News news.

City boasts Miss New Mexico/U.S.A.

Kimberly Spinelli and Joseph J. Kolb
The Gallup HeraldGALLUP — Gallup boasts many distinctions. Indian jewelry capital of the world, high rate of per capita millionaires, and the home of the Inter Tribal Indian Ceremonial and Red Rock Balloon Rally. Now added to the mix is the distinction of having two New Mexico beauty queens vying for national crowns. Take that Rio Rancho and Albuquerque.

One is a teacher and the other a student who blend into their respective environments with humility.Miss New Mexico/U.S.A.

Brittany Toll, a Pre-Kindergarten teacher at Rocky View Elementary, was named Miss New Mexico in October and is excited about her upcoming competition on the road to becoming Miss U.S.A. in Las Vegas, Nev., this spring.

Toll, 24, born in Southern California was raised in Las Cruces, N.M. since fifth grade when her family there.  She subsequently earned her degree in marketing and research from New Mexico State University.  From there, Toll applied to be a teacher with Teach for America which places teachers in low income communities or communities that would not have access to “highly prepared individuals” who creatively inspire the education process.

Toll was accepted into the program, signed a two year agreement and was placed at Rocky View Elementary where she  has been teaching for a year and a half and is looking forward to her next career move which might take her out of the Gallup community.

“I’m still not sure, there are a lot of options that I have, I really would like to teach for three more years, I don’t know if I want to stay in New Mexico or explore a new location, I’d like to get my Master’s [degree], or work for Teach for America or some other non profit organization,” she said.

Prior to competing in the Miss New Mexico pageant, Toll had the self proclaimed fulfilling experience of being crowned Miss Teen New Mexico U.S.A.  in 2005 and placed in the top ten in the Miss Teen U.S.A. pageant.  Toll says she enjoyed her experience as Miss Teen New Mexico as she got to do so many wonderful things such as service work, speaking assignments, meeting a lot of people and traveling.

Toll hopes to accomplish even more by holding the title of Miss New Mexico by working with non profit organizations, public speaking and performing community service.

Toll explains that her students, though a little young to understand the complexities of what is involved with the pageant business were excited after she brought her crown and her sash to the classroom and allowed them all to try it on.  She used the experience as a training tool in her classroom to enforce the class motto which is that if you are smart, you can do anything you want and you have to work hard to be smart.

She says that she is always teaching her students that they can accomplish anything if they work hard enough and feels that she followed through by working hard to achieve the things that she has done and continues to strive hard to be a role model for her students.

“They really enjoyed trying everything on,” Toll said.

Toll, mostly a self taught beauty pageant contestant, has trained other contestants and judged other contests and feels that those experiences helped her win her crown.

The pageant begins with the interview process and then is judged on the bathing suits and evening gowns.

According to Toll, there are three separate interview processes, one is an individual interview in private with the judges, and then the two stage questions.

To non supporters of beauty pageants, Toll said that the Miss Universe, which runs the competitions, stress the importance of the interview process and that she feels that it is the most significant part of the process.

She feels that she is involved in something significant and something that can make a big difference in people’s lives with her duties as Miss New Mexico as well as her involvement within the Teach for America program.


TFA and Pageants?

A matriculating Teach For America corps member (in a different region) wanted some insight about balancing both pageant and TFA before she made her final decision to accept the job offer from TFA. She plans on competing for her state in the very near future, and wanted to decide if she could do both.... lucky for her I have been able to experience this first hand.

 (Photo by: Kim Jew)

Here is the email I wrote her, in case there are any other pageant girls out there who would like to do both Teach For America and be their respective state/national title holder. Or, if you just want to give as much of yourself as you possibly can to serving others....

Hi D,

Yes, I too am glad that I could be here to help you prepare for the next year. I feel that this is a very rare situation, so how incredible that I am able to share my experiences with you and help you better understand the role that you may soon have.

It seems as though our state requirements would be the same, although the Miss New Mexico USA Organizations does not expect me to take the year off. In fact, they are quite proud of the fact that I am a teacher and encourage women to be able to balance both career/school and service. Now, if I were to win Miss USA this spring then yes, that would be a full-time job, just like Miss America.

