by Robert Nott
The Santa Fe New Mexican

In the roughly eight months that I have been the full-time education reporter for The New Mexican, I’ve received a lot of comments from concerned parties and parents regarding various issues — including the closure of small schools — that offer a critical view of Santa Fe Public Schools. Regardless of what you think of the system, there are some really good people working in it, and the district pays homage to them with the promotional video “The Power of a Teacher,” produced by Silver Bullet Productions of Santa Fe.

“There remains one constant — the quality of the educational experience for each and every child depends on the power of a teacher,” SFPS Superintendent Bobbie Gutierrez notes in the film’s opening narration.

Her comment is echoed by both students and educators in the film. “You have to love the kids — you have to see kids for their strengths,” Gonzales Community School teacher Geron Spray says in the film.

The students’ comments are particularly poignant, with one noting that she wants her teacher to “respect me… take care of me… love me.” Another student praises her teacher for making boring stuff “really fun.”

The 18-minute film (which comes with a discussion guide!) is being distributed to every school in the district, Gutierrez explained by phone. She said the district wanted to showcase the impact that teachers have on children in a positive light.

“You sometimes wonder, ’Is our work making a difference?’ ” Gutierrez said. She’s hoping the film will answer that question. Santa Fe High English teacher Dixie Poppell, who is interviewed in the film, said by phone that she also wonders whether the public at large understands how teachers can influence children.

“We’re with our students seven hours a day — which can often be more time than parents spend with their kids in the course of a day,” she said.

Poppell recalls Mary Ann Rich, an English teacher who had a positive impact on her when Poppell was attending Wayne County High School in Jesup, Ga. “She was very motivating and encouraging to me, a very positive person who was very important to me as an adult role model.”

According to Gutierrez, you can view “The Power of a Teacher” on the district’s website,

Speaking of that website, Gutierrez said the district is working to make it more user-friendly and include more financial and budgetary information by semester’s end. Visit the site to get updates on school closures, information about public events, to review the Code of Conduct and see this year’s schedule, and stay on top of agendas for school board meetings. One thing I’d like to see on the website is a little more historical information on each individual school. A few of the schools have this sort of background data — like who served as the namesake for the school and when the school was built — but most do not.

Today, Aug. 23, is the first day of school. That means a lot of children will be out there on the streets. According to an article in the current issue of AAA’s New Mexico Journey, recent studies suggest that up to two-thirds of all drivers speed in school zones. So please, pay a little more attention when driving, and slow down in school zones. The Police Department will have officers rotating among all school zones in the morning, and they’ll have a zero-tolerance attitude when it comes to speeding, no seat belts, talking on your cell phone, etc.