LAPS Foundation Recognizes LAHS Community Service Scholarship Winners & ‘Educators Of Distinction’

Congratulations to the following ten students and their educators:  

LAHS 2022 Graduate Elizabeth Frost and her ‘Educator of Distinction’, Hilltalkers Speech and Debate coach Margo Batha. Courtesy/LAPS Foundation

LAPS Foundation News: 

The Los Alamos Public Schools (LAPS) Foundation awarded scholarships to ten outstanding students in the class of 2022 for their demonstrated service contributions to the students and community of the Los Alamos Public Schools.

Each student received a scholarship and was asked to write an essay about an Educator of Distinction – someone who has had a positive impact on the student during their time in the Los Alamos Public Schools. The Foundation held a reception at the high school in May for the students, their families and their educators of distinction. 

Elizabeth Frost is the daughter of Catherine Puranananda and Jon Frost. This fall Elizabeth will study abroad for a year in Germany through the State Department’s Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange (CBYX) Program. Afterwards, she will attend Columbia University to pursue a degree in foreign affairs.  Because of her extensive community service efforts during high school, Frost was selected as the most meritorious recipient among this already impressive group of students, and she was awarded with the Rynd Award. This award is made possible by a large bequest left to LAPS Foundation by Ed and Betty Rynd, a couple with a passion for community service and our schools. Frost selected Margo Batha, the Hilltalkers Speech and Debate coach, as her Educator of Distinction. Frost wrote this about Batha: “Within the past few years our team has simultaneously faced its share of external challenges. When a teammate unexpectedly passed away, a hole was created on our team that could never truly be filled. COVID and the pandemic as a whole has tested our ability to meet and work with one another, and even compete. Still, Speech and Debate is as strong as ever, a testament to Ms. Batha [and] the Regina Brett quote she so often mentions: ‘No matter how I feel, I get up, dress up, and show up for life.’ Ms. Batha has always, and continues to, show up for both me and the rest of the team, a gesture I am forever grateful for.” 

LAHS 2022 Graduate Ryan Aldaz and his ‘Educator of Distinction’, Barranca Elementary School 3rd grade teacher Andrea Determan. Courtesy/LAPS Foundation

Ryan Aldaz is the son of Gene and Jeannette Aldaz. He will attend New Mexico State University and major in mechanical engineering. Aldaz selected Andrea Determan, his 3rd grade teacher at Barranca Elementary School, as his Educator of Distinction. In his essay he wrote “Going to LAPS from K-12th grade I had the opportunity to experience many great teachers that taught me a lot, but one changed my life. Ms. Determan, my 3rd-grade teacher, made an everlasting impact on my life by teaching me lifelong lessons that I will carry with me forever … every day, I try to formulate the things that Ms. Determan has demonstrated and taught me. I can truly say that she is a big inspiration in my life and was not only a great teacher but a great role model as well!”

LAHS 2022 Graduate Elise Chávez and her ‘Educator of Distinction’, LAHS dance teacher and Dance Arts Los Alamos teacher Jonathan Guise. Courtesy/LAPS Foundation

Elise Chávez is the daughter of Venita and Craig Chávez. She will attend the University of New Mexico this fall. Chávez chose Jonathan Guise, the current dance teacher at LAHS and also her dance teacher at Dance Arts Los Alamos, as her Educator of Distinction. Describing Mr. Guise as her biggest role model and an inspiring teacher of excellence, Chávez wrote, “He has taught me the importance of passion and hard work. This has really taught me how to set goals in school and work hard to achieve these goals.  I have been able to challenge myself and keep pushing myself because of [him] … Mr. Guise knows how to keep everyone’s energy up and get them excited about dance. He helped me find my love for dance and now I want to share that love with others. He is a kind, funny, and inspiring mentor.”  

LAHS 2022 Graduate Aleena Fullop thanks her ‘Educator of Distinction’, LAHS naval science instructor Commander Brian Gauck. Courtesy/LAPS Foundation

Aleena Fullop is the daughter of Lindsey Fullop and Joseph Fullop. She plans to study genetics at Texas A & M University. Aleena chose Commander Brian Gauck, the former LAHS naval science instructor, as her Educator of Distinction. About Commander Gauck she wrote, “I admire him for his commitment to his students and to our country, and I am inspired by his grit and determination to achieve the high goals he sets for himself. He made my NJROTC class fun and engaging, and I immediately made a connection with him due to his focus on excellence, and his ability to balance “tough love” with encouragement and understanding … because of his example, I aspire to be all that he stands for—treating everyone with kindness and respect regardless of rank or gender, prioritizing community service, and finding balance between career and family life.”

LAHS 2022 Graduate Kyle Hatler and his ‘Educator of Distinction’, LAHS auto shop teacher Scott Pomeroy. Courtesy/LAPS Foundation

Kyle Hatler is the son of Karri Hatler. He plans to study biological engineering at Montana State University this fall. Hatler chose Scott Pomeroy, the LAHS auto shop teacher, as his Educator of Distinction. He wrote in his essay, “I had no idea that my overly talkative, somewhat crazy teacher would later become an incredible mentor and support to me … Mr. Pomeroy has shown me that no matter how smart the kid, how good the grades, or bad the situation they are in, if they have a drive and a good work ethic they can accomplish great things … he cares more about making sure kids can have a great future and a fun job than making sure they get perfect grades.”

