FARMINGTON — Debra Mayeux opened the book and began to read.
"Pancho was a little brown dog who did not have a home," she told a dozen children sitting cross-legged and leaning sideways around her. "One day he came to a small village. It was full of busy people going and coming from the market in the village square."
Some children fidgeted, turning their heads to watch the adults standing and sitting in plastic chairs behind them in the Ladera Del Norte Elementary School's library, and one small boy fingered a flier advertising the book fair.
But two boys in black jackets watched closely as their mother, who is running for Farmington's District 4 city council seat, read to the group earlier this month.
The children's book, "Pancho Finds a Home," is about a small, brown dog that journeyed to a village preparing for St. Anthony Abbot's Day, a day of feast. Mayeux's presence in the library represents her transition from a full-time journalist to an educator.
For more than 10 years, Mayeux worked as a journalist at The Daily Times and later at the Tri-City Tribune. But now, twice a month and, without compensation, she substitute teaches an art class for kindergartners. Now, the 42-year-old candidate looks forward to contributing to community-wide conversations, rather than reporting them, she has said.
She has been teaching for seven years, which includes Catholic catechism classes and fifth-grade students. In three years, she hopes to earn her English teaching certification, she said.
She read on. Pancho, she told the children, was hungry when he entered the village and met the burro, hen and goat, who were hungry, too. The burro had plowed the corn field, the hen had laid the eggs and the goat produced the milk, Mayeux told the children, and all these efforts made food for the people's festival. But those animals did not have a feast planed for themselves, she said.
"That's when Pancho had his idea," Mayeux said. "We'll have our own fiesta, he thought."
At the end of the story, the dog collected the ingredients, hosted a feast for the other animals and found a home with a family that had three children. It was a happy ending.
Mayeux hopes for one, too. She said she knew she would need to learn a new career a year ago when she decided she wanted to run for council. She said she resolved to become a teacher.
And she likes it, she said. She never knows what questions her students will ask, and, like journalism, no day is the same, she said.
Teaching is like reporting, too, because you need to engage your audience, which is now composed of children, she said. And you need to be accurate. Unfortunately, she said, you can't edit classroom discussions.
After Mayeux finished, another adult took a book, sat in the chair and began reading.
Her 14-year-old son, Nick, walked over to his mother standing by the book shelves. Would he rather his mom return to The Daily Times, she asked him, or join city council?
"Follow the dream," Nick said.
Nick's younger brother, now listening with the other children to the new book, had agreed. Nine-year-old Alexander, said he wanted his mother to do what made her happy. If she wants it, and she'll work hard to get it, he said she should go for it.
Nick still thinks his mother's journalism career was cool.
"You could just, like, see it in the newspaper and go to your friends and say, 'Look at this. My mom wrote this,'" he said.
Mayeux asked if her new career, teaching, is cool.
Nick said yes. The time she subbed his class was very cool, he said.
Ten-year-olds Joshua Vigil, Amble Cillessen and Broden Cahoon — all students of her art classes — think so, too.
Joshua and Amble said they enjoyed Mayeux's oil pastel projects. And Broden liked her comic book project. His book was about the numbers 92 and 91, he said, who started off beating each other up but eventually became friends.
"She does a lot of fun things for us," Amble said.