Getting to know your neighbor 

Sonia Lawson has been an educator and in education leadership for 29 years, the last two as the principal at Belen High School. Keeping with her love of athletics, she has also been a Jazzercise instructor and trainer for 28 years. 

Sonia lives in Belen. Her grandparents were Clovis and Amelia Perea, from Valencia and Belen; and Jim and Carol Lawson, from Moline, Ill. Her parents are Bill and Berlinda Lawson; brothers, Geoff and Brad Lawson; and son, Ryan Lawson-Maeske. Other close associations in the family include Lesli Vallejos, Peggy Moore and her “rock”, Lawrence Sosa. 

Submitted photos

Belen High School principal Sonia Lawson was named the 2019 Administrator of the Year by the New Mexico Coalition of Education Leaders when she was the assistant superintendent of special academic services for Roswell Independent School District. 

Q What do you think about when you’re alone in your car?  

A “My drive to work is literally two minutes, so that isn’t much of a drive, but my brain is always on fire.  

“During the work week, I may be thinking about my list of tasks that need to be completed for work. Prioritizing the literal hundreds of pieces of information that make their way into a typical day. I have a running list about what should be done to prepare, present, connect or debrief.  

“Have I forgotten anything, or what items or data might need to be gathered, who do I need to be sure and connect with etc. If I am driving after work or on weekends, I am typically listening to music and reviewing choreography for my classes in my head. If I am driving on a day that I am not teaching, I may have a few minutes to ponder life and my place in it.” 

Q What’s a myth about your profession you’d like to bust?  

A “That administrators and teachers have a typical 8-3 job, when, in fact, their jobs do not have limited hours. We work at night grading, dealing with situations, responding to emails, requests, attending events, games, planning for classes, meetings and a myriad of other things. Even when people think otherwise, we do care, have good intentions and want the best for all kids,” 

Q What were you like in high school?  

A “I am sure I was a goofy teenager, but I enjoyed high school. I was enrolled in advanced academics, activities and was an athlete. I ran cross country, played basketball and ran track. I had some great experiences and was able to interact with multiple friend groups.” 

Q What is the best advice you’ve ever received and from whom?  

A “Well, it was advice coupled with a gift. As I was beginning my career in education, my mother, who was also an educator and administrator advised me to spend more time observing and listening, and that I should always think before I speak. She introduced me to the book ‘The Four Agreements’ by Don Miguel Ruiz. The agreements are: ‘Be impeccable with your word,’ ‘Do Not take anything personally,’ ‘Do not make assumptions,’ and ‘Always do your best.’ She then jokingly told me to stay out of the teacher’s lounge.” 

During her college years, Sonia Lawson joined the Delta Zeta sorority. 

Belen High School principal Sonia Lawson competed in cross country in high school and is pictured here during a state meet. 

Q What did you want to be when you grew up?  

A “I wanted to go into sports medicine, specifically physical therapy. My mom and grandmother were teachers, and I had convinced myself that I was going in a different direction. As it turned out, I completed my degree in English, with minors in history and concentrations in exercise science and, yes, I became a teacher! I began as a bilingual teacher in Houston, then returned to Belen and taught at La Merced Elementary.” 

Q Who inspires you? 

A “I am inspired by many. I don’t think I have just one inspiration. I am inspired by those who show up and are determined and driven. They give their all despite obstacles they have encountered, and regardless of what may be going on in their lives. They are the ‘helpers.’ They are present in the moment and engaged with others to be mutually supportive and solution-driven in work or in everyday life. They are my family, my students, my staff, my friends and my neighbors.” 

Q If you could work any other job for one day, what would it be and why? 

A “I would like to be a lawyer for a day. I have an affinity for laws, policies and processes. I enjoy reading legislation, statutes, and such, plus I do enjoy lively banter and debate.” 

Q What do you do in your free time?  

A “I enjoy trying new restaurants, taking weekend or short trips, boating, camping and fishing. I also just love being home to cook, binge watch shows, play darts, cornhole or just relax with my morning coffee, or sit by the fire pit in the evening. I like spending time with my family, my boyfriend, my dogs, Adidas and Asics, and my cat. Nike.” 

