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

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.

Coach Curly Santa Cruz Honored

On August 25, coach Saturnino “Curly” Santa Cruz was honored at the inaugural 2011 Tucson Football Jamboree held at Tucson High.  After the 3rd Quarter of the Pueblo vs. Tucson match-up, Curly was presented with the High School Signature Coach Award.

Photo courtesy of studio520photography

The commemorative program stated the following:

A graduate of Pueblo class of 62′, Saturnino “Curly” Santa Cruz was an All-City running back and track standout and went on to play college football at Palo Verde College and Cal-Western University. He attained his Master’s degree from the University of Arizona, and he became an acclaimed educator in TUSD for forty years. “Curly” was a teacher, football and track coach and administrator.  He earned “Coach Of The Year” honors in 1988.

On behalf of the entire Pueblo community, we congratulate Curly and his family for this great honor.  Thank you for representing Pueblo!

Dr. Andrew Lettes Awarded

Congratulations goes to Dr. Andrew Lettes, biotechnology teacher at Pueblo, for being awarded the Arizona Innovation Heroes Award by the Science Foundation Arizona.

The award recognizes those who are leading in the fields of innovation, technology and entrepreneurship or have instituted innovative practices or curricula to advance student success and enhance student interest in STEM. (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Education)

Dr. Lettes with Pueblo CTE Department

Students, colleagues and distinguished guests joined us for the celebration and had very positive statements about our biotechnology program.

On behalf of all the Pueblo Family, we congratulate Dr. Lettes.

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