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My dI Ten Standout Students Choose Educator of Distinction

Ten Standout Students Choose Educator of Distinction


The Los Alamos Public School (LAPS) Foundation’s Scholarship Committee asks its scholarship winners to choose an Educator of Distinction.

This is a teacher that has had a lasting impact on the recipient during their time in the Los Alamos Public Schools. This year’s winners all chose Los Alamos High School teachers. A school without teachers is just brick and mortar; the teachers make the difference. This year’s 10 outstanding winners were selected for their demonstrated balance of academic excellence, extracurricular participation and community service.

Catherine Puranananda and Esteban Abeyta. Photo by Don Taylor

Esteban Abeyta chose Catherine Puranananda, his Advanced Placement Literature teacher, as his Educator of Distinction.

“Your dedication to all students at Los Alamos High School provides us with the motivation that someone truly believes in everything we put our minds to,” Abeyta said of Puranananda. Thank you for the multiple writing conferences and your valuable, sacrificed time to help all the AP Lit students succeed. Your daily sacrifice was a powerful motivation for me.”

Abeyta will attend the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque to study biochemistry. He is the son of Joe and Eva Abeyta. 

Scott Pomeroy and Samual Flesner. Photo by Don Taylor

Samual Flesner chose Scott Pomeroy, his Auto Mechanics teacher as his Educator of Distinction.

“Mr. Pomeroy has taught many teens about mechanics, and the art of paint and body,” Flesner said. At the age of 17, I have owned six cars, three mopeds and a motorcycle. All were bought for a deal and I was able to turn them into good running and reliable vehicles. I consider myself to be extremely lucky because I had a great teacher who taught me valuable skills and confidence and because LAHS has one of the only schools in state with an auto shop.”

Flesner will attend University of New Mexico in Albuquerque and plans to study mechanical engineering. He is the son of Raymond and Fran Flesner.

Kathy Boerigter and Luke Kachelmeier. Photo by Don Taylor

Luke Kachelmeier chose Kathy Boerigter, his Advanced Placement Chemistry teacher as his Educator of Distinction.

“She is a wonderful teacher, trying her best to make sure that everyone understands the concepts,” Kachelmeier said of Boerigter. “Whenever I could not grasp an idea in class. I knew that I could always go to her and she would happily help. She always encouraged me to challenge myself in chemistry and supported me every step of the way. Mrs. Boerigter was also an amazing Key Club advisor.”

Kachelmeier will attend University of New Mexico in Albuquerque to study mathematics, with plans to teach. He is the son of Brian and Andrea Kachelmeier.

Dakota Klasky and Brian Easton. Photo by Don Taylor

Dakota Klasky chose Brian Easton, her Economics teacher, as her Educator of Distinction. 

“He cares about the knowledge all students gain from his class and how they are doing in their home or social lives,” Klasky said of Easton. “I appreciate that Mr. Easton does not have a favorite student. He treats all students equally, and is kind and helpful to everyone. It is because of Mr. Easton that I chose my major in college, because his class has allowed me to become engaged, and his endless answers inspire me to learn.”

Klasky will attend the University of California in Los Angeles to study mathematical engineering. She is the daughter of Marc and Kristen Klasky.  

Judy Nekimken and Gianna Maggiore. Photo by Don Taylor

Gianna Maggiore chose Judy Nekimken, her mathematics teacher, as her Educator of Distinction. 

“She took the time to find out what students were involved in and interested in, and then reconnected with them about it throughout the year – how they were doing in whatever sport they played, spring break plans, current events – all that and more,” Maggiore said of Nekimken. “Mrs. Nekimken is one of the most genuine, fair, and compassionate teachers I have ever met.”

Maggiore will attend the University of Texas in Dallas to study neuroscience (premed). She is the daughter of Pete Maggiore and Rachel Cowan.

Catherine Puranananda and Aletta Marciano. Photo by Don Taylor

Aletta Marciano chose Catherine Puranananda, her Advanced Placement Literature teacher, as his Educator of Distinction.

“She has helped me to reach not only my full academic potential, but additionally, helped me thrive in my personal life,” Marciano said of Puranananda. “Through her constant support, occasional criticism, and encouragingly strong direction, I have truly been able to ‘embrace my nerdy side,’ both inside and outside of my academic life, and have fun while doing so.”

Marciano will attend Pepperdine University in Malibu to study biology. She is the daughter of Vince Marciano and Laurie Gallegos.

Mary Grace and Kimberly Pestovich. Photo by Don Taylor

Kimberly Pestovich is being awarded the Rynd Award. Ed and Betty Rynd, a childless couple, with a passion for public education, left a legacy of service to our community and our schools. They donated the bulk of their estate to the LAPS Foundation, finding the organization to be trustworthy of such a bequest. 

Pestovich was selected by the scholarship committee as a most meritorious recipient. She chose Mary Grace, her fine arts teacher, as her Educator of Distinction.,

“I have studied fine arts with Ms. Grace for three years now, but it seems like much longer,” Pestovich said. “She has built up my skills as an artist, but has also improved my character. Her art room is a sanctuary in which I can relax and become inspired. I have not met another teacher in LAPS with the same kind heart and genuine interest in students’ success.”

Pestovich will attend New Mexico State University in Las Cruces to study chemical engineering and materials science. She is the daughter of Joseph and Elizabeth Pestovich.

Emma Phillips and Sherry Anderson. Photo by Don Taylor

Emma Phillips chose Sherry Anderson, her Algebra II/Trigonometry teacher, as her Educator of Distinction.

“Mrs. Anderson believed in me and it gave me the confidence to take on harder classes and challenge myself,” Phillips said. “Mrs. Anderson found ways to make learning interesting on a daily basis. Her classes were always enjoyable and something to which I looked forward. Mrs. Anderson is an incredible person and an even more incredible teacher.”

Phillips will attend the University of Arizona in Tucson to study business management. She is the daughter of David and Edie May Phillips.

Kathy Boerigter and Alexander Swart. Photo by Don Taylor

Alexander Swart chose Kathy Boerigter, his Advanced Placement Chemistry teacher, as his Educator of Distinction.

“I am fully confident that no other teacher has given me the depth of knowledge, unique skill set, and passion for science and math as did Mrs. Boerigter,” Swart said. “She played a key role in making me the person I am today. She sparked my passion for chemistry and biology and gave me the knowledge and guidance I need for the career of my dreams.”

Swart will attend Rice University in Houston to study chemical and biomedical engineering. He is the son of Pieter and Aletta Swart.

Samuel Wolfe and Lieutenant Commander Wes Shumaker. Photo by Don Taylor

Samuel Wolfe chose Lieutenant Commander Wes Shumaker, his NJORTC teacher as his Educator of Distinction.

“I have chosen Lieutenant Commander Shumaker as my Educator of Distinction for his pivotal role in my formation as a leader,” Wolf said. “He asks for many things that enhance leadership, among these are making presentations and effectively presenting them to the class, planning a full class and implementing the plan, and creating a resume. These are skills, which have been helpful in high school and will be helpful for the rest of my life.”

Wolfe will attend the University of Oklahoma in Norman to study mechanical engineering. He is the son of William and Maria Wolfe.