Former Career Prep High School Principal Joyce Rock, center, is presented with her New Mexico High School Principal of the Year award in September during
Former Career Prep High School Principal Joyce Rock, center, is presented with her New Mexico High School Principal of the Year award in September during the National Association of Secondary School Principals Institute Awards Gala in Arlington, Va. From left, Association President BJ Paris, Executive Director JoAnn Bartoletti, Joyce Rock, Metlife Vice President Steven Haessly and Nancy Murray. (Courtesy of Lifetouch National School Studios Inc.)

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FARMINGTON — Former Career Prep High School Principal Joyce Rock is eager to get back into the classroom to continue educating students.

In a phone interview from her home near Muskogee, Okla., Rock said she has been debating what to do with her education career as she and her husband Calvin renovate their property and spend time with family.

"We haven't lived in this house for four years," Rock said. "We've been doing maintenance work on it and I've been working with my grandsons with their reading."

After voicing her opposition to a plan that would have possibly closed Career Prep, Rock's contract was not renewed and she was presented with a resignation letter in May by district officials which she did not sign. District officials declined to comment on the firing.

Rock said that if the school was closed some Career Prep students would not continue their education at other local high schools. She said many of the students who enroll at the school are teen parents or have struggled previously at other high schools. For many of them, Career Prep, which provided support for at-risk students, was a last chance, she said.

"I did what was morally right. I don't regret that," Rock said at the time. "It was worth my job."

After discovering a source of federal funding at the last-minute, district officials decided not to close the school.

Attorney Timothy White of Valdez and White Law Firm in Albuquerque filed a lawsuit against CCSD on behalf of Rock, stating she was illegally terminated due to her public stand against closing the alternative school. The lawsuit is still pending against the district.

"My career ending at Career Prep the way it did was disheartening, it took a while to get over that," Rock said. "It was very disconcerting to see what you diligently worked for, taken away."

Rock was recognized by the New Mexico Association of Secondary School Principals as secondary school principal of the year shortly after being let go by CCSD.

"It was a crowning achievement for all the years I spend in education," Rock said. "It underlined the job I did at Career Prep."

She described the trip she took with her husband to Washington, D.C., in September for the Principals' Institute and Awards Gala as one of the highlights of her life.

Hosted by the National Association of Secondary School Principals, Rock attended a banquet and workshops with principals of the year from other states.

She'll be working with the association's 2013 high school principal of the year Trevor Greene from Toppenish High School in Toppenish, Wash., on a presentation for an education conference in Dallas, Texas, next year on teaching Native American students.

Rock said working with Native students is still her career priority and she has been approached for a math teacher position at Riverside Indian School in Anadarko, Okla.

"I want to teach Native students, I want to know where they are coming from and I want to feel like I'm making a difference, it's important to me," Rock said. "It was important to feel welcomed. It was really comforting to be back in a high school environment, to be surrounded by Native students."

Teaching is Rock's plan for the next couple of years, she hopes she and her husband will have an opportunity to travel in the future. Ultimately, she says she would like to start a career as an education consultant.

"We were so young when we got married and so poor, we weren't able to do things," Rock said. "We plan on doing them now."

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or Follow him on Twitter @jkelloggdt.