Portales educator retires after 30 years

By Helena Rodriguez, Freedom Newspapers

After three decades of educating children in New Mexico and Texas classrooms, Ida Villanueva is now worried about flunking — flunking retirement that is.

Villanueva, of Portales, recently retired from a teaching career that has spanned 30 years and taken her from her first position as a teacher aide in 1966 with Head Start in Vaughn, to a bilingual education teacher in Portales; from a state Special Olympics director to an elementary school principal in Clovis. When she retired in May from Friona, Texas, schools, she finished her formal education career as one of only a handful of bilingual education diagnosticians in the Lone Star state.

“I think I am retired. For now anyway. I’m going to keep myself entertained, but you can only do so much without having people around you,” Villanueva said. “People say that retirement takes time. You have to learn how to retire.”

Villanueva said that she still may do some contract work with schools, but for now, she plans to try to pass retirement by keeping herself occupied with several hobbies, from scrapbooking and quilting to antiquing.

She spent the better part of her career working at Lindsey Elementary in Portales for 13 years. She worked a total of a dozen years in Clovis, working as a principal at Lincoln-Jackson Elementary for four years and as principal at the Choices Alternative School for four years. She also worked at Cameo and LaCasita elementary schools.

As a bilingual education diagnostician in Friona, Villanueva conducted language assessments to establish whether students should be tested in their native language, if it was different than English, or in English. They were also tested in the area of cognitives and achievement.

“A big percentage of students I tested were not identified as being special needs because of their language,” Villanueva pointed out. “They either needed bilingual education or to be in a dual language program.”

Villanueva said that there are more bilingual education diagnosticians in Texas now compared to when she started in 2005. However, she noted that there is still a critical need in this area and for that reason she may do contract work for them.

Villanueva was born in Palma and earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary and bilingual education at Eastern New Mexico University in 1981, beginning with a teacher-co-op program in 1977 in which she would work as a teacher aide during the day and take classes at night.

“It was a hands-on experience,” Villanueva said.

She then did student teaching under Joan Clayton and Jackie Harmon, and later with Nina Kennedy and Antonio Salaz of Portales. In 1983, Villanueva completed master of science degrees in education and special education.

Accomplishments Villanueva is proud of are starting a wellness clinic, through La Casa de Buena Salud, at one of the schools, and starting a chess club at Cameo Elementary.

Villanueva and her husband, Domingo, a self-employed mason, have three grown children and five grandchildren.