A full-time English instructor, Tammy Wolf, said that teaching online can be difficult because there is still work to be done explaining concepts of online classes.
In-person classes allowed her the ability to explain topics face-to-face, which can be easier, she said.
She added that teachers do not like sending students “out of the shell” because an ad can pop up, making it hard for students to stay focused.
“It’s not fair to the students either in some ways because if you don’t love reading, now you have to read all your instructions, you have to read all the support materials… which can be harder for students who don’t read as much,” she said.
The two groups she thought that were the most affected were students who have never learned online and teachers who have never taught online, she said.
She said her biggest obstacle has been isolation. Most of the time, she is at home in her office, grading, which she said could be overwhelming at times.
Wolf said it was not until Christmas last year that she realized the pandemic would not end quickly, and class would not be in person for a while.
She said she misses seeing students challenging one another’s ideas or getting that aha moment when everything starts to make sense. She said that is why she wants students to reply to one another on discussions and ask questions.
She also mentioned how students do not get to see the passionate side of their teachers.
“We just turn into this robot that you’re emailing.” A massive disconnect is present between teachers and students, she said.
Wolf adds that students are tired, and everyone is dealing with so much amid a pandemic, she worries about students who are losing their drive to continue.
Compared to in the beginning when she believed that students as well as teachers may have enjoyed having a break and being online for a little bit.
“Now we’re over it,” she added, “but students need to just keep going, it’s going to get better, just keep going were all in it together, and I know there’s a real divide between faculty and students, but we’re cheering you on, and we want to see everybody succeed.”
Skies are blue–albeit a bit hazy– as the Fall Semester at CNM kicks into gear.
The parking lot is full in front of the Student Services center. Meanwhile, students are able to get directions and information from a booth set up as part of “Suncat Days,” by the stairs near Max Salazar Hall.
Across University Boulevard, construction on the Catering Services/Brewery at Robert P. Matteuchi Hall continues, and is going through a light blue phase (as if to match the skies). On the North side of Main Campus, a billboard on E Building beams out a strong message in blue: it looks like “E” stands for being “exceptional” at CNM.
The signs are up for the new Starbuck’s at CNM’s Marketplace, but the store has not announced an opening date, as the campus prepares for the onset of the Fall Semester. While the Marketplace Bookstore is open to patrons wearing masks, construction was continuing on the interior of the Starbucks, as of Friday, August 27. Signage on the Starbucks University Boulevard entrance indicates that Starbucks will be “coming soon.” Outdoor tables are already placed on a patio, marked by the familiar Starbucks emblem on a wall clearly visible from University Boulevard.
A couple of Albuquerque teens are cooking up a story that may sound a little corny, but could be a good recipe for success. The 18-year olds–Donald Garule and Amaya Sirena–say they are planning to attend CNM this fall, and will both major in Psychology. This summer the have been selling corn from a booth they often set up next to Sirena’s parents La Sirenita Authentic Mexican Food (truck). The idea for the corn booth was Sirena’s parents, but the teens apparently saw it as an “amaizing” opportunity. Now the teens are business partners in Casa de Maiz, in addition to being a couple, they say.
Garule and Sirena say they met at SageBrush Community Church, where they sing in the choir together. Garule graduated from Freedom High School, while Sirena graduated from Atristo High School. Now they sell tasty sweet corn–on the cob, or in a bowl–spiced with plenty of butter, mayonaise and chili powder.
The recipe has the approval of Sirena’s parents, who have been attracting folks who like Mexican food to their food truck which they set up near campus at Yale Boulevard and Lead Avenue Southeast on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. “Their corn is pretty good,” commented Marco Sirena, Amaya’s father. He and his wife, Anjelica, have been encouraging the teens.
The Sirenas are finding that enough folks are attracted to their food and that they may look at expanding into the restaurant business. Garule and Amaya Sirena say they are excited to be attending CNM this fall, even if their courses are on line.
