Leading from the classroom and the school board.

Teach Plus
What's the Plus?
Published in
5 min readMar 6, 2024


Gabrielle Begay teaches 1st grade at Jose Barrios Elementary in Silver City, New Mexico. She is a 2023–2024 Teach Plus New Mexico Alumni Policy Fellow. She was previously a Teach Plus New Mexico Policy Fellow and Senior Policy Fellow, and she is an alumna of the Teach Plus National Policy Advisory Board. She is the president and finance chair of the Cobre Consolidated Board of Education and commissioner for the Commission on the Status of Women. Gabby is currently a candidate for the New Mexico House of Representatives, District 39.

Teach Plus: Let’s talk first about why you decided to pursue teaching. How has your family history affected your choice of a career?

Gabby Begay: I’m part Navajo and my grandfather was sent to boarding school. While he never talked much about that experience, I know that it was horrific. He always stressed the power of education and told me to speak up for people who don’t have a voice. I teach because I want to make the world a better place for all our kids.

TP: You teach in the same community where you were born and raised. How does this impact who you are as an educator?

GB: I believe that education is a partnership between schools and families. I make sure that I’m fully visible in the community. I go to my students’ soccer games and other extracurricular activities. The parents know that I am here and that I care. I’ve had amazing teachers as a child and I constantly run into them when I’m out and about; I recently ran into my second grade teacher in the grocery store and it was wonderful. This reinforces for me the importance of connections in education.

TP: You became a teacher through an alternative licensure pathway. What was that like and do you recommend it for others who want to pursue teaching?

GB: My alternative education programLeading Educators (through) Alternative Pathways (LEAP) has been a huge part of my life. I’ve had support every step of the way, from having access to the right student teaching experience to having tuition reimbursed for my master’s degree. Programs such as LEAP are an excellent way for talented professionals to enter education.

TP: You serve on your district’s school board and were elected its president. You’re also now running for state office. Why pursue these opportunities, especially with your busy teaching schedule?

GB: I have always believed in service. I served on the student government through elementary, middle, high school, and college (my mom still has my signs from that time!). I wanted to use the leadership skills I’ve learned through Teach Plus to impact my community and our education system in a positive way. Should I be elected representative, I’m excited to do even more. I know I already have fans: my kindergarten teacher called me when she learned that I was running and gave me a lot of encouragement.

TP: What work are you most proud of as a school board member?

GB: First, I’m proud to serve on a school board as a teacher leader advocating for students. Our biggest accomplishment was adopting curricula in all content areas for the first time in more than a decade. I’m so proud that our district’s teachers were given a voice in that process, especially with an eye to adopting culturally relevant instructional materials in subjects like history. I am also excited that we’re now working on creating a data-driven strategic plan to guide us into the future, the first such plan we’ve had as a district. I know that this work allows me to carry my leadership forward and to inspire other teachers to do the same.

TP: What has the Teach Plus experience been like for you?

GB: Teach Plus has been life-changing. I’ve been involved with Teach Plus for three years, as a Fellow, Senior Policy Fellow, and now Alumni Fellow. The relationships I’ve formed with other educators across New Mexico have been invaluable. I’ve also consistently been able to use my educator voice in advocacy. I testified on behalf of the School Board Training bill that Gov. Grisham signed into law in March 2024. The bill will help to ensure that school board members have the necessary training and knowledge to create high-quality educational environments for our students. And I’m excited to be able to work in improving literacy for all our students as an Alumni Fellow this school year.

TP: What advice do you have for teachers who want to keep building their leadership skills to impact change for students?

GB: First and foremost, teachers are professionals who know what is best for our students. Move past your four classroom walls and start advocating and speaking up. Use your teacher voice and make sure you are in rooms where education decisions are being made. We owe it to ourselves and, more importantly, we owe it to our students. I’d say keep going for leadership opportunities that arise, and step out of your comfort zone. We are all life-long learners. We need to broaden and sharpen the tools in our tool boxes. We are creating future leaders but we also need to model that we are leaders, too.



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What's the Plus?

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