Golden Apple: Cynthia Gustamantes changing the world, one student at a time


They are some of the very best teachers in New Mexico: this year’s Golden Apple winners. KRQE News 13’s Dean Staley introduces a teacher who is changing the world, one student at a time.

If the students in Cynthia Gustamantes’ third-grade class at McCoy Elementary School in Aztec ever asked her why she teaches, they would get the simplest of answers. 

“To make the world a better place,” Gustamantes said. 

Gustamantes expects her students to believe it too. 

“So when you say life can be better, you can be better, and you can make a difference, they start believing it, and that solidifies everything I believe in and I go, ‘Yes!’ That’s why I teach, to see that moment,” she said. 

“For years I worked in a school where children came to me, and they didn’t have trust in their eyes, and you have to work hard, and you have to really form those relationships so that when they come to school and you look in their eyes, you see there is trust there,” Gustamantes continued. 

For Gustamantes, winning the Golden Apple came as a complete surprise. 

“I feel like an imposter,” she said, laughing. “I’ve always worked hard, I got that from my father. You work hard and you set a standard of excellence, and you don’t do it for recognition. So whenever you’re recognized and somebody says, ‘Wow, you’re really excellent,’ there’s a part of me that goes, ‘I think that all teachers are that way.'” 

That award, as shiny as it is, has nothing to do with why Cynthia Gustamantes has dedicated herself to the classroom for the last 22 years. 

“I want them to leave me with a passion for life, and knowing they have a purpose…and that purpose should be to make this earth a good place, and everyone they impact should be a better person because of it…and that’s why I teach. One child at a time, we’re going to change the world,” she said. 

“Like the best feeling on the face of the earth, there’s just an elation, and there’s just this restoring of your belief that all of this hard work, the tears, the love, the laughter, everything is worthwhile, and that’s my purpose. There it is, right there in that child,” Gustamantes said. 

Gustamantes spent her 20s raising her three sons. It wasn’t until she was in her 30s that she went to college to get her teaching degree. 

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