“It’s as cheaper option ( than UNM) to start,” said Garule, and the class sizes are not as large.” Sirena admitted to being “a little nervous” about entering college, because she is not sure what she wants to do. However she says she may eventually go to UNM, and take up Neurology. Garule says he is looking at a career in social work. Garule and Sirena say that they plan to look into obtaining a food truck of their own to help pay for their educations–a plan that just might have more than a kernel of common sense. Not too corny.
Who are these masked women, welcoming Suncat students back to Main Campus for fall semester? From left to right, they are Aline Gonzales, CNM events manager; Amy Ballard, CNM dean of Applied Tecchnology; and Liz Encinias, CNM Security officer. The trio were among a group of CMM officials stationed in front of Ted Chavez Hall, on hand to direct students to class on Monday, August 31st, and to inform students of campus protocols, and pass out hand sanitizer and maps.
According to Gonzales, the first two days of a semester are typically designated as Suncat Days. Applied Technology is one subject area that has quite a few in-person classes on campus, while most classes remain on-line.
Meanwhile, Carmen Avitia, a Math and Science tutor at CNM for the TRIO program, was available to answer students’ questions by W Building, in the courtyard in front of the Coal Avenue Theater.
One doesn’t have to travel to the Grand Canyon to know that geography can divide people. But people can be isolated and divided in many ways, Deborah Lima, president of CNM’s ESL (English as a Second Language) Club, has discovered- especially in a time of covid, and especially when you are from a foreign country. The 16 members of the ESL come from around the globe, according to Lima, an ESL major from Brazil. Some of the other countries represented include Russia, China, Saudia Arabia, Vietnam, South Korea, and Mexico, she said. Some are young, some are older, including a 91-year old from Russia. Normally, they would meet at locations on the Montoya campus, and go on outings to interesting spots in New Mexico, like the pueblos, Lima said in a telephone interview. The club members would also enjoy the fellowship of potluck dinners, with some outstanding international cuisine. Currently, however, the club, like many CNM clubs, operates, remotely–using Zoom and the telephone, Lima noted. Lima said that she tries to talk to each member of her club by phone everyday. “We talk about cooking, gardening, our families, our dogs, our hobbies– anything but the pandemic” said Lima. According to Laura Jijon, the group’s faculty advisor, club members help each other register for programs and activities, and with their studies. They help people get in touch with the right person to solve a problem, she said. It is all about staying in touch, staying connected, and helping each other, according to Lima, who applauds Jijon for setting a great example. According to Jijon, the group members have collaborated on writing projects, including a children’s book, entitled “CNM Small World,” and a book of poetry, ” Immigrant Memories and Poetic Ambitions.” The club is currently considering producing a book and/or an event about their experience during the pandemic, Jijon said.
Martha “Marty” Kirsch, who graduated this past spring from CNM, had one last task in wrapping up her her course of studies in Culinary Arts. Kirsch used the Book Return located on the west side of the Student Resource Center, on the Main Campus, to get the job done. Now Kirsch is looking to open a restaurant business of her own, which she will eventually pass on to her granddaughters. She says she may first seek help from The Street Food Institute, located at the Student Services Center, to procure a food truck, to get started. A rodeo rider, while at Del Norte High School in Albuquerque, from which she graduated in 1980, she is also a U.S. Coast Guard veteran, used to taking on tough tasks. Finishing up Culinary Arts at home, on line, for the last five weeks, was “difficult,” she said, but she and her classmates got the job done with the help and cooperation of their chef instructors. And they have beautiful pictures of their food preparations, on the home front, to prove it, she said.
Maria Castro, a 2020 graduate of Rio Grande High School says she will be studying at CNM this fall to become a teacher. She is currently working at the La Michoacana de Paquime, 3900 Isleta Boulevard, Southwest. Castro sees herself as a middle school teacher, and will take her courses online, if that is what is required.
Story and photos by Audrey Callaway Scherer, senior reporter
After moving to the U.S. from the Caribbean and comparing race relations and educational systems, Brandon Thompson, a nursing major, shared things he likes about the states and ideas about how the U.S. could tackle its problems in those two areas.
