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Mentor of the Month: 'Live, eat and breathe education'

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By Don Pace

Las Vegans Floyd and Theresa Chavez are a husband and wife with a big thing in common: They’re both educators.

And they have a passion for their jobs, others say.

“We live, eat and breathe education,” Theresa said.

Floyd said much of what they talk about involves education.

“It’s not the only thing in our lives. We do have other interests that we share, but education has always been a common thread between the two of us,” he said.

This is Floyd’s 33rd year as an educator, most of which he spent in the classroom. The last nine years, he has worked in administration, in recent years as principal at Los Niños Elementary.

Theresa has been teaching in public schools for 30 years, plus eight years running her own pre-school. She teaches second-grade at Sierra Vista and spent 10 years teaching in northern California.

Theresa was living her dream as a teacher in the San Francisco Bay area and returned to Las Vegas for a family wedding. Floyd was attending Highlands University and was the best man for Theresa’s brother, Tim Lucero.

“I had just completed some course work at the University of Valencia in Spain, and what attracted me to him was that he had a major in Spanish art and literature. When I went back to California, we communicated by telephone, and we were married that year on Thanksgiving day,” Theresa said.

After moving the the West Coast and finishing his course work at Cal State, Floyd joined Theresa in the New Haven School District in Union City in California.

“I wanted to go into some field related to Spanish, and I was really influenced by Theresa’s work in the classroom. The impact she had on children had a big impact on me,” Floyd said. “That’s what makes a person want to be a teacher, when you see someone like her. When I first got to see her in action, I saw such a creative lady; you could see the kids growing by leaps and bounds.”

The couple said they especially like the fact that they have been able to bring a positive influence to children’s lives.

“It may not be the best-paying profession, but it’s a profession where you can touch lives forever. To think that the influence you bring will last a lifetime is a great responsibility, and a precious gift,” Theresa said.  

Floyd said he was lucky to have had some great teachers who acted as role models for him growing up.

“Some of the teachers I had when I was younger were instrumental in helping me decide that I wanted to be like them. They had such a positive impact on me, and I wanted to feel what it was like to have that rewarding experience —  working with children and watching them grow,” Floyd said. “When you see tangible results, it’s a reflection of what you have accomplished in the past, and they are indeed the fruits of your labor.” 

The Chavezes have been recognized on a number of occasions for the skills they bring to the classroom. She has been nominated for a Golden Apple and Who’s Who Among American Teachers. He has written a number of Spanish stories, and he was nominated to Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers and Administrators.

After their years at New Haven, the couple decided to move back to New Mexico.

“We wanted our kids to be in an environment where they would learn about their culture and language. Of course, we also missed our families,” Theresa said.

When they returned home, both Theresa and Floyd completed their master’s degrees at Highlands University — Floyd in school administration and Theresa in early childhood education.

After a combined total of 71 years in the teaching profession, the couple will retire at the end of this school year.

Las Vegas City Schools Superintendent Rick Romero said Theresa and Floyd Chavez are the type of professionals people don’t forget.

“It goes beyond being good people, it goes beyond being professional teachers,” Romero said. “It goes beyond being good Christians — you don’t find that kind of person very often. They are exceptional professionals and equally exceptional people in their personal lives.”

“They will be truly, truly missed, each one of them contribute so much, in so many ways... I don’t know that we will be able to find somebody to fill their shoes,” Romero said.

Floyd said he is looking forward to pursuing his art, and he and Theresa are exploring the idea of collaborating in writing children’s books.  

The Chavezes love to travel and expect to spend some time on the road. They say they also plan to spend more time attending their grandchildren’s sporting events and more quality time with their family.

“Floyd and I have had a deep faith in God throughout our lives, and this faith has been the foundation of our marriage. We also love to laugh and enjoy everything that we do together,” Theresa said.

Theresa and Floyd are the parents of daughters Cassandra and Amanda and son Christopher. They have two grandsons Adam and Curtis.