LAHS Announces New Course On Life And Literature Of New Mexico

LAHS is offering a new course for juniors and seniors to fullfill their English credit requirement towards graduation. Photo Courtesy LAPS

Margo Batha/Courtesy photo

Suzanne Montoya/Courtesy photo


With course selection for Los Alamos High School students opening at the end of the week, upcoming juniors and seniors will have another option to fulfill their English credit requirement towards graduation. English teachers Margo Batha and Suzanne Montoya have partnered to teach Southwest Narratives: Life and Literature of New Mexico. 

Click here to view the video that Montoya created to promote this new course offering.

“Mrs. Montoya and I believe in the power of place-based learning and community-based education for our students,” explained Batha. “We want to offer juniors and seniors at Los Alamos High School another choice for their English requirement that uses their experiences and our community in Northern New Mexico as part of their learning.”

The addition of Southwest Narratives to the high school course offerings is in line with the LAPS School Board’s goal to expand inclusive learning environments that incorporate culturally and linguistically responsive and relevant curricula and practices.

Southwest Narratives is a course designed around the concepts of place-based and project-based learning. Tom Vander Ark, Emily Leibtag, and Nate McClennen, the authors of The Power of Place: Authentic Learning Through Place-Based Education, describe place-based education as embodying the following six principles:

  • Embeds learning everywhere and views the community as a classroom.
  • Is centered on individual learners.
  • Is inquiry-based to help students develop an understanding of their place in the world.
  • Incorporates local and global thinking and investigations.
  • Requires design thinking to find solutions to authentic problems.
  • Is interdisciplinary.

“While some of the courses offered at LAHS, like AP Human Geography, Native American Studies, and New Mexico History, explore the ideas of place, we offer no yearlong core courses at LAHS that utilize inquiry-based and place-based learning,” said Batha. “Students who enroll in this class will explore course materials that focus on the language and culture of New Mexico and the connections around the globe.” 

The course will include a unit  on the issues that concern Northern New Mexicans and the application of those ideas to global issues using the lens of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

Using the model of a first-year college composition writing course, students will be required to explore these ideas through rigorous reading and writing experiences using the lens of the cultural and historic heritage of New Mexico. The reading materials for this class will feature the rich literary tradition of New Mexican and Native American authors, artists, and poets with a strong emphasis on the cultural perspectives and writings of Northern New Mexicans.

“This rich tradition is often overlooked in our traditional English curriculum and, for many of our students, these works are culturally relevant and culturally responsive to their lived experiences,” noted Montoya. The course readings will also include connections to global concerns that are relevant to issues facing Northern New Mexico.

As part of this course, students will also meet guest speakers from Los Alamos and surrounding communities, and go on field trips to places like the Los Luceros Historic Site, the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, the International Folk Art Museum, and visits to the Northern Pueblos.

“New Mexico is a state rich in culture,” said Montoya. “Not only are we fortunate enough to have distinct cultures, but they blend well together to give a unique perspective.  Ms. Batha and I are excited to offer our students the opportunity to experience through learning and learn through experience.” 

A National Board Certified teacher, Batha has been teaching English courses at LAHS for over 13 years. She is also the coach of the LAHS Hilltalkers Speech and Debate team, and was named the 2019 NSDA National Educator of the Year by the National Speech and Debate Association. Montoya holds a Master of Arts degree in Language, Literacy and Sociocultural Studies from the University of New Mexico. She has been teaching English at LAHS since 2018. Prior to joining the English department at the high school, she taught English and helped to pilot the AVID program at Los Alamos Middle School. 

Southwest Narratives: The Life and Literature of New Mexico offers students hands-on opportunities to explore the rich literary and cultural traditions of Northern New Mexico through experience–the reading of literature, non-fiction narratives, poetry, art, and music as well as by participating in field trips and listening to guest speakers. The readings for this course will focus on New Mexican and Native American writers as well as writers and thinkers across the globe. This collaborative and project based course will prepare students for college writing and analysis, within a framework of place-based, inquiry-based learning that is student-centered and culturally responsive. The readings will be combined with grammar review, composition writing, vocabulary development, and research. Juniors enrolled in this course will leave with sufficient writing, research, reading analysis, and discussion skills to be successful in either advanced English 12 option, Humanities or AP Literature. Seniors enrolled in this course as their “capstone” will solidify all pieces of English taught to them at Los Alamos High School, including vocabulary, grammar, writing composition, reading, annotation, research, discussion, and argumentation, into one advanced skill set that will serve them well at any post-secondary institution.

Students may take this course in either the 11th or 12th grade for an English credit. This course may only be taken once.