FARMINGTON — It's not every day that a student council gets to chat it up with the state's secretary of education.

"My palms are sweating," said Erica Sandoval, 17, a junior at Charlie Y. Brown High School in Bloomfield.

Secretary of Education-designate Hanna Skandera on Friday visited schools in Bloomfield to speak with students and teachers casually.

She also visited with superintendents from surrounding districts and members of Leadership San Juan.

"It's like meeting Obama," said Lastelle Begay, 17, a senior at Charlie Y. Brown.

Skandera met with the student council, asking them about their educational background and also how their school operates and helps them to learn.

"I had trouble at my other high school. I needed help," said student council President Shandra Martinez, a 17-year-old junior. "Now I'm getting A's and B's."

Martinez and the other student council members explained how they had difficulty with their other schools, a commonality among most students at the alternative learning high school.

The school is more hands-on, students said, and encourages an environment founded on close personal relationships.

"I was about to give up, but then I came here," said Samantha Atencio, 17, a senior.

Skandera, who also visited Naaba Ani Elementary School and Mesa Alta Junior High School, said the favorite part of her job is casual encounters with the students and staffs at schools.

"I love it," she said.


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Skandera has visited more than half of the school districts in the state, according to Aimée Barabé, director of strategic outreach for the New Mexico Public Education Department.

"We hadn't been to Bloomfield yet," said Barabé. "It's really the best way to get in and see how to partner the Public Education Department and the school districts."