Teacher rewarded for exceptional instruction

By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer

A Clovis teacher who aims to bring history to life has been honored by the New Mexico Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Mike Rutledge has been named the New Mexico Citizenship Teacher of the Year for grades nine through 12 by the state veterans organization. He teaches social studies and driver’s education at Yucca Junior High School.

Rutledge became eligible for the award after he was named Clovis Citizenship Teacher of the Year. A member of VFW Post 3015 nominated him for the state award.

“Mr. Rutledge uses every means at his disposal, Internet, History Channel, Power Point presentations, exceptional movies, etc., to bring history to life. He doesn’t want any of his students to be doomed to repeating the mistakes of the past,” reads his nomination letter written by John Gilbert of VFW Post 3015.

Students learn how to be good citizens through social studies, Rutledge believes.
“If students do not understand democratic government, it will be difficult for them to understand the nation,” said Rutledge, 39, who has taught for seven years.

“I wanted to make a change in a student’s life,” said Rutledge of his profession choice. “I found that a lot of students didn’t really enjoy schools. I wanted to change that.”

He served as chair of the social studies department and as a member of several education committees, including the Clovis Municipal Schools Strategic Planning Committee, according to his award application.

Rutledge also served as a member of the New Mexico Army National Guard, according to New Mexico VFW official Larry McBee. Service in the armed forces, however, is not a requisite for the award, McBee said.

“This is a good way for Veterans of Foreign Wars to recognize a community leader, a teacher who has the honor of educating our children, the future leaders of our country,” McBee said.

Rutledge shined among nominees because of his professional accomplishments and service in New Mexico as an educator and armed forces member, McBee said.

In 2005, he received his master’s in education administration from Eastern New Mexico University.

Rutledge is now a competitor for the national VFW teacher’s award.

The award recognizes elementary, junior high and high school teachers who teach citizenship education topics routinely and promote American history and traditions, according to the release.

The national winner receives $1,000 for professional development, $1,000 for his or her school, and an all-expense-paid trip to attend the VFW and Ladies Auxiliary National Community Service Conference in Washington, D.C., according to the U.S. Veterans of Foreign Wars Web site.

Monetary prizes are also awarded for recipients of the Clovis and state award.