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Faculty Bios

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Rowena Aragon Swinney is the 2nd grade teacher at Carrizozo Municipal Schools in Carrizozo, New Mexico.  She received her Bachelor of Science in Education, with her major in General Science, at La Salle University Philippines in October 1996.  Her first teaching position began the following month.  From May 1997 to May 2007, she taught biology, chemistry and physics at Stella Maris College (High School Department). 

After a decade working as a teacher, she decided to try something new. In March 2008, she had the opportunity to work abroad in one of the largest hotel chains in the world, Marriot Hotels in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. 

In 2010, she finally joined her husband in Los Angeles, California.  From February 2011 through May 2012, she worked as a Program Leader at an after school program at Lynwood Elementary School in Lynwood, California.

She began teaching in Carrizozo in 2013 as a 5th grade teacher.  Additionally, she also taught 5th and 6th grade science classes.  She has been teaching 2nd grade since 2014 school year.

She loves to bake, cook, sing, and play the classical guitar.  

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Ms. Lydia A. Serna is the 4th grade teacher at Carrizozo Municipal Schools in Carrizozo, New Mexico.  She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Education from New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, NM in the year 1997. She also received her Masters of Education in Education from Eastern New Mexico University in Portales. She began her career in education as a Special Education teacher in Los Lunas Middle School for one year; followed by a year in Alamogordo, NM at Buena Vista Elementary. She began teaching regular education in Carrizozo 17 years ago: two years in the high school.  Then she moved to 5th grade for a year. She has taught 4th grade for the past 14 years. She has two sons, Craig and Cory, who graduated from Carrizozo High School; two beautiful daughters-in-law, Rosa and Heidi; two grandsons, Jonathan and Remy Collins. She loves to read, sew, and work in her yard. She also enjoys going to Jonathan’s piano recitals, and her grandsons’ soccer games. She is very involved in her church community as a counter of Sunday collection, lector, and choir. Message from Ms. Serna My father only went to school up to 5th grade, and my mother went to eighth grade.  I grew up with the values of hard working parents who valued education.   I always tell my students that if they get a good education, they will be successful as an adult and in their career choice.  I also tell students that it is never too late to get an education. I was 45 when I received my Bachelor degree; and 55 when I received my Masters. I am the first of 16 siblings to receive a higher education degree. I like the quote by Jaime Escalante, “Ganas (enthusiasm) is all you need.”

 

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Mrs. Kellie Gallacher is the Kindergarten teacher at Carrizozo Municipal Schools in Carrizozo, New Mexico.  She received her Bachelor of Business Administration majoring in Finance from New Mexico State University and her Masters of Arts in Teaching from Western New Mexico University.  She began her teaching career teaching 6th grade at Carrizozo in 1994.  Her second year in teaching was in 3rd grade and her 3rd year she taught kindergarten and has been teaching kindergarten ever since.  She is married and has three children.  The oldest daughter attends New Mexico State University, the middle daughter is in high school, and her son is in elementary.  Her husband is a ranch manager for Gallacher Land and Cattle Company.  He also serves on the nominating committee for Farm Credit of New Mexico and on the board for the Carrizozo Natural Resource Conversation Service. Kellie loves teaching, learning, reading, hiking, and watching grizzly sports. She also loves spending time with her family and friends. She is a member of: Carrizozo People For Kids (PFK), United Methodist Church, Carrizozo, Canyon Cowbelles, New Mexico Farm and Livestock Bureau and the New Mexico Cattle Growers Association. Message from Mrs. Gallacher: I like to encourage my students to follow the golden rule.  I believe if you treat others with respect it will be given to you in return.  I would like to thank the town of Carrizozo for their continued appreciation and pride of our school and students.  The success of our students wouldn’t be possible without the support of the community behind them.  It is great to be a Grizzly!!

