CIBOLA COUNTY – Kilino Marquez, 61, pointed to a box of crayons sitting on a bookshelf in his office.
“See that new box of crayons, there is a story behind that,” he quips.
He recalled that when he attended elementary school that his mom and dad could not afford to buy him crayons.
“I had a plastic bag full of crayons that were broken and dull. And all the other children had new boxes of multi-colored crayons,” Marquez said.
During his first year of his 10-year career as the superintendent of Grants/Cibola County Schools, he shared this story with staff to illustrate that not all students have access to the quality resources they need to be successful in school.
The staff at Mesa View Elementary School gave him a new box of crayons, with a note that read: “We want our superintendent to have his first box of ‘state of the art’ crayons.”
During his 38 years as an educator, he became cognizant of the value of education and the effect educators can have on young lives.
Like precious stones of wisdom, Marquez recaptures vividly the knowledge and understanding shared by acquaintances and colleagues, as well as comments and incidents, that have helped shape his life.
One such individual who had such a big effect in his life was Aaron Lopez, who was the Seboyeta High School principal.
Lopez was killed in an automobile accident, 50 years ago.
“This man was such a ‘people’ person,” Marquez said. “If anything happened to someone’s son or daughter, he would make home visits. I seen the way this man handled himself in the community. It just awed me how much sway he had on peoples lives,” recalled Marquez.
The superintendent noted an incident when he and another student named, Waldo Garcia, had broken a window at the school.
“At the time breaking a school window was like a federal offense,” Marquez chuckled with his signature laugh and broad smile. “I will never forget what this man made us do. There were two piles of gravel in the parking lot. He gave me and Waldo shovels to spread the gravel - mind you we were fifth graders.”
The superintendent said, “We had to do this as part of the consequences. He didn’t want our parents to take the burden; he wanted the students to be responsible for their actions. Now, every time I see elementary students being taught to be accountable for their actions by principals and teachers, it reminds me of this incident. It seems funny, but I remember this little incident that has stuck with me for years.”
Marquez commented, “Sometimes as parents we try to protect our youngsters from being accountable for their actions. I think that hurts them more than helps them.”
He noted that he believes, “You have to trust the school system, and that schools have the same interests parents do.”
Marquez said his mother and father had the vision and foresight of what was going to happen in regards to their children’s education. “They both gave us support and encouragement to be successful,” the superintendent noted.
He recalled his father driving him to the Laguna Pueblo village of Paguate to catch the bus to Laguna-Acoma High School. “I remember how scared I was going from a little school in Seboyeta to a big school like Laguna-Acoma,” Marquez remembered.
“Our bus driver’s name was Elizabeth Ray, from the village of Paguate. She was a strict disciplinarian and emphasized the importance of discipline. There was no horseplay or talking. The best thing you could do when riding the bus was to get a book and read.”
After that, he said, everything seemed automatic regarding education.
“A lot of times you stop and think, ‘How did I get here?’ It wasn’t necessarily in the classroom; it was people that somehow crossed our paths as we were growing up,” said Marquez.
Marquez said that he was the first in his family to get a bachelor’s degree at the University of New Mexico, UNM, in 1975.
“I don’t remember having a discussion with my father regarding going to college. It was more like…just expected,” explained the administrator. “It wasn’t like, ‘Are you going to go?’ It was ‘What school are you going to go to?’”
The superintendent said that he breezed through his freshman, sophomore and junior years in high school, and his academic performance was outstanding.
In his senior year, Marquez explained, “Boom - the bottom just fell out, and it didn’t seem like a challenge anymore.” He began to think about dropping out.
As he prepared for graduation, he contemplated where his was going to go to college. The young man met with a school counselor who said she didn’t think he could make it at UNM. The university was too big. She commented that students couldn’t go from a small rural school, like L-A, and make it at a big university.
“Her brazen comments really hurt me,” said Marquez sternly. “When someone tells me that I can’t do something, I get real stubborn and resistant, dig in my heels and push back.
When I had a little difficulty in class at UNM, I think about her comments and it gave me the motivation to try harder,” commented Marquez.
When a vocational education teacher left Laguna-Acoma High School in the middle of the school year, it provided Marquez the opportunity to step in as substitute teacher. He was in his senior year in college with six credit hours needed to finish his degree requirements. He completed the remaining credit hours that summer.
“That first day of class with those students was like a natural thing for me. And I haven’t regretted it one day since then,” he said proudly. "I have always stood for the ‘underdog,’ that student that doesn’t come from a perfect home environment and may not have the proper parental guidance. Throughout my career I have worked to help them make the connection between how getting a good education could improve students’ quality of life,” commented Marquez.
While serving as the vice principal at the school, he worked with Gerald Kie, who was the principal and Marquez’ mentor.
Marquez recalled Kie saying, “You know Mr. Marquez, fundamentally, all youngsters are good. When a child is born, they are pure and innocent. We create those children into the types of adults that we want them to be. And sometimes we are not the greatest examples as educators, but we have the opportunity to be role models for these students to buy them time to mature.”
After teaching at Laguna-Acoma for 25 years, Marquez said that greatest gift - a term of endearment - was when former students call him “Coach.”
“By them saying that word reveals to me that I had an effect on their lives. They don’t know how good that makes me feel,” said Marquez. “You take an educator whose heart is in the right place, has that work ethic, and really care about people and communities, they will be successful.”
Marquez added, “I tell the staff that the ‘thank you’ and rewards are not immediate in education. It will come when these youngsters that you are working with reach their late twenties, because that is the time they mature to the level of adulthood.”
He added, “I hear presidents, politicians, doctors and lawyers say that there was one teacher or teachers’ influence that by a comment or action changed their lives. And this is what I truly believe.”
Marquez has been married to his wife, Nicki, for 37 years.
The couple has two children, Charles and Kristy. The family resides in Bibo in eastern Cibola County.