James teacher wins newspaper award

By Casey Peacock: PNT Staff Writer

James Elementary third grade teacher Maria Villanueva has been chosen as the Portales News-Tribune Newspapers in Education teacher of the year.

“I just couldn’t believe that I was chosen. We have a lot of great teachers out there and it was a great honor to be chosen,” said Villanueva.

Nominated by their principals and then interviewed, the teacher of the year is chosen based on curriculum usage and creative modification of the material, said Lynn Berry, NIE Coordinator for Freedom Newspapers New Mexico.

Using the newspapers to provide information to her students in a timely and fun fashion earned her the nomination from James Elementary principal Michael Terry, he said.

“She does an excellent job in making it fun for the students,” Terry said.

Terry added that by bringing in the NIE program, it provides real life exposure to the students in a timely matter.

“I would like to say a big thank you to the sponsors of NIE for providing our teachers and students with the newspaper,” Terry said.

A teacher for the past five years, Villanueva has spent her entire career at James. She began as a Title I teacher for a year and then moved into the regular classroom. This has been her second year to participate in the NIE program, she said.

“It’s been challenging,” Villanueva said.

Villanueva has 22 students in her class. Two of her students are bilingual and six are special needs, which creates a bit of a challenge, she said.

By introducing the newspapers into the class curriculum, Villanueva not only involves the students, but also their parents. The newspapers allow her to build a modeling program that she uses to help her students with reading, she said.

“It’s just a lot of reading skills I can reinforce,” Villanueva said.

According to Villanueva, not only do the newspapers provide a learning tool for the classroom and students, but also a bit of a social aspect. The students look forward to reading the Kidspeaks and seeing if they might know someone in the paper, she said.

“I enjoy working with the newspapers and my students enjoy getting the newspapers. They feel like they’re grownups,” Villanueva said. “The kids love it and I make time for it.”