Diane M. Vallejos is superintendent of the Belen Consolidated Schools, and has worked in education for 25 years. She graduated from Belen High School, where she was a runner and member of the Intensity 100 Marching Band.
She is the daughter of Speedy and Viola Vallejos; wife of Michael Post; mother to Danue Joseph and Danée Marie, and sister to Michael, Richard and Randy.
Q What do you think about when you’re alone in your car?
A “My mind always seems to be thinking about how to make things better. I find myself reviewing the events from the previous week and thinking about how those experiences can help me better myself and support others.
“I am a bit of a planner, so I also find myself mapping out my next home project or going through a mental checklist for the next camping trip my husband and I are going on.”
Q What’s a myth about your profession you’d like to bust?
A “I think the most common misconception about the education system is that teachers get the summer off. They deserve the time off, but while they may be off of contract, the work does not stop.
“Teachers spend their summer participating in professional development, preparing their curriculum, and getting their rooms ready.”
Q What were you like in high school?
A “I was a good student but not a great student. I did have to work and study hard to keep my grades up. I wasn’t one of those kids who good grades came to naturally, I put a lot of effort into it.
“I think I have always been somewhat reserved, so I am pretty quiet until I get to know you. I’d say I was like that in high school. I also was a runner and a member of the Intensity 100 Marching Band.”
Q What is the best advice you’ve ever received and from whom?
A “‘Lead by example not by words.’ Coach Adron Garden talked to us about how important this was while I was a sophomore in high school. Something about this statement motivated me and I knew I wanted to demonstrate this in my behaviors and actions.
“In a newspaper article written by Ralph Garcia in 1985, Coach Garden described me as ‘having leadership skills because I led by example and not by words.’ It was very rewarding to see that my efforts to be intentional with this advice paid off.”
Q What did you want to be when you grew up?
A “I have always wanted to be a teacher. My dad wanted me to be an engineer, and my mom thought I should be a doctor, but instead, they got me!
“My dad was a teacher, and knew the pay difference between a teacher and an engineer, so he did everything he could to convince me not to go into education.
“However, after taking one class in college in engineering, I knew that it was not for me. Not only did I want to be a teacher growing up, as soon as I began my journey toward it, I knew I had found my passion.”
Q Who inspires you?
A “I am inspired when I see someone who does not give up, someone who encourages others to be better, someone who keeps working to make things better for others.
“I have quite the collection of Mickey Mouse. When people ask me why Mickey Mouse, my answer is: Because he has stick-to-it-ness. He is not always the strongest, the fastest or the smartest, but he sticks to something and keeps going.
“Think about it, have you ever seen Mickey Mouse allow failure to stop his efforts? He doesn’t give up, and I think that is an excellent example of finding inspiration anywhere, as long as we always remain open and willing to learn.”
Q If you could work any other job for one day, what would it be and why?
A “Oh, I don’t think the military would allow me to fly one of their planes, but I sure would love to!
“My brothers have always worked in the transportation of supplies and material in some form. One of my brothers was a mechanic for the Air Force. He and I would often have conversations about how our military uses different planes to move people and supplies around the world.
“Another brother is a Marine and specialized in embarkation, and my oldest brother continues to provide medical, welding and now food supplies to our community.
“I am intrigued by the incredible training, logistics and the engineering that goes behind a peace service mission. For one day, I wish I could help the world’s greater good by helping move people and/or supplies around the world with our military.”
Q What do you do in your free time?
A “In my free time, I enjoy spending time with my family. Thursday-night dinners at my mom’s are a must.
“We go camping when we can, skiing with my kids, and our new adventure of conquering escape rooms. I also like to read, sew and crochet. But, if I am candid, I am good at being a couch potato in my free time.”
Q What’s something about you most people don’t know?
A “I am the 1986 State Runner Up in the 1600-meter run. This was my favorite race to run. I trained hard and believed I could be a State Champion. However, Paula from Zuni had the same plan and ran a better race. But I gave it my all and I am very proud of that success.”
Q What three books would you to take to a deserted island?
A “The Bible, ‘How to Eat Fried Worms’ — I have read this book to every class I taught — and ‘Little Women,’ a book I have always meant to read but have not.”
Q You find a lottery ticket that ends up winning $10 million. What would you do?
A “First, pay off all my debt and pay off my children’s student loans. Then, I would take my family — even my brothers — on a family trip so that we can spend time together.
“I would take a chunk of the money to establish a scholarship endowment fund for students graduating from Belen Consolidated Schools.”
Q Who is your best friend and why?
A “I am lucky to have many great friends in my life. When I think of who has been there for me for more than 50 years by my side through the good, the bad, and the ugly … it would be my mom. My mom is an incredibly strong lady.”
Q What’s your favorite song to sing when you’re alone?
A “‘Tomorrow’ from the soundtrack of the original movie ‘Annie.’ It has made for an exciting morning when my secretary appears to work early and finds me jamming out under the false impression that I am alone in the office.”
Q Where is your happy place, and why?
A “Any place my running shoes can take me. They don’t take me as fast or as far as they used to, but there are always great places to go, new things to see, and old memories to visit.”
Q Have you had a life-changing experience that led you to where you are today?
A “In seventh grade, I started running track. My coach/counselor called me into her office to have a serious discussion with me. She told me that she believed I could do something with running, but not with my grades.
“Mrs. Romero said to me that my dad would not allow me to run with the current grades I had. At that moment, I realized how important it was to work hard, not just on the track I loved but also in the classroom.
“When I started putting the same time and effort into my school work as I did my track workouts, my grades improved significantly. I learned there is not an excuse for not trying and not getting assignments done. She believed in me, and that made all the difference.”
Q What teacher had the greatest impact on you?
A “I am still in contact with my kindergarten teacher, Marie Garcia Shaffner. Every time I greet her, I ask her, ‘How is my favorite kindergarten teacher?’
“While I was teaching kindergarten at Dennis Chavez Elementary, Mrs. Shaffner came into my classroom. I was so excited to have mu kindergarten teacher in my kindergarten classroom. I was excited to tell my students about her.
“One little boy raised his hand and said, ‘but you are our teacher.’
“I realized that I also had the opportunity to hopefully have a positive impact on my students as Mrs. Shaffner had on me.
“To this day her support inspires and empowers me. I have always faced each day with the intent to be impactful, much like Marie has always been for me.”
Q What is your favorite movie scene and why?
A “My favorite movie scene is when Daddy Warbucks hands Little Orphan Annie a blue box with a white ribbon on it — a gift from Tiffany’s. Little Orphan Annie says she cannot accept the present as the old broken locket is how her mother is going to find her. Her mother kept the other half.
“I love the message that it is not about replacing something old and broken with something new and shining; it is about the hope of a dream coming true.”
Q If you could have dinner with one famous person — dead or alive — who would it be and why?
A “Can I pick two? Mother Theresa, as I would love to listen to her talk about what she did to help make life better for others, and Jackie Kennedy, to ask how she gracefully lived in the public eye through difficult times.”
Q What are you most proud of?
A “My family. We are not perfect, and we struggle at times, but we always work hard. I was raised never to give up. We try to make life better for others, and we are still there for each other when we need one another. I am very proud of my family.”
Q How would you like to be remembered?
A “I would like to be remembered as someone who could be trusted and always tried to make things better for others. Trust means a lot to me, and I think it is essential to demonstrate the things that we seek in others.
“I hope to be remembered as a person who lived a life aligned with my values. I love to see others succeed, and if I am remembered as someone who supported you in your journey to success, then I would say that is a pretty fantastic thing.”
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