2011 NMAS Outstanding Teacher Awards

By Harry Pomeroy, Award Coordinator
Cash awards from the American Chemical Society 

NMAS recognized two Outstanding New Mexico Science Teachers at the annual banquet held in November, 2010. These teachers were chosen from nominations statewide for best High School, Middle School, or Elementary teachers. Cash awards were generously contributed by the American Chemical Society and NM Optics. They are:

Outstanding High School Science Teacher – Bonnie Dodge, Infinity High School, Belen
Outstanding Middle School Science Teacher Damian Armijo, Alta Vista Middle School. Carlsbad

Bonnie Dodge, Infinity High School, Belen

I am Bonnie Dodge and I am a math and science teacher at Infinity High School in Belen, New Mexico. This is an alternative high school for at-risk students, which means these students have been turned off to education at some point in their school lives. Some have dropped out of school, dropped out of life, and become invis- ible except when they commit some unconventional and often unacceptable action against society. Others did not receive their high school diploma for whatever reason and now realize the importance of that certificate. These students are intelligent and have overcome many odds in their quest to better themselves.

I have a degree in education, majoring in math with a minor in science. I taught in Connecticut for nine years in grades kindergarten to middle school. I was a partner in an art and framing business and worked in the aerospace industry for many years. I did not expect to return to teaching, but while I was in Connecticut I was asked to teach an after-school math enrichment program in the local middle school. This reignited my passion for teaching. I enjoyed working with the students, finding activities which related math to the world around them, and seeing their enthusiasm as they worked through their problems.

About seven years ago I moved to New Mexico and was presented with the opportunity to teach science and math. I had been out of education for several years and needed licensure in New Mexico; this started my journey to enhance my formal science background. Since then I have received my Level II Licensure and am certified as highly qualified in math and science. I received my Masters of Science for Teachers and Green Technologies Certificate from New Mexico Tech. I am an avid seeker of knowledge and attend many teacher workshops and professional development programs, many of which are on weekends or during the summer. I greatly appreciate the numerous opportunities New Mexico offers its teachers and young people. The outreach programs made avail- able by state and federal agencies, businesses and corporations, communities and institutions of higher education are priceless assets which can to be used to excite and motivate students as well as teachers.

I am especially proud of my students who have been in or are presently in my Advanced Applied Science class. This class meets for a four-hour block of time on Friday mornings. The first class was three years ago, entitled “Mining for Energy in New Mexico.” With the help of experts from the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources (NMT) and help from mining companies within the state, students were able to realize the importance of mining, because they visited an operating mine, an abandoned mine, and an historical mine site. Last year we studied the “Geology of New Mexico” as it related to earthquakes and vol- canoes. Students visited and hiked all types of volcanoes in the state including lava flows and volcanic plugs. I depended on the support of BLM staff, IRIS PASCAL staff at NMT, Senior Geolo- gists, U.S. Forest Rangers, and the US Army Corp of Engineers to allow us on their lands and share their expertise with us. This year we are studying “Water as a Resource.” We are participating in a monthly monitoring program: the Bosque Ecosystem Monitoring Program (BEMP) in conjunction with UNM. We are also cooperating with the staff (US Department of Fish and Wildlife Service) at Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge to design an outdoor classroom at our school using native plants and xeriscaping. Working with personnel from the Whitfield Wildlife Conservancy Area, students are learning about wetlands. As a community outreach students will donate a work day to help keep clean the Whitfield site. With the help of the USDA, Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) and input from other professionals in the field , the students have designed and are now implementing an erosion-control project at our new school (Infinity High School) to be completed shortly. They have also made a landscape design and have chosen vegetation for planting in the spring to complete our water- conserving xeriscape landscape.


I want to thank all of you for your support, too. The inspira- tion for teaching subjects like these comes from the informa- tion and activities I have gleaned from workshops, classes, and conferences I have attended and still attend on a regular basis. I especially want to thank my school and district administration for allowing me to teach outside the box in order to stimulate students to learn.

I believe a teacher‘s goal is to SPARK the curiosity within a student enough to KINDLE the student’s desire to learn and IGNITE the FLAME that lights the pathway to knowledge. We are all teachers; be it in a classroom, outside in a field, within a giant corporation, in our communities, or in our own homes. We all have the responsibility as Shirley Garrett says, “[To] teach from the top of [our] lungs and bottom of [our] hearts!”


Damian Armijo, Alta Vista Middle School, Carlsbad

Damian Armijo was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he resided for most of his life. He is married to Cheryl, and has four children, Lydia, Jaccob, Domilyse, and Simon. Damian and his family currently reside in Carlsbad, NM.

Damian graduated from West Mesa High School in 1988. After graduation he joined the United States Air Force and served as a Security Police- man for two years. Upon exiting the military he moved to Edgewood, New Mexico with his family and spent several years seeking his life‘s profession.

In April of 2001 Damian decided to pursue a degree in Elementary Education. He minored in science and Teaching English as a Second Language (TESOL). In December of 2005 he completed his Bachelor’s degree and graduated with honors, Summa Cum Laude, from the University of New Mexico. After a brief respite Damian returned to school in October 2006 to further his education. He graduated from the University of Phoenix in December of 2007 with a Master‘s degree in Curriculum and Instruction.

Damian has now been teaching for five years. He taught for one year with Albuquerque Public Schools, and is now in his fourth year with Carlsbad Municipal Schools. He is currently teaching 8th grade science at Alta Vista Middle School.

Damian enjoys using inquiry and hands on exploration to introduce students to the natural phenom- ena that exist all around them, and to encourage their curiosity. Through inquiry based activities, and a high enthusiasm for science, students are led to not only make observations but, to question what they observe and seek answers to their ques- tions. “The universe lies before you, waiting to be explored. I have opened the door; all you need to do is walk through.”