 

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Rhonica Toler teaches the Reads to Leads program at Carrizozo Elementary.  She graduated cum laude from Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas in 1984, majoring in Home Economics and Elementary Education.  For thirty plus years, she has taught 2nd grade for two different schools; Westwood ISD in Palestine, Texas and Navasota Elementary in Navasota, TX.  She taught 3rd grade at Central Baptist Academy in Magnolia, TX and music and art for Round Rock ISD.  She has coordinated and taught Home School Programs at different times in Austin, TX and Ruidoso, NM.  For the last seven years, she has been the Children’s Director at Angus Church of the Nazarene.  In 2012, she received through the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America her Group Exercise Instructor certification. She has been married to Tucker Toler for 30 years.  They have three children, Rebekah, Travis and Susanna, daughter-in-law, Brooke, and one granddaughter, Brynlee; who is the apple of their eye.  Rhonica is originally from Dallas, Texas and has lived in many cities throughout Texas due to her husband’s career opportunities as an electrical engineer.  They built their home in Nogal Canyon, and have resided there for the past 15 years. She enjoys reading, traveling, exercising, 4-wheeling, camping, and thoroughly appreciates spending time with family.  Her love of teaching and seeing children learn is the most rewarding experience of all.

 

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Mr. Jackson aka Coach is the high school Social Studies Teacher, Head football coach and Assistant Track coach. I received my Bachelors of Science degree in secondary education from Eastern New Mexico University and my Masters of Education degree from Grand Canyon University. Then I earned my Administrative license from the University of New Mexico. I am starting my 27th year in education. I have had a rather eclectic career teaching, coaching and administrating in a variety of schools from Middle school to college. During these experiences I‘ve held a  number of different positions to include all social studies classes from 7th – 12th, coaching from 7th grade assistant to 6A head coach. Administratively I’ve held various positions as well, to include Assistant Principal, Principal, Athletic Coordinator, Dean of Students. My wife and I have raised three children who are at various stages of their college careers. My wife of 29 years Cindy, a fellow educator now works for the University of New Mexico as a” Focus” Verifier. My interests include nearly all sports, hiking, skiing, woodworking and just about any outside activity.

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Tamie Espinoza teaches 6th grade at Carrizozo Municipal Schools. Mrs. Espinoza received her Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education at Eastern New Mexico University, graduating with Honors, in December of 1986.  She began her teaching career in Aztec, NM in 1987 and has been teaching for 29 years. She spent 20 years teaching 1st grade, 6 years teaching 2nd grade and 2 years teaching 5th grade.  Mrs. Espinoza has been married for 32 years and had three children.   Her son, Jake and her daughter Caitlyn, both attend(ed) ENMU.  She looks forward to and enjoys spending time with her family.  Mrs. Espinoza is an avid reader, loves to travel and explore new places. 

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Mr. Pierson teaches 7th Grade English and New Mexico History, 8th Grade U.S. History and monitors Dual Enrollment classes. He is the Athletic Director, Head Boys Basketball coach and Head Track coach. I received my Bachelors of Arts degree in Elementary Education from Western New Mexico University in 2004 and my Masters of Education Administration degree from Western New Mexico University in 2014. I am starting my 13th year in education. I worked in private sector for almost 18 years before attaining my Teaching License. The last 9 years, before becoming a teacher I was self-employed and owned a Refrigeration service company in Truth or Consequences, NM. With these experiences I feel that it has made me a strong teacher with a lot to offer. I have taught in the High School and the Middle School and did my student teaching in the Elementary, so I fee
l that I have become a well-rounded instructor.

My wife, who is also a teacher, and I have been married for 21 years and hold the value of family very high. We have two children that are very active in school functions. Our daughter, Kaitlyn, is in her first year at Western New Mexico University and our son, Riley, is in his junior year at Carrizozo High. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, fishing, hunting and just enjoying the great outdoors.

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Mrs. Pierson teaches 5th Grade, is Assistant Volleyball Coach, Jr. High basketball coach, and head Jr. High track coach. I received my Bachelors of Science degree in Elementary Education from Western New Mexico University. I also have a Master’s Degree in Education Leadership through Western New Mexico University. I began my teaching career in Truth or Consequences where I taught for 18 years. This is where I met my husband of 21 years. We have two children a daughter Kaitlyn who is a freshman in college at Western New Mexico University. Our son is a junior in High School here at Carrizozo High School. We made the decision to move to Carrizozo four years ago. This has been one of the best decisions we have made for our family. We absolutely love living in Carrizozo.  I began teaching 2nd grade at Carrizozo Elementary and did this for two years. Last year I moved to 5th grade where I am currently teaching. Outside of school I enjoy spending time with my family and friends. I also enjoy reading and cross stitching when I get the chance. 

