This year’s Teacher of the Year for Belen Consolidated Schools has been in the classroom for a decade and at Belen High School for almost eight years.

Sanjar Hekmati teaches algebra II, calculus and calculus II to sophomores, juniors and seniors at BHS.

He earned his bachelor’s degree in biology, with a minor in math, from The University of New Mexico in 2007, and completed his master’s degree in math education at UNM in 2012.

Why did you choose teaching as a career?

“I like helping people, to make things easy for people. I like to simplify things and share it. I love to challenge people, and I love the competition.

“I have deep (teaching) roots — my mother was a teacher and my grandfather was a college math professor.”

What brings you the most joy in teaching?

“Challenging students and creating a vigorous engaging classroom. Just about every student I have has wanted to get better. When students are asking questions and are involved in the lesson, a 90-minute class feels like a nine-minute class.

“The students in Belen are absolutely awesome. They bring me joy by letting me teach them, and they always work hard for me.”

How do you inspire your students to learn?

“I create a student-centered, trusting relationship with them, where each student gets an opportunity to get better and I hold every student accountable. Students are smart. They know and feel if a teacher cares about their learning.”

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

“It was a surprise, because we have so many talented teachers. I couldn’t have done it without so many people — my father, Saleem Hekmati, (BHS principal) Rodney Wright, (BHS assistant principal) Jamie Romero, (BHS assistant principal) David Jimenez, my great mentor, Mark Garcia, (BHS secretary) Cyndi Shawver, (Belen Consolidated Schools director of school improvement) Matt Williams, my colleagues, the athletic coaches I work with and most of all, the students of Belen High School. They’re the reason why I really love teaching.”

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