With regards to my experiences thus far, I have found that you have to be creative with your time management, and yes, I have sacrificed many things like free time to read, travel, watch movies and do the artistic things that I love to do. The way I see it though, I'll have time for that all in the future. The books and movies will still be there; but the opportunities might be long gone. I also teach classes and direct the after school program, so I do have very little free time.

So here is a little insight as to how I managed to balance everything. I wake up before school to go to the gym, and I do pageant prep on the weekends. I got all of my sponsors this summer before the school year started. I prepared protein shakes for lunch and yes; I still managed to eat as healthily as ever. Yes, I still plan to teach full time and do the after school program. I feel that this helps make me a more rounded person and while I'm challenging my energy and abilities I'm learning more about myself and my work habits. Being a teacher and a part of TFA has helped mold me into the role model that I am now. It has also helped me learn to communicate with families and master my public speaking skills. When you stand in front of a classroom everyday you have to bring you’re a-game. I have felt the joy of being part of a movement that is so significant and relevant to the needs of the community I serve in. TFA has taught me so many key life skills, I mean just think about the core values, those alone can help you become a better person and leader if you internalize them the way TFA expects you to. I have learned how to suspend judgment and how to give myself more than I could have ever given before. I have felt the feeling of accomplishment and pride at the end of a school year when I helped my students reach their goals. All of that has helped me develop into the leader that I am. I certainly feel more confident and self-assured. I am very proud of my accomplishments and hard work.

I am technically already doing what Miss USA would be doing with her reign. I work daily and unremittingly to make a difference and I manage to take care of myself and promote various organizations as well as my state. I have used my title already to help promote what I am doing and to promote TFA. Newspapers and TV stations are constantly reaching out to me because of this unique situation, which gives me even more of an opportunity to promote something I believe so much in, and develop important communication skills with regards to media relations.

I too am so happy that A connected us. I am so glad that I can offer help and guidance; I would love to further help in any way. Hopefully I answered most of your questions, if you want me to go more in depth please let me know. If you have any other questions please ask as well.

All the best to you, you seem like such a beautiful and amazing woman who wants to do so many wonderful things with her life. I admire you for trying to do everything that you can to make a difference and change lives through education. I appreciate that you have put so much thought and dedication into figuring out how everything will work. What's meant to be will happen, and you will shine regardless of the path you choose. I know this is a tough decision, but look inside yourself and figure out what will make you happy and proud. 

  And guess what? She accepted! I would like to hope my advice played a small role in that. :) Regardless, I am super excited for her and I plan to help her prepare for the amazing set of years she has before her. I also encourage anyone else who may need advice to reach out to me as well.

Love & Learning,

B. Toll


My Students Are Famous!

(click on the image to enlarge)
Shout out to my awesome students! They were being so great, paying attention to the discussion we were having about elections while a foreigner to the classroom (the photographer) took pictures.


Monster Mash

Happy Halloween.... a day late.... but I figured that I would still share my adventures....

Morning session in their glorious costumes!

Afternoon session in their spooky attire as well as the vampire teeth I gave to all of them.... which I forgot how nasty those things get, er, especially when they eat their pudding cups with them still in their mouths. Slimy....

Next we made slime that did not consist of saliva (yuck). I love doing this with them. It requires very simple ingredients but I make it quite the presentation:
glue: ghost blood
Borax: skeleton bone dust
green food dye: monster tears
googly eyes: frog eyes
At first they REFUSE to touch it, but eventually they cannot resist it any longer.

Mmmm.... edible play-dough used to make edible snakes (I know, I too cannot believe that this is my job every day)! It was yummy and they really enjoyed filling up their snakes with M&Ms and candy (hey, do I get points for this being a fine motor development strategy??)

Ah, my favorite part of the day.... the costumes:
Elphaba.... ok so I don't think her intention was to be Elphaba, but I do love the green skin!
Edward Cullen... again, maybe not his intention but he's just as cute as Mr. Cullen.

My favorite is when boys wear the fake muscles. I just adore the fake muscles!

One thing I did learn, if you tell a 4-year-old that this is "mud pudding" they will not eat it, no matter what you do.