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Mrs. Elizabeth Barela is the 3rd grade teacher at Carrizozo Municipal Schools in Carrizozo, New Mexico.   She is a graduate of Carrizozo High School and a lifelong resident of Carrizozo.  She received her Bachelor of Science in Education of Elementary Education and Endorsement of Bilingual Education from Eastern New Mexico University in 2007.  She will graduate in May 2016, from Abilene Christian University with her Master of Education Leadership of Learning-Principal Track.  She began her career in education as an Instructional Assistant in Carrizozo, assisting teachers at the elementary level.  She then left Carrizozo Schools to complete her degree.  Her first teaching job was in Ruidoso, New Mexico at Sierra Vista Elementary.  She taught a First Grade Bilingual class.  While she enjoyed doing this, she wanted to teach in her home town.  In 2008, she interviewed for the 6th grade position at Carrizozo Schools.  She taught 6th grade for one year before doing an in-house transfer to third grade.  This is her 7th year as the 3rd grade teacher.  She is married and has 3 sons, Patrick, Ethan, and Braide and one daughter, Hailey.  Patrick attends Eastern New Mexico University, and the remaining three attend Carrizozo Schools.  Her husband works for the New Mexico Department of Transportation. She enjoys spending time with her family, riding horses, hunting, watching her children play sports, and teaching. Message from Mrs. Barela, My family emigrated from Mexico in 1978. I was born a citizen of the United States in December 1980.  As illegal immigrants, my parents feared deportation so they seldom traveled anywhere, except to buy necessities; but all the while, they worked on becoming residents.  In 1986, they became residents of the United States of America.  My father instilled the importance of hard work, always striving to do better, and the importance of education.  In 1997, my father became a United States citizen.  He is my hero!  He has accomplished so many things in his life.  Because of him, I am the first in our family to graduate high school, receive a bachelor's degree, and the first to earn a Masters.  You can accomplish many things through hard work and determination.

 

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Dena Odell is both the 1st grade teacher and the elementary arts teacher for Carrizozo Municipal Schools. Dena studied liberal arts at Colorado College for 2 years, and then she transferred to Lesley University in Cambridge where she graduated with a B.S. from the innovative educational program called the Audubon Expedition Institute. After working in organic farming, community education, retail, and finally, educational daycare, Dena and her partner Steven moved to New Mexico where she obtained her New Mexico teaching license through the University of New Mexico-Santa Fe Public Schools Internship Program. Dena taught 6th grade for Sarracino Middle School in Socorro for 6 years while living in the Rio Grande Valley. While at Sarracino, her students participated in National Dance Institute and Science Olympiad. She also took graduate science courses through New Mexico Tech. After moving to White Oaks in 2001, Dena worked for Carrizozo Schools as a leave replacement teacher in middle school, evening librarian, a substitute, after school teacher, and summer school teacher. While working as a substitute, she was hired to be the performing and visual arts teacher in Feb. 2006, a position she still fills today. In 2009, she also became the site coordinator to run the 21st Century Learning Center at the school. This was a 4 year grant providing a wide variety of after school activities for Carrizozo Schools. In 2012, Dena became the first grade teacher in addition to teaching elementary arts through the state-funded FAEA program. In 2013, she wrote the application for the K-3 Reads to Lead Program which provides extra funding for the school each year to hire a Reading Interventionist and to provide after school funding. Other accomplishments at school include receiving a Hubbard Grant to build the school garden, receiving an Otero Electric Round-Up grant to fund the elementary book publishing project, creating the mosaic sundial along with community volunteer artists, and producing 2 performing arts performances each year with her arts classes. Dena and Steven have a daughter Molly, who will be attending Kindergarten next year. She enjoys bicycle trips, hiking in the mountains around White Oaks, and visiting family and friends in the Pacific Northwest and Philadelphia each summer.

 

Carol Wilson gets to combine four of her passions in life as a part of her job as Carrizozo Schools, where she serves as Culinary Arts Instructor, Librarian, and Yearbook instructor.

Wilson, who has written for newspapers and magazines for the last 33 years, loves telling stories and enjoys teaching students how to tell their stories in the Yearbook class. She also teaches fundamentals of photography and layout design. She gets to share stories and great books in her job as librarian, and prepares students for high-demand, high-wage jobs in foodservice in her role as Culinary Arts instructor. 

