classes are small, teachers are excellent, and you get that one-on-one attention. The professors take the time to get to know you. They care about you because they are community members as well. We are blessed to have these teachers; they really are our role models.”
They acknowledged that college is not for everyone, but there are many available alternatives, and it is essential for young and old alike to find career paths that not only provide income but produce a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment as well. Rose put it simply:
“Every day is a learning experience.”
And Victoria added:
“It takes a community to bring forth a productive community member.”
All four sisters agreed.