On Stands Now
June 2024

Questa  •  Red River  •  Cerro  •  Costilla  •  Amalia  •  Lama  •  San Cristobal

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Recognition for Years of Service: Teacher Diane León

How many years have you been teaching?
I will be completing my 18th year of teaching this year. All my time has been spent in the Questa Independent School District. Over the years, I have taught Spanish for grades 7 through 12, as well as dual-credit Spanish III, introduction to Chicano studies, and career explorations/academic foundations through the University of New Mexcico-Taos here at Questa High School. A couple of years I also taught English language development. Additionally, I have served as the district bilingual and title III coordinator since 2014 where I oversee the bilingual Spanish heritage program in grades Kindergarten through 10, as well as serving English language learners in our schools. For a few months I was the interim district principal, in the spring of 2021.

Why did you decide to become a teacher?
Honestly, becoming a teacher was never really a thought in my mind. As graduation and college approached, I was leaning toward becoming a school counselor. But as I thought more about it, the school counselors I had growing up seemed to spend more time on schedules, grades, testing, and paperwork than they did engaging with students, and it didn’t seem like I could make much of a difference in helping people that way. So I asked myself, “Where can I serve young people best in our community of Questa?” And the only thing that stood out to me was in the classroom. Then I decided that I could potentially make the most impact on my community by teaching Spanish, which was a language that was already struggling to survive. My hope was that if young people in Questa saw my passion at a young age for our language and culture, that maybe, just maybe, I could not only make a difference in students’ lives but also help to preserve our heritage.

Why did you decide to return to Questa to teach?
Questa has always had my heart and of course my family has always been very tight-knit. I am always joking about how my roots are deeper than those of chamisos (we all know how deep those can go and how hard they are to dig up.) I honestly find it very difficult to ever picture myself anywhere else. It was never a hope or a plan to move away from here, and quite frankly I never really left. The entire time I attended the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque I spent two or three weekends there. I came home every weekend and created my schedule so that I started a little later on Monday mornings and was out early on Thursdays or Fridays in order to make the drive home. I even convinced my professors at UNM in my last semester of student teaching to allow me to get my experience here so that I [could] get my foot in the door and be prepared for a job to open at Questa High School. Honestly, I feel like this little village had already provided me with so much in life and made me the person that I am, so it was now my turn to give back.

What’s the most difficult part about teaching?
There are a couple of difficult aspects of teaching for me. One of those being how much time I spend working outside of school hours to lesson-plan, grade, answer emails, further my education, complete trainings, professional development, keeping up with the newest changes, trends and the like. It is not a job that I can just walk away from at the end of the day and forget about. I know that I owe it to my students to be prepared and give feedback in a timely manner to help them improve. Often spending so much time working at home can cut in to family and free time (which I am trying to be better about). But more difficult than the extra work is seeing students struggle physically or emotionally and sometimes I get the overwhelming feeling that I’m not doing enough for them. It is hard not to worry and think about how I can help improve their lives or situations outside of the classroom.

What is the best thing about teaching?
The best thing about teaching is seeing students grow, mature, follow their dreams, and become adults. Seeing success stories day after day makes me smile! Teaching is truly a calling, and I don’t think anyone does it for prestige or money. The reward of teaching is the feeling of fulfillment I get when seeing students do amazing things in their lives, creating families of their own, and making a difference. I LOVE getting messages of gratitude, sometimes apologies for not working harder or behaving better, and even tags on social media from students. Those sentiments of gratitude make teaching worth it. I have been told for many years that I can’t save the world, but in my heart if I can be a positive influence on any one of their worlds, I’ve done my job and am content with that!

You teach and are a volleyball coach and a class sponsor. Why do you choose to give of your time to these additional duties?
Well, truth be told, on several different occasions and years of coaching, the job found me. I didn’t put in or apply, but the program or another coach needed help. I could not bear to see a program that I’m passionate about going without. So, I stepped in and did what I could. Some years have been better than others, but the successes, failures, overcoming challenges, motivation, work ethic and friendships I made have all been worth it. We have some very talented and hardworking athletes that continue to teach me things every day. When it comes to sponsoring, it’s a lot of work and nobody really wants to do it, but it must be done. Fundraising, planning events, homecoming prep, floats, proms, graduations, and trips are all fun, but require a lot of work, responsibility, organization and planning. As a student they are always some of the most memorable, so it’s important to give of yourself and your time to make them memorable for future generations as well. Another rewarding aspect of sponsorship is the bond that is often created with the classes you work with, since so many more memories are shared both in and out of the classroom.

What would you tell other people who might be considering returning to work and live in Questa?

Follow your heart and do what makes you happy but always know that your little hometown village of Questa will be here waiting for you and embracing your willingness to give back to your family and community. Raising a family in a community like ours can be one of the most fulfilling things in life, teaching your children about work ethic, the beauty that surrounds us, old ways of sustainable living, hunting, fishing, growing, gathering, and living off the land are resources that cannot be replaced or taken away. Even though some people may fall into the small-town politics and so called mitote, the vast majority of gente want to see you succeed and continue to live a life filled with happiness, cultura, tradiciones, and familia. Remember: this life is what we make of it, what we are willing to put in we will get out, and sometimes living a simple lifestyle learning to work hard for what you have, overcoming adversity and challenges are what makes us stronger. Always know that regardless of where you end up, we are proud of you, just don’t forget where you came from as well as those who have helped shape who you are today.

Anything else you want to add?
I want to thank my gente from the bottom of my heart for all their support and love throughout the years. My parents Clyde and Ruby Cisneros and husband Ricardo León played a huge role in my successes and abilities to work full-time, attend graduate school at night, coach, teach, sponsor, and be involved in community organizations and events. Without them I most definitely wouldn’t be where I am today. I also want to thank mis hijos Alyana and Ricardo León Jr. for their patience, understanding, support, and love in sharing their momma with all these other kids their entire lives. To all my students both past and present “Always remember you’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, smarter than you think, and LOVED more than you will ever know.”