A few things he saw in the Caribbean education system that
he thinks America could consider include holding kids back when they don’t
perform to a standard, adding trade skill paths in schools for those who are
less academically inclined, and providing private schools for kids in special
education with teachers specifically equipped to handle their needs.
Regarding ethnic relations, he said he didn’t really experience
racial issues in the Caribbean and thinks the social construct of race will
continue to be an issue as long as people keep reminding each other that it
exists in every day situations.
“The cultural aspect was definitely eye-opening,” he said.
“I’m glad I live in the west. In New Mexico specifically, I don’t experience
race-related issues, so I’m happy about that.”
Thompson works at Van Buren Middle School in Albuquerque and
took a job in education deliberately to compare the two systems. How youths are
educated and what is being taught to them is basically what will be carried on
into the future, he said.
“I think in order to understand America, I have to start
from the root which is our education,” he said.
The systems are significantly different, he said. The class
sizes in the Caribbean are around 50 students to each teacher, and most schools
are “shift schools” in which students alternate each year between morning
shifts (7:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.) and evening shifts (12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.)
five days a week.
One thing he likes about the states is that its system helps
people get an education, especially financially, whereas in the Caribbean,
families must pay for everything and student loans are very hard to get, he
Parents with less money sometimes would have their kids
alternate days and share notes because paying for all kids would cost too much,
and if they didn’t have any money, the kids wouldn’t have the option to go to
When these students’ parents have to pay, at a young age
they learn the value of money and time, he said. They understand they can’t
waste any arguing with teachers or not doing assignments.
Student loans are based solely off your address, so if someone
lived in a bad area they would not get the loan, even if they had all As and Bs,
he said. Usually everything is out of pocket – he likes how the states don’t
discriminate in education based on one’s address.
One issue he wants to see changed in the states’ educational
system is that students aren’t held back when they underperform.
The problems start early when students keep getting passed forward
without the skills they need to keep up, he said, and it compounds so that
eventually they reach high school and either must drop out or get passed once
again through graduation, still without having learned those skills.
He has classmates at CNM that have trouble in things like
fundamental math and he said he can’t blame them – it’s the teachers that
passed them through in elementary, middle and high school.
“That’s one thing I really hope changes – that they stop
pushing us forward and teaching to the test, and hold us back. I know it sounds
bad, but we will benefit because they are the future,” he said.
In 4th grade in the Caribbean, students take
their first exam, which determines if they will pass forward into 5th
In 6th grade, students take a different exam, the
Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT), and the resulting grades determine which of
their top five school choices they may go to in 7th grade when high
After a student’s grades get them into a high school, the
grades further determine in which group they will be within their grade level –
there are as many groups as there are letters in the school’s name and the
first letter of the name is the most advanced level, he said.
If one excels in a class, they get moved out of that group
to a higher class – a higher letter. If they do not pass a class, they do not
move up to the next grade.
“They don’t hold you back and they do hold you back. That’s what I like in the system,” he said.
In 9th grade, students take classes for every
subject the school offers over about seven class periods. How well they do in
each subject determines both what they will study (what the student was best
at) through the rest of high school – 10th and 11th
grades, and what career path they will be set on in college.
Consequently, the subjects in the last two years of high
school are studied deeply. Because it’s so rigorous, some students could leave
high school and get jobs right away, he said, and in these cases, employers
look for grades of 1, 2, or 3 on a scale of 7.
At the end of 10th grade, students take
essay-based exams for each subject excluding math and English, which usually
include 25-page research papers for which they must argue their points to an examination
board, he said.
12th and 13th grades are the first two
years in college, during which they have similar exams and after which students
may move on to do their third year at one of the Caribbean’s specialized
universities in the chosen field to get their bachelor’s degrees.
“So if I went to UWE, I wouldn’t see my friend if he was a
carpentry major,” he said.
Being able to absorb each individual subject here in the U.S.,
as compared to the large amount of independent studying in the Caribbean, is
definitely a benefit, he said.