Wilson and her husband, Rex, ranch north of Carrizozo, raising calves, boys, and horses where the prairies meet the mountains and the mountains kiss the sky. Rex and the three Wilson boys, Justus, Kendal, and Marshal, are all graduates of Carrizozo High School.

"I've seen graduates of Carrizozo go out in the world and fulfill big dreams," Wilson stated. "Our job is to teach students to be life-long learners who are self-motivated."

Wilson's education includes a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture and Extension Education, Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Mass Communication, and Masters of Agriculture and Extension Education with a minor in Special Education, all from New Mexico State University. She has taught Special Education, English, and History at the Carrizozo Schools for the past 11 years.

Wilson encourages her students towards excellence, not perfection. Her favorite quote is one that she first heard from her son, Marshal, who lives by Aristotle's words, "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit."

 

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Tanja Burns is the middle and high school science teacher for Carrizozo Municipal Schools. What a fabulous location and community in which to teach science! Tanja is a BSC Honors graduate of the University of Western Australia, with NM Teacher Certification in Secondary Education from Santa Fe Community College. She arrived to the USA by winning an inaugural North American Australasian postgraduate work scholarship, met and married her husband of 26 years, who is from Wyoming. She has worked in education from the outback of her home state of Western Australia, to schools in the city of Perth, as well as in the USA at Arapahoe WY [Wind River Indian Reservation], Lander WY, Sanders AZ [Navajo Nation], and Tularosa, Cloudcroft and Alamogordo NM. Tanja ‘s favorite accomplishment in life is contributing to her family, of which she is very proud: her husband teaches elementary school in Tularosa, one daughter is entering her junior year of high school in Alamogordo, while the other is a accomplished social worker/administrator and newly wed in Kansas City. When teaching science, Tanja believes that effort, professionalism, observation, thinking, asking/questioning and creativity are the essential ingredients for both the teacher and student. She strives to engage her students to continue a life long journey in using what they learn in science class well beyond school, throughout their lives, to keep inquiring, inspiring and contributing.

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Cathy Barela is the Dean of Students at Carrizozo Municipal Schools in Carrizozo, New Mexico.  She earned her Bachelor of Science in Education at New Mexico State University in December 1996.  Mrs. Barela earned her Masters of Education in Elementary Education at Eastern New Mexico University in 2006. She has been in education for 19 years, starting out as a Head Start teacher in Ruidoso, NM.  Cathy started at Carrizozo Municipal Schools in August 1997. She has taught 5th grade and 2nd grade. Then moved to the Technology Coordinator position and is currently the Dean of Students.  Cathy has been married for 21 years and has 2 children, Cirsten and Tristen.  Cirsten is a Freshman at ENMU-Portales and Tristen is a sophomore at Carrizozo High School.  Tristen is involved in sports and active in FFA.  Her husband, Chris, is a supervisor for NMDOT and currently serves on the Carrizozo School Board.

Cathy believes that people should be part of the solution, not the problem.  She enjoys being with family and friends, reading, baking, and quilting.

 

Allison Greene-Wall is the Carrizozo Middle and High School English teacher for 8th-12th grade and Advanced Placement Literature/Composition and Language/Composition. She has a Bachelor of Arts in History from New Mexico State University where she was a Crimson Scholar and a Phi Alpha Theta: National History Honor Society member. She did graduate work in Special Education at the University of Texas at El Paso, and earned a Master of Science in Literacy from Walden University in Minnesota. She has over twenty years of experience in teaching in Texas and New Mexico.

Currently, she lives in Ruidoso and worked for six years at Ruidoso High School teaching English, ENLACE, World History, Government and Economics, Duel Credit and AP U. S. History, where her husband of 31 years still teaches English and Drama. Prior to RHS, she was the Social Studies teacher and curriculum writer for an ESL high school in the South Valley of Albuquerque. Before moving north, she worked for twelve years in the Gadsden School District as a middle school and high school teacher in special education, content mastery, science, social studies, and research skills.

She has a New Mexico Certification to teach English, Social Studies, Family and Consumer Science, Gifted and Talented, TESOL, and Special Education with twenty years of experience in education. Although, not born here, she has lived most of her life in New Mexico and El Paso. In her limited spare time, she is a fiber artist who spins fiber, knits, crochets, felts, sews, and weaves. Although before becoming a teacher, she was an archaeologist, she finds that being an educator has been the most gratifying work she has ever performed and finds every day it is a pleasure to work with our young people.