The Golden Apple Foundation of New Mexico awards up to seven teachers from around the state with the Golden Apple Excellence in Teaching Award each year. To highlight this year’s winners, each awarded teacher is coming onto the set of New Mexico Living to dive deep into what inspired their teaching journey.

Working as a physical education and dance teacher at Dolores Gonzales Elementary School, one of 2023’s Golden Apple recipients is Norma Lujan-Quiñones. The award-winning teacher knew she wanted to teach from an early age, but it was not until later in life that she got the chance to pursue that career.

After graduating high school, Lujan-Quiñones started a family and had four daughters. Ten years later, she got the chance to go back to school to get a degree. “My inspiration starts with my family,” says Lujan-Quiñones. She explains that her husband was the one who gave her that final push to quit her job, go back to school, and become a teacher.

Lujan-Quiñones started off as a first-grade dual-language teacher. Inspired by her parents’ love of music, the teacher began incorporating dance and movement into her classroom. Lujan-Quiñones took her passion even further by starting an after-school dance and music program. She says seeing her students’ continued involvement with music later in their lives is one of her biggest inspirations.

The Golden Apple awards rotate every three years through the three major school levels: elementary, middle, and high school. Teachers are recognized in a variety of subjects, including STEM subjects, physical education, special education, advanced placement courses, and more.