Another thing in the Caribbean is that grades determine whether
students may do an extracurricular activity, and the first years of each
elective subject are for learning about the subject’s components and history – students
don’t practice the subject until the second year.
Although schools will buy students for their skills and
there are scholarships for sports, he said Caribbean instructors always teach
the kids, What if you broke your leg? What will you fall back on? Students must
still have the grades to represent a college on a sports team.
In the U.S., he doesn’t like how kids who are failing their core classes still get to be in certain electives, he said. It’s good to exercise, but he thinks if they’re failing math and English, they shouldn’t be able to do a sport until they bring those grades up.
“It is a cultural thing. You do not get to play outside if
you do not do your homework,” he said.
The schools are the same way, he said. You do not get to
join a sports team until you get good grades, which the Caribbean counts as a
least a C.
He thinks there should be more technical skills taught in
schools for those who aren’t as academically savvy, he said. U.S. schools
should provide a system that supports that area of the population, and they
should stop trying to make everyone doctors and lawyers.
“I’m not technically savvy. I cannot hammer a nail and to say that’s less of a job…it’s not less of a job, it’s probably even more. They’re gonna be taking my money,” he said. “That’s just what you’re good at.”
He thinks it’s a waste to direct taxpayers’ resources toward
people doing things they know they’re not good at and thinks those people
should be able to focus on something else, he said.
As he gets older, the young people will be implementing the laws
that affect him, and similarly when he can’t go on his own roof he will need
someone else to come out and know what they’re talking about, he said. Both people
should be qualified and passionate in their fields.
“I’m passionate about it because, again, they’re my future,”
Another thing he saw in the Caribbean that he thought might
be effective in the U.S. would be moving toward private schools for special
education with specially trained staff. In the current system, he said it’s not
fair for teachers to have a constant juggle or for the students who get less
“This is why I think they’re teaching to the test – they
have paperwork to do, IEPs to do, not getting paid, no supplies, shortage in
teachers, the list goes on and on and on. They’re counselors, they’re
psychologists, they’re security guards, they’re the dean, they’re the mom,
they’re the dad, they’re everything, AND they’re supposed to teach,” he said.
“We’re humans, we’re gonna get burnt.”
Another thing he sees here that he didn’t back home is race
issues, he said. He wonders why race is and continues to be an issue – from
what he has learned in his classes at CNM, it is a social construct that was
created to divide us.
In the Caribbean, when employers get resumes, they don’t
judge race or gender by people’s names and sometimes don’t even ask for them –
just their contact information, he said. They just judge you on the
In the actual workforce, it is more that people come in and
do their work, and if they don’t make it, it wasn’t a white man who prevented
them from being successful – it was themselves. No white guy made the law to
prevent them from succeeding, he said.
“But that’s one thing I see here . . . I don’t like those
social constructs and division here in the states,” he said. “And I know it’s a
He thinks everybody, including public officials, should stop
reminding the population of things like race, because if we keep reminding
everyone, it will never die. We already know what color we all are, he said.
When he watched the State of the Union, he saw the news keep
mentioning that the woman who did the rebut to Trump was an African American
and he asked himself, Why point that out? Why not critique her address?
“I’m not saying to forget our history, but to make things better I think we can lay off of it,” he said. “It exists because we are still reminding everybody to make sure to remember it exists.”
In addition to stopping the constant reminders of race, he
thinks that not playing the “race card” can help racial issues in the U.S.
system. He knows the race card exists, but he doesn’t play it or bring it onto
himself, he said.
“I just don’t portray it and I think people pick up on that.
When you command or walk with authority and respect, and you’re assertive, I
think they would not play the race card on you,” he said. “Don’t be the victim,
basically. I think that will help us change it, too.”
The same thing for gender, he said. In the State of the
Union, some women were wearing white and they were singled out as being
rebellious, when in fact they were projecting inclusivity and diversity. They
were sitting on both sides of the aisle – among Democrats and Republicans.