Showing off her catch at Elephant Butte is Belen High School principal Sonia Lawson. 

Q What’s something about you most people don’t know? 

A “I was a member of the U.S. Coast Guard and I worked on a cruise ship in Hawaii after college. I can sing my alphabet backwards.” 

Q What three books would you to take to a deserted island?  

A “I have been re-introduced to Proust. His books are not easy, and previously I didn’t have patience to sit with the text and give it my attention when first exposed to his writing. I am enjoying the Lydia Davis translation of ‘Swann’s Way.’ I think if I had the next two volumes, I would have material to engage in self- reflection while on a deserted island.” 

Q You find a lottery ticket that ends up winning $10 million. What would you do?  

A “I would be certain that my family is taken care of, pay off any bills and if there is any money remaining, I would create a foundation for scholarships for students for trade, tech or college post-high school.” 

Q Who is your best friend and why? 

A “I have more than one. My mom is probably the go to person for advice and guidance, and to just enjoy having conversation. For some of the same reasons, Lawrence Sosa is my other. He supports me unconditionally and functions as my sounding board, without judgment and de-escalates me when I have my frustrations.” 

Belen High School principal Sonia Lawson, third from left, frequently attends Belen Board of Education meetings, especially when she has the opportunity to recognize the positive actions of BHS staff.  

Q What’s your favorite song to sing when you’re alone?  

A “I love music in general, so there are many. A few that stand out would include ‘Santeria’ by Sublime, ‘Iris’ by the Goo Goo Dolls, and I also love ‘Hall of Fame’ by the Script.” 

Q Where is your happy place, and why? 

A “I love the comfy and coziness of having my first cup of coffee brought to me in the early morning while I am still in bed. It is such a great way to wake up peacefully and get ready for my day. I do absolutely love the same thing while at the lake with an early morning fire.” 

Q Have you had a life-changing experience that led you to where you are today? 

A “My most notable life changing experience was the birth of my son, Ryan. He changed the trajectory of my life in the most wonderful ways. I never pictured myself having kids, so I was truly amazed at how easy he made it for me to be his mom. I changed my career choice and learned so much about myself from him.” 

Q What teacher had the greatest impact on you? 

A “Again, I can’t just name one. Kathy Hill at Rio Grande Elementary was one of my absolute favorite teachers. We learned so many different things and as each lesson was introduced, we were always told ‘the why’ so we were able to make connections to the world around us.  

“Also at Rio Grande, I had Mr. Del Sordi. He pushed me to achieve academically and this built confidence in my abilities. He motivated me beyond measure and made me believe I could accomplish whatever I set my mind to do.” 

Always a competitive athlete, Sonia Lawson has been a Jazzercise instructor and trainer for 28 years. 

As a fifth-grade teacher at La Merced Elementary, Sonia Lawson got a little rock n’ roll for a theme day. 

Q What is your favorite movie scene and why? 

A “I am not the greatest at remembering movie scenes. I forget them soon after I have watched them. If I have movies that have stuck with me over time, I would mention ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail,’ and ‘Life of Brian’ have provided my brothers and I hours of laughter and entertainment.” 

Q If you could have dinner with one famous person ­­— dead or alive — who would it be and why? 

A “I would be fascinated to have dinner with Nostradamus and learn the why behind some of his predictions.” 

Q What are you most proud of? 

A “I am most proud of my son and his accomplishments. He is truly a good human. I am amazed by the way he followed his passion, received a degree with honors, and he is making his living as an actor doing what he loves. He has and continues to work hard and has received much recognition for his work. 

“In addition, I am proud of my contributions as an educator in Belen, and in other districts.” 

Q How would you like to be remembered? 

A “I would like to be remembered as someone who truly cares and has made a difference in the lives of those with whom I have taught, mentored and worked alongside. That I was an advocate for equity in education, and a good mom.” 

What’s your Reaction?

The Valencia County News-Bulletin is a locally owned and operated community newspaper, dedicated to serving Valencia County since 1910 through the highest journalistic and professional business standards. The VCNB is published weekly on Thursdays, including holidays both in print and online.