Former student is new principal at H. T. Jaramillo School

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The classrooms and halls of Henry T. Jaramillo Community School ring with childhood memories for one Belen native.

That student, Andrea R. Montaño, has now taken over the reigns of her former elementary school as principal.

Andrea R. Montaño H.T. Jaramillo principal

Montaño is greeted daily with hugs or excited hellos from students. Two kindergarten girls even make sure the mother of three has a snack or drink at her desk every day.

Montaño’s excitement and nerves are reflected through weekly reports she’s written to Superintendent Ron Marquez.

“She’s going to do an excellent job and that’s why we decided to offer her the position,” Marquez said.

Former Principal Carla Martinez resigned to be a first-grade teacher at Jaramillo and spend more time with her children, Marquez said.

Before accepting the position, Montaño was the assistant principal at La Merced Elementary School. Her experience in education extends into 16 years of teaching, where she watched the “light bulb go on” and found her passion in second- through sixth-graders from La Merced, Los Lunas Elementary School and Central Elementary School.

And she said she’s never wanted to be anything else.

“I can be a part of their lives and make a positive difference for them and be a role model they will never, hopefully, forget,” said Montaño. “I love working with kids.”

As a Belen High School senior, Montaño, now 37, had her mind made up on the career she wanted to pursue thanks to inspiration from her favorite teachers. Once in college, she learned she enjoyed working with elementary-aged children the best.

Before receiving hands-on experience in the classroom, Montaño attended New Mexico Highlands University to receive a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in educational leadership. She knew she wanted to apply her master’s degree as an administrator, but wanted classroom experience first.

A few days before Christmas, Montaño heard the district was seeking a principal for Jaramillo.

“The first couple of days, I didn’t consider it,” she said. “I didn’t have time to think about it, but as I thought about it more, I knew I was ready for the change and got excited to apply.”

One day after interviewing for the position, Montaño received the call and packed up her belongings.

“They said, ‘Congratulations you’re the new principal at H.T. Jaramillo,’” Montaño said.

With the help of a cohesive group of teachers and staff members, the transition has been easy.

For now, she plans on observing the courses, programs and initiatives implemented at the school before suggesting improvements.

“I’m not coming into this making big changes,” she said. “I want to bring an outside eye in.”

Montaño comes from a long line of educators, including her great grandfather, Nicanor Romero, who served as superintendent of the Valencia County Schools in the 1940s, and her aunt, former H.T. Jaramillo Community School Principal Julie Benavidez.


-- Email the author at aortiz@news-bulletin.com.