Education and Diversity in Farmington, NM

Farmington is so diverse, you have different cultures, and you have different aspects to bring into the classroom. Even though we have those difficulties and struggles, it’s what the children bring that makes it satisfying. ” – Tanya Baxter


My name is Tanya and I have been a resident of Farmington for a long time. I have been a school teacher here in Farmington; I teach fourth grade. I just finished my sixteenth year. I had the opportunity to work at two different schools. Two very diverse populations. The ages of nine to eleven in fourth grade. I actually graduated high school here. I grew up in small town in Arizona, but I call Farmington home.

Choosing to Teach

I always knew I wanted to help. I wanted to help people. I wanted to make a difference. I originally started in school to be a physical therapist and I had two years to go in my clinicals. That’s all I needed. And I just knew my heart was not completely satisfied. I changed and went on to education. Once I finished my practicum and my student teaching, I just knew that’s what I needed to do. I have such a high love for children. I want to see them grow and be successful. I appreciate what they bring. It’s not just about me going into a classroom and trying to educate them, I want to be able to appreciate who they are. Because they are young people who have a mind who want to be heard. I think just fostering that at a young age and letting them know that they are important it’s something that has always been important to me. I just knew, once I got in there, my heart was right. I was happy and satisfied. I can honestly say that I love my job. I love doing the work. It’s a lot of work, commitment, and time, but I absolutely love what I do. I feel like I make a difference, it it’s not a huge amount, for maybe the one or two. There’s always a family that captures my heart. I am truly blessed, it’s more than just a job for me. It’s my life.

I have seen a lot of dramatic changes, some unfortunate; the needs of students have changed. I think when I first started… and of course I was a lot younger… We can focus a lot on the academics. There is always a social and emotional need that students bring with them, and you do the best as a teacher to foster those things, but in the sixteen years I have seen how society has changed and the culture has changed. Technology has been advanced. I see that the children have been changed. They are fast paced, they need things right now, they need things kinesthetic, it has to be hands on, it has to be something that appeals to them. We might of started out with very simple stories that you and I might be familiar with, where today that doesn’t appeal to everybody. We are looking at graphic novels, we are looking at comics as opposed to just your traditional literature. Through state legislation we have come to a change in common core, which has changed state standards completely. We have had to change as educators, I as educator have had to change the way of teaching. Thinking differently. And that also affects the needs of students. You see students who have certain needs academically and of course that’s what you are there for. You have guidelines and things to follow or certain parameters that children have. The last sixteen years we have had to change. You see that children not only have academic needs, but they also have more emotional and social needs. They are missing a lot of interaction. It’s very complex. Teaching industry and the job, it’s so complex. It’s more than just opening up your book. It encompasses everything being a teacher. Being a counselor, a nurse, a parent. Everything you can possibly think of to meet a child’s needs so that they are safe, happy, and so that they can do what they need to do in a classroom.

I think that one of the biggest things we see is the student to teacher ratio. The school where I just completed my school year at, we just finished at 27 students. Sometimes having that many students is hard because you are trying to meet the needs of 27 different individuals. They all have different needs from social, emotional, and academic standards. That’s one of the biggest concerns as a teacher that I have, as well as just the need for resources. It’s out of our hands and the district’s hands when it comes to the resources because they try to get what we need.  We as teachers we spend our own personal money to do what we need. Between the student to teacher class sizes and the teacher resources, those are biggest challenges to meet the needs of the students. As educators, we do everything we can to provide for them. Pulling out of our own bank account a lot of times. Farmington is so diverse, you have different cultures, and you have different aspects to bring into the classroom. Even though we have those difficulties and struggles, it’s what the children bring that makes it satisfying.


Finding Community in Farmington

I come from a family of six children. I was raised in a small town in Arizona. It was a border town to the reservation. I feel like I grew up very fortunate to have my mom at home. I had one parent at home fostering what we needed and getting us through the morning. I feel like my foundation really started there, to have a strong foundation, to be healthy. I had older siblings. We were exposed to sports and extracurricular activities. We were involved in the church growing up. I felt like I was privileged or had the opportunity to experience things. A little bit of trouble here and there… I was brought to Farmington in 1991. It was a tough transition for me because I was in middle school. That’s a time when you are really socializing and making friends. I was brought to Farmington, to a new place, a lot bigger, it was kind of a culture shock at first. Like I said, I came from a really small reservation town, mostly Native Americans. Seeing the amount of diverse cultures [in Farmington], it was culture shock at first. I felt I needed to adjust and just do what I needed to do. I came to Farmington and I attended a local junior high. I wanted to get involved in sports because that was something I enjoyed. From there I made friends, I felt like I adjusted well. I adjusted well here in Farmington High School. I went to college in Arizona. I just knew there was a specific goal that I had to come back because of the population because of the need I felt. Being Native American, I wanted to make an impact with the Native American culture. I wanted to inspire. I wanted to give… not a sense of hope, but to encourage. Even if it’s only two people… I wanted to the young ladies or young boys… whether they are Native Americans or any other culture… I want to tell them that they can become somebody and that there is opportunity. That was my goal in coming back to Farmington, I wanted to just make an impact. I wanted to reach the cultures that are here. That’s one thing that I love about Farmington, it’s the diversity. You walk out one door and you have this culture and you turn and there’s another culture. I think in Farmington there is a good job in trying to appreciate those cultures with different events that they have going on. Trying to foster that and try to encourage the youth to be proud of who they are. I have been here ever since, and I love it. It’s a small enough town, not too big. I have some great friends and great community support in the occupation that I am in. I just learned to love the community and appreciate what the community has done for me as a school teacher.


Encouraging Growth

I hope that there is opportunity to grow and to become whatever it is they [children] want to inspire to become. Regardless of where it would be, that’s what I want for any child, any young person. I think that too often, especially in this area being located where it is, it’s a border town to the reservation. Young people are stunted or held back at a disadvantage because of poverty, lack of opportunity… whether it’s not visiting other places, not being exposed to our music, culture, and with the change in times, everybody has a cell phone and everybody is on social media, things are changing. I would want them to make an impact, to make a difference, in whatever they chose to do… if it’s like serving in their community center and giving back to the youth and encouraging one person, I would want them to do that. I know that college is not for everybody, and I understand that, but I want them to be successful to be independent. That’s what I want for any young person. And not just for the Native American culture, but for everyone to be successful. Find something that they love… sports, hobbies, music, whatever they like and just grow and expand. For them to feel like they don’t have to be held back.

I think that Farmington is a great place, a great place to raise a family. Come and visit. Another great thing I love about Farmington are the fishing opportunities, the boating, the hiking, the exploring that you can do. I am appreciative of this opportunity to be able to just come and share a little bit and to let people know that Farmington is a great place. We have a lot to offer. And there are great people here. And that’s what makes a difference, the kindness of people. What people can do for one another. A simple smile, holding the door for somebody, whatever it might be. Continue to be positive and encouraging and be satisfied with who you are.



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