Teacher Rita Sanchez Retires This Week After 35 Years

Rita Sanchez surrounded by her team of wrestlers retires after 35 years in education. Photo by Bernadette Lauritzen

Rita Sanchez with Chandler Lauritzen when he won the Bryan Sanchez award, named for her son. Photo by Bernadette Lauritzen

Champions of Youth Ambitions (C’YA)

Rita Sanchez, retires at the end of this week, after 35 years in education.

The ironic thing is when an educator reflects on their experience as a whole, they find that they grew, as much as their students. Sanchez believes that if she helped one kid to stay safe, she did okay. I think the community would say, she “exceeded expectations”.

Sanchez had two children during those 35 years and was able to see her students grow right along with her own.

“When I had Bryan and Elena, the kids were so generous,” Sanchez said. “They made blankets and sent bags of gifts with my sub Bibi Sanchez. They couldn’t wait for my visits to the classroom, and they couldn’t wait for me to come back to school.”

Sanchez has seen an unfair share of sadness in 35 years. The loss of children is hard for any adult, but the loss of a student for a teacher, is like a marathon. The experience is crushing in the moment and endured throughout the longevity of grief, for students in the classroom. Sanchez honored the passing of students, attended funerals and maintained the memory by posting their service program in her classroom.

“Losing kids has been the hardest thing to deal with,” Sanchez said. “I feel like I didn’t do enough, so that they knew they were important to me. I didn’t reach them or I wasn’t there when they needed me.”

There are many that would differ with the statement that she wasn’t there when students needed her. She was the one person you could go to in a panic. She could send a text and have an answer back within minutes, that someone was okay. She hates technology and calls herself “old school”, doesn’t have internet at home, but could out text, out post and out Instagram the coolest of the cool.

“I love my students! I want to make a difference in their lives. I want them to know that there is one person out there who really cares,” Sanchez said. “I want them to like Spanish and I want them to learn!”

Well learn they did and when she wasn’t in the classroom, she was sure the have the best substitutes. Former LAPS Superintendent Dr. Gene Schmidt started a tradition of giving a teacher a day off and subbing in their class. He had this to say about the educational icon, “It is hard to imagine a person who put more zest in life. Her Spanish classrooms were a frenzy of activity – a genuine happy place. Your years in the portable were amazing and then the move onto the second floor of the new building … great view and a great many more years to invest in the future of Los Alamos kids. Thanks for a great career and all the lives your bettered.”

Sanchez has been through a lot and she wants to enjoy life before she’s old. She plans to spend time with her grandkids and family. She wants to do what she wants when she wants and we are sure that will include a lot of fishing.

Those wanting to wish Sanchez well may send a card, letter or gift to P.O. Box 4741 White Rock, NM 87547. Rise for Rita will continue through the middle of June, to collect memories. You can also visit www.cya-nm.org and leave messages. Calls and texts for information also may be directed to 505.695.9139.

Rita Sanchez as a young child. Courtesy photo