Clovis’ teacher wins presidential award

It was at the start of blended learning due to COVID-19 in 2021 that grade four students from Silvia Miranda at Mesa Elementary School in Clovis learned that not only would they alternate in-class and remote days, but that they could not use the playground.

Miranda decided to channel the children’s frustration into a math lesson. Yes, a math lesson

Miranda asked the children to find a solution to their predicament in the playground and tasked her charges with working on planning a playground that would allow for social distancing, using their new multiplication and division skills. to calculate areas and stick to a budget. This meant that they also had to add, subtract, multiply and divide money.

Yes, a math class.

Miranda made sure each student had a job to do, and the class worked together, using objects, diagrams and maps to support their calculations and came up with a plan for a play area that would place the equipment in such a way as to allow a social distance of 6 feet.

And, Miranda said, they stayed within budget.

Then they presented their playground design and budget to the mayor of Clovis, who listened intently to their ideas, Miranda said.

Miranda’s inventive use of a real-world problem to show students how math applies to engineering and its relevance to a community problem, won him a Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Mathematics Education. sciences, the White House announced on February 4.

She was one of two New Mexico teachers to win the award, which the White House called “the highest honor that teachers of math and science (including computer science) in K-12 year may receive from the U.S. government”.

This wasn’t the first time Miranda had won a high award for her teaching skills. She was also a finalist in the National Science Teaching Association’s 2020 Teacher Awards competition and the recipient of the 2018 Milken Educator Award, according to a press release from Clovis Municipal Schools.

Julie Howell, principal of Mesa Elementary School, where Miranda taught for eight years, said Miranda’s contributions were instrumental in Mesa winning a National Blue Ribbon School award in 2016.

Howell, Miranda, and then-District Superintendent Jody Balch spent five days in Washington, D.C. collecting the award, including Election Night, where they observed reactions to President Donald Trump’s election in a renowned hotel lounge near the White House. , Howell said.

“We were in Washington watching history be made,” Howell said.

While in Washington, Miranda also gave an interview in Spanish to Telemundo, a Spanish-language national television station.

“Spanish is my first language,” she says.

Howell praised Miranda.

“I love working with Silvia,” she said. “She’s always very encouraging and capable in whatever I bring to her.”

Since 2016, Miranda has been named Clovis Teacher of the Year in 2018 and a finalist for New Mexico Teacher of the Year. She served as a State Ambassador for the New Mexico Teacher Leaders Network for two years and served on the Secretary of State’s Teacher Advisory Council.

As a state ambassador, she addressed the New Mexico Legislature during its 2022 session to support a bill that will raise teachers’ salaries in the state by an average of 20%. . The bill passed pending Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s signature.

Math and science have always been Miranda’s favorite areas of teaching, she said, and she has always tried to link her lessons to the real world.

She earned finalist status at the National Science Teaching Association Teacher Awards by putting her students “in lab coats and converting the computer lab into a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) lab.”

“We had a weather station and we learned about water and how it relates to weather and life.”

As part of this lesson, she said, her students became “weather friends” with students in Africa, where they talked about wells and water issues.

“We don’t have a lot of water in eastern New Mexico,” she said, “but for some places in Africa it’s much worse.”

Miranda said she constantly monitors her students’ progress and adjusts her methods based on quantifiable metrics.

“I’m very data-driven,” she said.

Miranda currently works as a reading specialist between Mesa and James Bickley Elementary School, where, she says, she works more with administrators and teachers than with students.

Miranda said she is also working to “change the narrative” in education, which she describes as “dark”.

To improve that perspective, she says, she is working with others on ways to improve teacher retention and recruitment.

However, it mainly focuses on student satisfaction.

“Happy kids do well,” she said.

Norma A. Roth