BELEN — Christine Holder still gets chills when she thinks about being named the Belen Consolidated Schools Teacher of the Year.

“I just got chills again,” Holder says as she sits in her second-grade classroom at Gil Sanchez Elementary.

Christine Holder

She calls being chosen the Gil Sanchez site teacher of the year “incredible. I mean we’ve got such a good group of teachers. Gil Sanchez is phenomenal.”

Hearing the bios being read of all the other site teachers at the awards banquet was a thrill, Holder said, never expecting her name to be the one announced.

“I know that every single one of them and all the other teachers here in the district, come every day and give their heart, their soul, their everything to support their students,” she said. “To be selected from among a group of such elite, caring professionals was just amazing. I was just very shocked and honored.”

Holder has been teaching at GSE since 2021, and “only” been a teacher for 15 years. She initially didn’t go to college for education, working as a paralegal while living in Colorado with her husband and children, then taking a position at the University of New Mexico Cancer Center after relocating to Albuquerque.

“I always thought about being a teacher but I was always afraid to talk in front of groups of people,” she said.

While living in Albuquerque, her son came home from school one day with 26 check marks. They weren’t good check marks.

“He’s always been one of those kids who needs to sit near the teacher, talkative, hard time sitting still, but I just thought, ‘Wait a second. This isn’t right.’”

After meeting with the teacher, Holder said a spark was lit in her and she made the decision to go back to school.

Through an alternative program at UNM, Holder was able to earn her master’s degree in elementary education in a year and a half.

“I should have been doing it all along. I just love it. It’s a challenge and it’s so gratifying. I look forward to every single day,” Holder said. “I just love being in a classroom and working with my students. I enjoy the challenge of figuring out what it is they need and what supports I can give them so they can reach their full potential.”

At the beginning of each school year, Holder works to build a positive, supportive community in her classroom.

“Building that trust and relationships, not just between me and each individual student, but also amongst the entire class,” she said. “Where they are supporting each other, they’re happy to see each other. It’s just building that learning community where they feel safe.”

Holder also works diligently to make sure her classroom is not only equal but equitable.

“It’s about more than making sure you’re giving the students all the same things, but making sure things are equitable,” she said. “If a student is having trouble with something that requires fine motor skills, you have to find a way to help them so they don’t miss out on what’s being taught, instead of focusing on the physical act of doing.”

Belen Consolidated Schools site Teachers of the Year

  • Derek Logan (Belen High School, Algebra I)
  • Regina Chavez (Infinity High School, English I, II, III, IV)
  • Celina Hall (Belen Middle School, seventh-grade physical education
  • Veronica Jaramillo (Belen Family School, fifth and sixth grades)
  • Rance Hall (Central Elementary, physical education)
  • Tina Abeyta (Dennis Chavez Elementary, kindergarten)
  • Dawane Lewis (La Merced Elementary, kindergarten)
  • Linda Gomez (La Promesa Elementary, sixth grade
  • Celina Cordova (Rio Grande Elementary, first, second and third-grade math and reading)
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Julia M. Dendinger began working at the VCNB in 2006. She covers Valencia County government, Belen Consolidated Schools and the village of Bosque Farms. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande chapter’s board of directors.