LAHS 2022 Graduate Nina Johnson and her ‘Educator of Distinction’, LAHS Latin teacher Melissa Goldman. Courtesy/LAPS Foundation

Nina Johnson is the daughter of Scot Johnson and Sylvia Johnson. She will attend the University of California, Santa Barbara, in the fall and will be majoring in biochemistry and molecular biology. Johnson chose Melissa Goldman, her Latin teacher, as her Educator of Distinction. She described how Ms. Goldman designed an individual accelerated Latin course for just her so that she could take AP Latin her senior year.  Nina’s essay stated, “I will forever appreciate the time and effort Ms. Goldman puts into each of her students individually and the unconditional support she offers. I believe her work with me has contributed to a lot of my success at Los Alamos High School.”  

LAHS 2022 Graduate Christina Nisoli and her ‘Educator of Distinction’, eighth grade language arts teacher Eric Beckstead. Courtesy/LAPS Foundation

Christina Nisoli is the daughter of Donatella Nisoli and Cristiano Nisoli. She will attend the University of New Mexico where she plans to study nursing. Nisoli nominated Eric Beckstead, her eighth grade language arts teacher, as her Educator of Distinction. Nisoli wrote in her essay about Mr. Beckstead, “He made me feel like I was special and not a burden for being so talkative … He taught me to be a better person, and I aspire to be as understanding and helpful as he was. He changed my life in more ways than one: not only did my English improve that year, but my confidence in myself and my worth did, too.” 

LAHS 2022 Graduate Westley Parker and his ‘Educator of Distinction’, LAHS athletic trainer Mick Matuszak. Courtesy/LAPS Foundation

Westley Parker is the son of Robert and Marsha Parker. He plans to major in physical therapy at Brigham Young University, Provo. Parker chose Mick Matuszak, the LAHS athletic trainer, as his Educator of Distinction. He wrote, “Over the past three years, Mick has had a huge impact on my life. First of all, my time in his [Sports Medicine and Medical Terminology] class was always the best part of my day. He taught in an engaging way and it really helped spark my interest in the subject. The class that he taught confirmed my decision to pursue medicine … I have always felt comfortable going and talking to Mick about any parts of life, whether it be school, sports, or future plans. He often gives me advice and tells me about when he was my age. He always has a lot of good things to say … overall, Mick has been one of the greatest influences throughout my high school career. He matched my learning style and helped me to excel academically. Even more, he expressed genuine care and concern for me as a person and lifelong friend.”

LAHS 2022 Graduate Camille Romero and her ‘Educator of Distinction’, LAHS English teacher Margo Batha. Courtesy/LAPS Foundation

Camille Romero is the daughter of Cecilia Romero. She will attend Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colo., and major in business marketing. Romero also named Margo Batha, her senior English teacher, as her Educator of Distinction. In her essay Romero wrote about Batha, “This caringness from a teacher helped me to realize how much teachers go above and beyond their ‘paid’ responsibilities, just to make sure their students are okay and meeting their basic necessities. I honestly do not think I would have come this far with college preparation, and scholarship applications, if it wasn’t for having a support system from this teacher, and her letting me know that I am doing a good job, given my situation. Even just hearing the words, ‘I’m proud of you kiddo’ helped me to build up the motivation to make it through this school year. Mrs. Batha has helped to make my senior year more enjoyable and helped me to feel like I can accomplish anything including college despite my family’s financial hardship.” 

LAHS 2022 Graduate Ty Swavely and his ‘Educator of Distinction’, LAHS athletic trainer Mick Matuszak. Courtesy/LAPS Foundation

Ty Swavely is the son of Colleen and Dave Swavely. He will attend Montana State University and major in exercise science. Swavely also chose Mick Matuszak as his Educator of Distinction. He wrote, “Through all four years of high school, teacher and athletic trainer Mick Matuszak has been there for me.  From helping me with academics and sports, to helping me with life and motivation, he has always been supportive. He is always positive, kind, and honest with students … Mr. Matuszak treats his students as individuals, making sure they are on the right track to succeed in his difficult classes … Mr. Matuzak has influenced me to continue my education studying Kinesiology in college. He is always willing to help and keep students positive when they are facing adversity from injuries and I cannot thank him enough for teaching at LAHS.”

LAPS Foundation is honored to award scholarships to these excellent graduates for their service contributions and to recognize the teachers who have made such an important impact on their lives.  

About LAPS Foundation

The Los Alamos Public Schools Foundation is an independent nonprofit organization that helps the local community provide an extraordinary education for Los Alamos students. Los Alamos has given over $2 million to fund opportunities students and teachers would not have otherwise. To learn more about LAPS Foundation and how to get involved and/or make a donation, visit or call 505.500.6501. Donations to LAPS Foundation, a 501(C)(3) organization, are tax-deductible.

LOS ALAMOS website support locally by OviNuppi Systems