Tara Hughes, a PreK inclusion teacher for four-year-olds at Nye Early Childhood Center, has been named the 2023 New Mexico Teacher of the Year. Hughes was selected due to her outstanding efforts to support and coach colleagues on positive behavior supports, evidence-based strategies and social-emotional curriculums. She is the first early childhood educator to achieve this honor.
The presentation was attended by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, New Mexico Secretary of Education Dr. Kurt Steinhaus, SFPS Superintendent Hilario “Larry” Chavez and SFPS Board of Education members.
"Tara is an outstanding teacher and will be a wonderful teacher ambassador for New Mexico. She has developed an outstanding model in her classroom that weaves academics with laying the foundation for students’ social, communicative and emotional development. Going beyond her classroom, Tara has shared her knowledge and practices so other SFPS educators can incorporate critical social-emotional skills into classroom learning," said Superintendent Chavez. "Her contributions will have a long-lasting impact on her students, colleagues and the state," he said.
In 2020, Hughes was featured in an Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center documentary series by the University of South Carolina on how the fields of early education and early childhood special education could successfully support preschoolers and their families during the COVID-19 pandemic through the use of technology.
Hughes found her passion for education while a carpenter and welder who ran the Santa Fe Opera stage crew, instructing college-age students in stage operations and construction. For two years she taught in a private preschool in Santa Fe before moving to New York and Massachusetts. Her work as a special educational assistant for two years at a segregated early childhood preschool inspired her to earn a master's in special education at New Mexico Highlands University. There, she student-taught in an autism-specific PreK, which ignited her passion for giving all students access to peers.
After she joined SFPS as a highly-structured special education teacher for three and four-year-olds, she advocated for access to more peers in her classroom and championed the New Mexico FOCUS high-quality standards for inclusive practices so that all students can fully participate in the learning process.