BELEN–With the ultimate goal of getting all students to graduate high school, David Jimenez now has a chance of influencing the academic path of students first through 12 grade at both alternative schools in the Belen Consolidated Schools district.
The principal for both Infinity High School and Belen Family School this year, Jimenez said while most of educational career has been spent at the middle and high school levels, working with younger students has been a fun experience.
“Younger kids as questions, lots of questions,” Jimenez said. “So, it’s good to be a smiling face — it makes you more approachable. It’s hard to tell (facial expressions) with masks, so any time we’re outside, for lunch or recess, I try to talk to them.”
Working with younger students has a way of lightening his day, the principal said. As a former special education director for Los Lunas Schools, Jimenez said if he had a hard day, he would visit a class in the kindergarten through third grade to observe.
“It would brighten my day,” he said. “They are so eager to learn and give their full attention to the teacher.”
Jimenez earned his bachelor’s degrees in special education and human performance (more commonly referred to as physical education) from New Mexico Highlands University in 1993. He worked as a special education teacher at Los Lunas High School from 1994 to 1999, before moving to Georgia to pursue a master’s degree in educational administration.
Calling Highlands a school “rich in developing teachers,” Jimenez began his time at the Las Vegas, N.M., school as a human performance major. Shortly after, the school received a grant for bilingual special education teachers and Jimenez thought it wise to have a second degree.
“PE is tough. There are a lot of teachers but not a lot of openings,” he said. “With special ed, there are openings all over the country. I got offers from four or five districts, contracts left and right, because there is a shortage in special education.”
After receiving his master’s degree, Jimenez taught and coached at various middle and high schools in Georgia, including as assistant principal at Collins High School in Suwanee, Ga., in 2007, with a student population of close to 3,800 students.
He returned to Valencia County to take the position of special education director for Los Lunas Schools after that, then took the position of assistant principal at Belen High School, before taking his current position.
“The ultimate goal is for all kids to graduate high school,” Jimenez said. “Beyond that though, we need to prepare them so they can further themselves with certifications, college or by joining the work force.”
Jimenez said he is continuing to build on what has made Family School and IHS successful in the past.
“We will look at the end of the year and see areas we need to change, processes to make things more efficient,” he said. “I want to look, listen and learn what is going on; be observant about what is working and what is not. At the end of the year, we’ll make subtle changes that will hopefully lead to better outcomes.
“It’s been great so far. I enjoy every day I come into work at both schools.”
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.