Belen High School teacher Wreatha Sturgill named a top educator in state

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She joined the field of education to fill a need and, three decades later, she was awarded for her efforts.

Abigail R. Ortiz-News-Bulletin photo: Belen High School teacher Wreatha Sturgill received a 2013 Excellence for Student Achievement Award from the New Mexico School Boards Association.

Belen High School teacher, Wreatha Sturgill, is one of 67 recipients statewide chosen by the New Mexico School Boards Association for the 2013 Excellence for Student Achievement Award.

The award recognizes those who play a role in improving student achievement at a local level, states an association news release.

In former BHS principal Christopher Hotchkiss’ letter of nomination, he calls Sturgill a “highly skilled” English teacher who gives students individual attention, building positive relationships with students and taking the time to ensure students’ physical, emotional and educational needs are met to reach her ultimate goal of assisting students in “becoming successful learners.”

“She has played an important role in improving student achievement by developing student writing skills and using best practices,” Hotchkiss’ letter states. “She emphasizes competent communication skills, addresses multiple intelligences to meet the needs of her students.”

Superintendent Ron Marquez said the 32-year educator is admired by staff and students.

“The kids love her and she’s a good teacher,” Marquez said.

The Tomé resident set out on a career revolving around education after getting tired of dealing with paperwork. At the time, Sturgill had passed through a number of positions, including a security clerk in two brokerage firms, an insurance agent and a television researcher and producer, but she wanted to make a lasting and positive connection with individuals.

The first time she realized teaching was the career for her was when she walked into a special education class as a substitute teacher in the Albuquerque Public Schools and was left no lesson plan to follow.

“I asked them, ‘What would you like to learn?’ and one of the students said he would like to read a menu when he took his girlfriend to a restaurant,” she said. “That pulled at my heart.”

As she gathered menus from nearby restaurants and assisted this student, she realized there was a need out there.

“And it all started from there,” she said.

Although she had a bachelor’s degree in English from the State University of New York at Oswego, she went back to school for three semesters to receive a teaching certification from the University of New Mexico.

Soon after, she received a teaching position at Belen High School as an English teacher assisting students struggling with reading and writing. She helped bring students up to their reading and writing grade levels.

She’s served as the English Department Chairwoman and was named BHS’ Teacher of the Year in 1992-93.

As a “main component of the BHS staff,” other peers and administrators often seek out “her wisdom and advice,” the letter states.

“Furthermore, she is often one of the last teachers to leave campus every evening. Every afternoon she is grading her student’s essays and making phone calls to parents,” the letter states.

Sturgill plans to retire at the end of the 2013-14 school year.


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