FARMINGTON — After 36 years of being an educator, Bonnie Braden is ready to enjoy a summer off.
Braden, the former principal of the Mosaic Academy charter school in Aztec, has worked at number of Colorado and New Mexico schools in her career. After working in administration for 17 years, she is looking forward to time off during the summer months.
Braden started her career in Creede, Colo., teaching physical education in the Creede School District along with social studies and driver's education. From there, she worked in Buena Vista, Colo., and Mancos, Colo., before moving to the Aztec Municipal School district where she taught physical education at McCoy Elementary school for eight years.
After teaching physical education, she became the principal of McCoy elementary for five years.
From there, she worked as principal at Dulce Elementary School in Dulce, N.M., for one year before working in the Farmington Municipal School district as a special education facilitator for two years.
Then, in November 2005, Braden came together with members of the Mosaic Academy founding team.
The kindergarten through eighth-grade school opened in August 2006 as the first charter school in the county, offering a different take on progress in the classroom. Braden has been the principal since the school opened.
"The whole philosophy behind what we do at Mosaic is to let kids learn at their own pace and own level," Braden said. "Just because you are a first grader, doesn't mean you are learning at a first grade level."
The new principal for the school Diane Mittler said the goal was to expand on the idea of multi-age classrooms that started at McCoy elementary.
Parents were interested in keeping their students in the multi-age classroom, providing flexibility so students could learn at their own pace.
"There is no stigma because everyone's at their own pace," Braden said.
Teachers Suzette McKinnon and Mark Everson have worked with Braden since the school's doors opened, describing her as the "rock" of the school and someone who is willing to help out the teachers any way possible.
"She's been an amazing leader and has kept our school afloat," McKinnon said in a May interview.
Everson remembers when Braden was operating a Bobcat skid-steer loader, moving dirt to help students with a gardening project.
"She's extremely flexible and willing to do almost anything that needs to be done," Everson said, also in a May interview.
Mittler was one of the founding members of the school along with Braden. Mittler split her time teaching a 6th through 8th grade classroom while working as the school's director of instruction.
"I don't believe we could have done it without her. She and I have worked really hard together to make this a successful place," Mittler said. "Her experience in administration and her experiences with other areas of education (have) helped propel us. She has a gift for understanding what individual kids need."
When looking back on her time at the school, Braden remembers how close the students and teachers became and how students were taught to be advocates for their education and to be responsible for their learning.
"I think the overall thing that sticks is when parents come to you and say, 'Thank you so much, my kid wants to come to school now,'" Braden said. "They no longer hate school and they want to go there. It's a safe place to learn and be yourself."