Raytheon Honors Mr. Ernesto Somoza

By Kevin Salazar

Ernesto Somoza

Pueblo High School’s very own Mr. Ernesto Somoza, who teaches graphic design and sponsors numerous clubs, has been named Raytheon’s Teacher of the Year, among the dozens of applicants from many high schools in the Tucson area.

After being nominated in August by Pueblo colleague, economics teacher Ms. Mary Wallace, Somoza endured several levels of eligibility—and in the end, received the call that informed him that he was one of three teachers who would receive a $5,000 grant.

Somoza said, “I was eventually notified that I was a finalist, which made me really happy.” He paused and added, “Then, I had to be at my best during a Zoom interview—competing against other finalists.”

He added, “I almost missed the phone call the next day that informed me that I was the recipient of the award. I kept ignoring a call during first period because I didn’t recognize the call number and name. But, luckily, I eventually answered my phone a few times later and learned of my award.”

This is not Somoza’s first time at being honored by local organizations. He has been recognized by the TUSD media, Tucson Values Teachers and by the University of Arizona.

“Being recognized for what I do at Pueblo is truly elating,” Somoza said. “My job is challenging, although I’ve never looked at it as a job because it’s too much fun.” He paused and added, “All teachers work hard to inspire their students and to prepare them for the future. I wish I could share this award with everybody.”

Besides dedicating his school day as a graphic teacher for the past six years, Somoza also sponsors/teachers the Bicycle Club, the Hiking Club and also volunteers his time for various other projects, including district and community leaders.

“Our [Pueblo] students need to compete with others across the city,” Somoza said, “and this grant money will help me afford the equipment necessary to expedite this process.”

Somoza and his students recently began to design and create T-shirts for various Pueblo clubs after purchasing equipment necessary for such a venture.

“There’s so much more I need in my classroom to compete with other high schools’ graphic design programs,” Somoza said, “but I feel confident that we’re on our way. I want Pueblo to be the district and community leader in this field.”

Somoza is currently applying for another grant award that would help him achieve this status. He encourages other educators to apply for grants in their subject matter because “they’re out there.” These grants, he asserts, will make positive changes in students’ learning.

“I see how engaged students are when they’re learning graphic design with state of the art equipment,” said Somoza, “This enthusiasm and engagement really does change their perspectives and turns otherwise disinterested students into individuals who truly want to learn and share their knowledge with others. This contagion is absolutely amazing to observe.”

Ms. Mary Wallace, who nominated Somoza for this award, said, “Ernie [Somoza] is the most amazing STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Math] teacher I have ever met! He helps everybody selflessly with his knowledge of technology.”

With a future full of new adventures and new projects, Somoza shares his happiness for what he does for a living.

“What I do [at Pueblo] just happens to award me a paycheck every two weeks,” he said. “The real reward is preparing students for success and instilling them with the kind of knowledge with which they can graduate and use forever.”

Cristobal Santa Cruz Receives Collegiate Award

By Isaiah Sotelo

Cristobal Santa Cruz teaching history.

Out of 305 nominees from 38 states and 17 countries, Pueblo U.S. history teacher Mr. Cristobal Santa-Cruz was nominated and selected as one of this year’s winners of the prestigious Yale Educator Award, which recognizes high school educators who have motivated and supported students to go and be “above and beyond”.

These educators are nominated by students, and these nominations are reviewed by admissions officers at Yale University.

“I felt privileged because I know that several teachers deserved this award,” said Santa Cruz, who was nominated by Pueblo High School’s Class of 2021 valedictorian Yakeleen Almazán, currently attending Yale University in New Haven, Conn.

“Once I read the Yale Educator Award prompt, I automatically thought of Mr. Santa Cruz.” said Almazán.

Almazán thanks Santa Cruz for all of the encouragement he gave her. She believes that because of his support, she was accepted to Yale and was selected for one of the most prestigious scholarships for high school students.

“Not only did he touch my life, but he is legendary at Pueblo for his amazing lectures and the motivation he instills within his students,” Almazán said.

She added that Santa Cruz’ interactive style of teaching allows his students to be engaged in their classwork and deeply interested in the subject.

