There are so many pleasures to enjoy in southern NM not least of which are the chile and the dairy products that are produced right here in our county. But, I don’t often think much about the people who put those delicacies on my plate. That is changing as I visit First Teacher classes in Hatch and Vado, places that are outside of my usual stomping grounds. In the beginning I felt like an outsider because I couldn’t keep up with the Spanish conversation going on around me. But feelings of isolation change once the topic becomes children and wanting what is best for them.

Each generation builds on the best efforts of the last. Every parent embraces dreams for their children.

I grew up in a house with a toy blackboard so I could play school with my sister and my mother took us to the public library because she had educational dreams for us. Just one generation before, her father didn’t see much use for educating his daughter because his perception of opportunity in the world was dominated by men. His father didn’t even consider educating any of his children until the truant officer in this strange new land showed up at the door. He spent his energy trying to improve his family’s chances of survival by changing location.

Sometimes it is the very things that we take for granted that mean so much to someone else. I have felt humbled many times this past month by the excitement, intelligence, determination, and gratitude of people who are my neighbors although we had never met.

In the First Teacher classes we share simple things with parents, some books, puzzles, and conversation about child development. These are materials that many readers might provide for their children without much thought and the information is something avid readers seem to already know although we cannot remember how we were taught this.

Here is what your neighbors say about receiving these gifts for their children. Some of the comments have been translated and paraphrased.

A mother in Hatch shared, “I didn’t think there was any way for me to help my children learn to read. I cannot read. Now I have ideas for how to use books with my children.”

Another observed, “I noticed that as a mother I was not doing everything for my children. I never read to them and had Juan read to me. Thanks to this class I want to read to them. Now I know why Juan does not like to read, it is because I never read to him. My purpose is that my younger child will like to read, and Juan too.”

A parent in Vado explained, “Today’s class was very beautiful. We could understand how the brain makes connections when we play with our children.”

Other comments include, “I like learning how to become a more responsible mother in the process of my daughter’s learning.”

“I want to learn because I never had the opportunity to go to school.”

“I loved the simplicity of the person giving this program, because the information that she gives you makes you understand better how to help your children and prepare them for kindergarten.”

There is a wonderful neighborhood alchemy at work in these communities. Parents are empowering themselves to provide educational advantages for their children thanks to the determination of some pretty special people. Mayra Guerrero and Marisol Olvera of Little Footprints Child Development Center in Hatch provide the classes there. Alejandra Ortega, the foster mother of two, and a former First Teacher participant, teaches the First Teacher class in Vado. Olga Aizpuru coordinates classes at all four of the current First Teacher sites and Martha Perez coordinates the children’s learning activities during classes. This work is supported by the Stocker Foundation and The Daniels Foundation.


 The Reading Solution column is written monthly by CRA Board Member Rorie Measure to increase public awareness of issues related to literacy.