Los Lunas Schools’ District Teacher of the Year Cassandra Johnson-Passeno has been teaching at Century High School for three years, and has been teaching with Los Lunas Schools for 20.

She is the only history teacher at Century High School and teaches social studies for ninth through 12th grade.

Johnson-Passeno graduated from Scripps College in Claremont, Calif., with a bachelor’s degree in history. She earned her secondary-level teaching credential at Concordia University in California, then moved to New Mexico in 1995 and applied for a teaching credential here.

Why did you chose teaching as a career?

“I have always loved the study of history and wanted to be able to have a career that utilized my skills and enjoyment of history. I also wanted to be able to pass on the importance of studying and understanding history to kids. I believe historical understanding is one of the most important subjects we as a society can learn and that our young need to be exposed to it to have a well-rounded understanding of the world.”

What brings you the most joy in teaching?

“When a student returns after graduating and thanks you for helping them develop their skills for success! You aren’t always aware of your impact on students and sometimes they themselves don’t fully appreciate the impact their educators have on their lives. But when they do acknowledge it, you feel very proud that your efforts mattered.”

How do you inspire your students to learn?

“I try all sorts of tactics. Sometimes it’s a funny historic story I tell to get them interested, or I pose an issue that they can debate. Sometimes I put them to work on a creative project or research. Sometimes it is difficult and you get stuck and it feels monotonous, so you keep trying different things. What worked for one group may not work for another. You have to be able to think on your feet and change directions quickly if necessary.”

What is your reaction to being named District Teacher of the Year?

“I am completely and totally shocked. I never expected to be named District Teacher of the Year because there are so many wonderful teachers in our district that are so deserving. But I am honored and feel privileged that my years of hard work have been acknowledged.

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