Among 15 school site teachers of the year in the Los Lunas Schools district, Amanda McCleary was named the Certified Staff of the Year for 2022.

Amanda McCleary and her son

McCleary has taught mathematics and algebra at Los Lunas Middle School for the past eight years, with a previous two-year stint at Valencia Middle and five years with Socorro Consolidated Schools.

While completing her undergraduate degree at New Mexico Tech, McCleary said she was three classes shy of an engineering degree before she began teaching.

“I love it, and I told my adviser I would rather be a teacher than an engineer,” McCleary said.

She ended up graduating with a degree in basic sciences and a plan to pursue education.

Originally from Gallup, McClearly found herself in Socorro for college and decided to stay for her first few years in the classroom.

“Then I married someone who worked at Kirtland and got tired of driving to Socorro everyday,” McCleary said.

The couple compromised on Los Lunas and she began teaching for Los Lunas Schools.

Her favorite part of teaching is seeing when children “get it,” adding that she stresses to her students the importance of math and how to apply it.

“So much of it is just knowing how to apply it and knowing why it’s important,” McCleary said. “We do a lot of financial literacy and a lot of talking about money. ‘Why do I need to know this?’

“That’s something I think I’m actually pretty good at is getting kids to understand why they need to learn something.”

She is proud of her students this year, saying they have been learning a lot.

McCleary was also named the site certified staff of the year for Los Lunas Middle School. She remembers when LLMS principals Lawrence Sosa and Eric Chavez came in during her sixth-grade math class to tell her the news.

“(They) walked in and said ‘Congratulations, you’re our Certified Staff Member of the Year.’ And I was like ‘oh OK,” she said with a small laugh. “I felt kind of bad because I told them to give me two minutes to finish teaching this lesson before you interrupt. Because they were like, ‘Do you have a minute?’ And I was like, ‘No, give me two more minutes.’”

Los Lunas Schools Certified Staff of the Year

Alisha Hagen: Ann Parish Elementary

Erin Manus: Bosque Farms Elementary

Jennifer LaLonde: Century High School/Family School

Nichole Villella: Desert View Elementary

Allison Spurlock: Katherine Gallegos Elementary

Kim Driskill: Los Lunas Elementary

Jessica Baldonado: Los Lunas High School

Amanda McCleary: Los Lunas Middle School

Melissa McElroy: Peralta Elementary

Veronica Montero: Rio Grande Elementary (RGE)

Heather Cannon: Sundance Elementary

William Austell: Tomé Elementary

Elizabeth Austin: Valencia Elementary

Dianah Ortega: Valencia High School

Kristin Jaramillo: Valencia Middle School

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Makayla Grijalva was born and raised in Las Cruces. She is a 2020 graduate of The University of New Mexico, where she studied multimedia journalism, political science and history.