“I can honestly say that I was never bored—not even once—while I was in his classroom,” Almazan said. “I was always fully attentive and fascinated during his lectures.”

Ms. Mary Wallace, an economics teacher at Pueblo, added that Santa Cruz has been an unconditional ally to his co-educators and staff throughout their years of teaching.

“He is the most amazing teacher I ever met,” said Wallace. “When I was a first-year teacher, he took me under his wing and helped me so much. If it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t have made it my first year.”

Santa Cruz, who has been teaching at Pueblo for 29 years, was publicly recognized for this award at Pueblo’s Homecoming game on Oct. 1.

“When my students leave my class, my hope is that they have the skills that help them become literate members of our society and that they adhere to a tenacious spirit that helps them further their education in the field they choose to follow,” he said.

Mr. ‘B’ Named Pueblo’s Teacher Of The Year

by Calista Gonzales

Traditionally, the teachers and staff at Pueblo select a Circle K “Teacher of the Year”—through nominations from their colleagues. This year, exceptional education teacher Mr. Gene Balsz was selected as this year’s Pueblo nominee. Most schools across the state participate in this program.

On Wednesday, Sept. 27, during the weekly teachers’ and staff members’ “professional development” meeting, Balsz received more votes than any other teacher at Pueblo.

Dr. Augustine Romero, Pueblo’s principal, said, “Mr. Balsz does an incredible job with our students and is engaged with them as well.”

Balsz, who has been working at Pueblo for the past seven years, said that he was very surprised when he found out that he was the nominee at Pueblo.

“I think the only reason why I was the nominee [and won the award] is because I can work very well with any of our students at Pueblo,” Balsz said.

He paused and said, “I’m really good with the kids who hate school.”

Besides teaching exceptional education students, Balsz is also very involved with Pueblo’s math club, called MESA—an acronym for Math, English, Science and Achievement.

“Mr. B. does an amazing job in MESA as well,” Romero said. “We are very lucky to have him at Pueblo.”

Ms. Trevia Heath, Mr. Balsz’ department chair, said, “I am delighted with Mr. Balsz’ nomination. He works hard to develop relationships with students and is always willing to try new strategies in his classroom. Gene [Balsz] is committed to fostering life-long learning habits in his students.”

Later this year, in mid-to-late-November, Circle K will announce its winner for the regional “Teacher of the Year”. Everybody at Pueblo is definitely keeping their fingers crossed for Mr. Balsz.

Mr. Campbell: Being His Best

Aliah Luna El Guerrero Pueblo 2015

By Aliah Luna

Math Heroes By Raytheon LogoPueblo math teacher Mr. Charles William (“Billy”) Campbell was honored for being the recipient of the “MathMovesU Math Hero” award. He received the official news that he was just one of 25 math teachers in thirteen states to be honored for this award.

Nominated by co-teacher Ms. Shanti Foster last semester, Campbell learned early last summer that he would be competing in the finals. Campbell was asked a series of questions on an application and his responses determined him to be a finalist.

On August 31, Campbell was informed that he was one of the 25 recipients of the math award.

Charles Billy Campbell Math Teacher Pueblo Awarded
Mr. Charles William “Billy” Campbell

“I feel a greater sense of accomplishment for being honored for what I do every day,” Campbell said. “It’s a pretty big thing, you know? Being recognized for the hard work you do is always nice—and we [teachers] feel as good as students who are nominated for an award. It’s like somebody saying, ‘Good job’.”

Campbell said that he wholeheartedly loves his job and is always striving to teach math to Pueblo students to the best of his ability. He added that no matter what he does, there is always a way to be better.

“Whatever I do, I want to do it well,” Campbell said. “Whether it’s teaching, playing video games, being and playing with my son, I want to do it the best I possibly can be.”

Campbell said that after receiving this award, he felt a sense of knowing that he is doing something right. He also expressed gratitude to his students for allowing him to teach them and that they continue to motivate him to always be his best.

