Gauthier embracing La Merced

........................................................................................................................................................................................

Principal Valeryia Gauthier is one of six new faces students and parents can expect to see at La Merced Elementary when school starts up in a few weeks.

Gauthier has lived in Valencia County for about 30 years and sent two children to school here.

La Merced Elementary School Assistant Principal Denise Gutierrez, left, and Prinicpal Valeryia Gauthier, right, are working together to make sure this school year is successful.

“I love Valencia County. It’s like being home. The staff at La Merced have embraced me and there is a strong passion for teaching that can’t be replaced,” Gauthier said.

In the coming year, Gauthier said the staff will be focusing on positive relationships, collaboration and developing strong teams to increase student engagement and learning.

“I want us to do things like meet to work on lesson plans and share student data,” she said. “I want to tap into the current knowledge base of the teachers here and strengthen it through professional development and professional learning communities.”

Gauthier earned her bachelors and masters at the University of New Mexico, received her administrative license from New Mexico Highlands.

Before taking the principalship, she was an instructional coach, and with that as her background, says she believes strongly in building capacity amongst staff through collaboration, instruction and professional development.

“We learn best from each other. I’m not going to make all the decisions,” she said. “We’re a team.”

Other new staff members at the school include assistant principal Denise Gutierrez, sixth-grade teachers Charmaine Wheeler and Sarah Antal, fifth-grade teacher Cynthia Swanson and educational assistant Debra Cantrell. Gutierrez said in an odd twist, with the exception of Gauthier, all the new staff members came from Central Elementary.

Gutierrez moved here nine years ago from California to give her children the opportunity to take part in activities such as 4-H and seeing the stars. Gutierrez said the staff have been very welcoming to her as well and she is looking forward to a productive year.

Gauthier said she and Gutierrez will be out and about at the school, getting to know the students and all the staff members.

“We need the students to know all of the staff,” Gutierez said. She continued, saying they were working on fun and interesting ways to keep students invested in keeping their attendance up.

“They can’t learn if they aren’t here,” Gauthier said.

Some changes parents will see at La Merced are increased security measures to better ensure student safety, Gauthier said. The most noticeable change will be for visitors entering the building.

“Visitors will have to sign in, receive a badge and leave their keys at the front,” she said. “When they leave, they will return the badge and sign out, and obviously get their keys back.”

An open house for La Merced is scheduled from 5:30 to 7 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 14.