Warniment takes on a new teaching position: Head of LESC | Education
A lack of education eventually led the new director of the Legislative Education Study Committee, Gwen Perea Warniment, to pursue a career in education.
As an A student in Santa Fe High School with a passion for computer coding and science, Warniment landed an internship in the computer science division of Los Alamos National Laboratory the summer before her senior year.
Warniment said a mentor for his internship threw him two coding manuals and basically told him, “Just learn them.”
“I just felt like I was stupid and didn’t understand,” said Warniment, parked next to a thick red book of New Mexico legal statutes in her new office at the Roundhouse. “I just sort of like did a 180.”
After coding, Warniment studied English and Spanish for his undergraduate degree at the University of New Mexico, then bartender at a popular Albuquerque restaurant, Sadie’s, after graduating to support himself. to his needs.
It was there that she met an official at the old Memorial Hospital and landed her first teaching job in the children’s wing, when it was a mental institution. She stayed for a year and was passionate about education – not just teaching students, but navigating the complexities of the whole system.
With that as a prologue, she rose through New Mexico’s public education circles: from a teacher in Santa Fe and Los Alamos to a job at the Los Alamos Laboratory Foundation, then to the Department of Public Education. of the state, where she served for more than three years. years as assistant secretary for teaching, learning and assessment.
Now, she brings her experience to the Legislative Assembly, where she oversees a team of policy analysts who help inform the influential Legislative Education Study Committee on issues involving public education. She succeeds the controversial Rachel Gudgel, who held the post for years before stepping down after offensive language she used in anger at Native American education advocates and lawmakers.
Warniment, 46, said she hopes to make LESC a central hub for relevant and definitive education research in the state, opening channels between K-12 state agencies. , early childhood and higher education.
She seeks step-by-step research that presents plans and their projected outcomes around issues such as teaching conditions and the need for more social and emotional learning in classrooms.
Above all, she hopes to bring context to a group of lawmakers — including some former or current educators — who are often isolated from the inner workings of state and local education agencies.
“The committee doesn’t have that deep understanding, and they need it to make good policies and be good partners in the DEP. [Public Education Department],” she said. “And the DEP needs it too. Because often the DEP doesn’t have the capacity to do that work either. So somebody has to do it.”
Warniment said she knows what it’s like to be a public school teacher looking for a curriculum that meets the needs of students with very different skill levels. But she also knows what it’s like to be part of a state agency that struggles to bring laws passed by the Legislative Assembly to life.
“The depth of my experience is what I hope to bring,” she said.
Committee members, who attended Warniment’s first meeting as principal in Santa Rosa last week, said they hoped she would be an effective bridge to the public education department and revive a panel which had no permanent director for a good part of the year.
“I think someone with extensive training is especially important, especially with the issues we’re facing,” said committee vice-chairman Rep. G. Andrés Romero, D-Albuquerque. “I think it’s going to be a pretty big difference.”
Rep. Christine Trujillo, D-Albuquerque and longtime LESC member, said she hopes Warniment can also create commitment to what she said is much-needed transparency.
“In my opinion, the way I heard her, the way I think she works is that she is going to interact with all of us and try to work with us in the way that we are all engaged. , said Trujillo, who added that she rarely interacted. with Gougel.
Trujillo said Warniment could help the committee take on a stronger leadership role when it comes to crafting state budgets and easing disputes between LESC and the Legislative Finance Committee, a central player in government financial matters.
Warniment, who holds a master’s degree in education from Highland University of New Mexico and a doctorate from New Mexico State in curriculum and instruction, drew praise from at least two Republican committee members. . Rep. T. Ryan Lane, R-Aztec, wrote in an email that Warniment’s ability to connect with district superintendents shows she is a good leader in education.
Rep. Gay Kernan, R-Hobbs, also expressed support.
“I think Gwen definitely brings a different skill set to the job, but I think [with] the former director, those skills as a legal expert were certainly important as well,” she said on Thursday.
Warniment, who grew up in Santa Fe, traces her family line to a small village in northern New Mexico near Tierra Amarilla called La Puente. His sons are products of the Santa Fe public schools: one has just graduated from the Academy of Technology and Classics, while the other will be a senior this coming school year.
Although it’s been years, Warniment has tears in her eyes when she talks about her days in class.
“Of all I’ve ever done…I love teaching. So much that it makes me emotional,” she said, taking a moment to collect herself. “And I constantly miss it.”
She said she quit her job as an instructional coach at Aspen Community Magnet School (now known as Aspen Community School) when Los Alamos National Laboratory Foundation executive director Susan Herrera – a representative of Embudo State which now sits on the Legislative Education Review Committee – offered her a position as the Association’s Director of Professional Development.
“It was a tough choice,” Warniment said after leaving the classroom. “But I thought, ‘I really like this job.’ “
Warniment said his time at the Department of Public Education led to one of the most intense times of his life, especially during the coronavirus pandemic. As COVID-19 upended schools, the department navigated repeated revisions to its standardized tests, implemented new teacher training mandates and attempted to keep students up to date through remote learning.
“The amount I learned is kind of indescribable,” she said.
Warniment said she was a little hesitant to apply for the position of LESC director without having the legal knowledge that Gudgel possessed, but said members of her team with legal experience will help navigate that side of the job. At the same time, she reads those big law books.
“That skill set is there, and the resources are there,” she said.
What is not there ? Warniment said a “deep understanding” of New Mexico’s education system on the committee had been lacking for some time. And under his tenure, that understanding will come through meetings with his staff.
At Warniment’s first meeting, she asked each of her employees to tell each other about themselves, their education and their experiences with public education. It’s an exercise she calls “narrative.”
“Education is not limited to research. It’s contextualizing,” she said. “You have to look at yourself. »