“But they’re calling them out as women being women and
acting out and seeking attention. So yes, it applies to gender and we need to
stop it,” he said.
There is a lot of brain drain in the Caribbean, he said, as
most countries are developing or not developed and there are few job
opportunities, especially that pay well. When people leave, those countries suffer.
The U.S. benefits because these immigrants bring their
skills and knowledge, are building this country and are spending their money
here. Even when they send money back home, the conversion rates make it so that
the amount they help their families is way more significant than the affect on
the U.S., he said.
He moved here in February of 2017, after Trump had become
president. There were a lot of factors and it was not an easy choice, he said.
Even his employer at the time wondered if it was the right thing to do,
especially after his promotion and starting his master’s degree. He had also
just gotten engaged to an American.
“I like the states, I dreamed about living here,” he said.
“It’s just different. There’s so many laws and bylaws and loopholes in the
He said he thinks he will stay in the states but as a
dual-citizen, as a Jamaican and an American.
Although the bachelor’s in business that he got in the
Caribbean transferred to the states as two classes short of a master’s, he
doesn’t think he will use his business degree. His first choice was to get into
the medical field, so at CNM he started fresh for a degree in nursing.
He said what he found at CNM is that professors are knowledgeable and have experience in the fields of both teaching and of their trades, and that CNM actually takes value in students’ education.
Marco Rivera, a Teaching major, designs jewelry located at the Fuse makersplace, a design community center partnered with CNM.
His favorite thing about working in the jewelry studio is the opportunities of professional development that come along with working with entrepreneurs and artists, he said.
“I really love working here,” he said.
Rivera’s goal would be to become a jewelry casting instructor for Fuse because most of his interest lies in a jewelry process called casting.
Casting is when you create a wax mold and then pour molten (liquid) metal into the mold to make a cast. This is a three-day process, he said.
Casting involves a lot of chemistry, and to master the casting process, it takes a lot of trial and error and collaboration with experienced casting jewelers, he said.
Rivera learned this process at a class that was offered on campus summer of 2018. Although Rivera has still not mastered the process, he is enjoying the practice, he said.
This semester there are five different jewelry program classes and there are people on the wait list for it so it’s becoming a bigger program, he said.
Rivera’s favorite piece that he has made is a crown ring because it is a good example of 3-D printing applications with jewelry which is another process Rivera enjoys, he said.
“I learned how to 3-D model on my own because there are so many creative and interesting people here that inspire this kind of learning,” he said.
Recently, students submitted their pieces, priced them out, and made packages for them at the Merry Marker Maker Fair. They had a whole table of just CNM students, he said.
Rivera would also like to see the PNM pavilion shipping containers outside the Fuse, be made into a jewelry gallery to be able to show the student’s work and get people excited about the program, he said.
“This is a great program and community full of collaborative people that really foster self-learning,” he said.
Two local suppliers, Rio Grande Jewelry and Turquoise skies, supply equipment and donate things to the program, provide tours and often hire people within, he said.
“I changed my degree so many times because my interests change, but now I realize I can have a lot of interests and would still like to finish something just to grow my discipline skills,” he said.
Rivera started the jewelry program in January of 2018 and began the teaching program in October of 2018.
Rivera is working twenty hours in the jewelry studio, taking 18 credits while working as a DJ with styles DJ Services, and is a caretaker through Transitional lifestyle communities for his brother, a behavioral health center, he said.
“For me a big thing in my life is finding passion and whatever makes a person passionate because that’s what makes you the happiest. I think everyone should learn that exploring their interests is what life is all about. Finding a single career and finding fulfillment in that job for one’s whole life is not sustainable for happiness. Learn to value change,” he said.
Rivera has been at CNM since 2016, and changed his degrees a few times, from chemistry to liberal arts, to teaching, he said.
Rivera plans on finishing the jewelry certificate program and graduating with a degree in teaching in 2020.
After graduating, Rivera would like to go into design work at UNM’s architect program to learn other skills that Fuse currently teaches, such as business, furniture, and design in general, he said.