“I feel there are a lot of people to thank, but most importantly, I’d like to say, ‘Thank you’ to all of my students,” he said. “They allow me to work hard with the best educators. I have worked with a lot of great teachers throughout the years, especially here at Pueblo. I am so fortunate to work with and belong to the most awesome math department!”

Campbell received $2,500 for his award, and that same amount was matched and awarded to Pueblo.

Congratulations Mr. Campbell! We are proud of you!

Dr. Andrew Lettes Wins National Biotechnology Award

Dr. Mayim Bialik & Dr. Andrew Lettes

Pueblo Magnet High School science teacher Dr. Andrew Lettes received the Ron Mardigian Memorial Biotechnology Explorer Award, as part of the National Science Teachers Association (NTSA) 2012 Teacher Awards Program.

Lettes has brought biotechnology into the classroom for over ten of his eighteen years as a teacher. When TUSD’s Career and Technical Education Program decided to offer a bioscience curriculum, Lettes was one of the first teachers onboard. At the time, he was teaching an AP Biology class but only six students were enrolled. He wanted to go beyond traditional topics to get more students engaged in science, particularly those students who might not see themselves as “scientists.”

“I noticed that the students who were enthusiastic about heart dissections were even more enthusiastic about DNA fingerprinting,” Lettes recalls. “Biotechnology jobs are on the rise in Tucson and I want to prepare my students for those jobs; so I developed a Biotechnology curriculum.”

The Biotechnology Explorer Award recognizes teachers who have made biotechnology learning accessible to students and Lettes’ curriculum has done just that. Pueblo serves a predominantly low-income Hispanic population – a population that is typically underrepresented in science, engineering, and technology fields.

“This program opens up doors to careers in science that students didn’t realize had been closed to them,” Lettes noted. “Students that were not interested in upper level science classes before are now lining up to take Biotechnology.”

There are currently 105 students enrolled in the program with 140 interested in enrolling next year.

Dr. Lettes’ former students have gone on to pursue degrees in neuroscience, molecular biology, and science education. Students who have gone on to pursue degrees in other areas have said that Lettes’ class provided them with a strong foundation for their college science course requirements, and for the overall expectation of college studies.

As the recipient of the Biotechnology Explorer Award, Lettes received a $250 monetary gift, a $500 certificate for Bio-Rad products for his classroom, and a trip to attend the NSTA National Conference on Science Education in Indianapolis last month. Interesting tidbit: While at the conference, Lettes had the opportunity, among other things, to meet and talk science with television actress Mayim Bialik of The Big Bang Theory, who holds a Ph.D. in neuroscience both on TV and in real life. Bialik and Lettes both received their doctorates from UCLA.

For more information on Career and Technical Education Programs offered in TUSD, visit the Career and Technical Education Program Web site.

Courtesy of TUSD1.org

Pueblo Biotech Featured On NSTA

Pueblo’s Biotechnology Program was featured on National Science Teacher Association’s website.

Here’s the excerpt:

Another awardee also has introduced innovations to the classroom. Andrew Lettes, a science teacher at Pueblo Magnet High School in Tucson, Arizona, received the Ron Mardigian Memorial Biotechnology Explorer Award, sponsored by Bio-Rad Laboratories, and says he has “worked for over 10 years to bring biotechnology into the classroom.” He points out that “students must be engaged with relevant ‘hands-on’ curriculum, but the trick is to find the ‘hook’ for our student population…At Pueblo, I found the ‘hook,’ biotechnology.” He says his school’s biotechnology program “provides college preparation for our students, plus provides genuine work-based learning. Students work in science, not simply read about it during a career search on the internet.”

According to Lettes, biotechnology “not only attracts the already college-bound students, but also those who are interested in work experience. Students who have mastered the content and students who have mastered the technical skills are equally valued in my classroom. This fosters a cooperative atmosphere where all students try to do well. Truly biotechnology is the rising tide that lifts all boats.” His award also provides funding to attend NSTA’s national conference. When asked about his agenda in Indianapolis, he replies, “I plan on enjoying the workshops given by my peers. Classroom teachers have a wonderful insight on what works. I also would like to network with other educators.”

Congratulations Dr. Andrew Lettes!  You represent Pueblo with Pride!

Read entire article.