2017 Taos Living Treasures: Kathryn Cόrdova

Longtime educator and Taos News freelancer honored after years of community service

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For 15 years, Kathryn Córdova served as a co-chairperson of the Taos Living Treasures program, an event that honors the elders of the Taos community. And in 2017, Córdova has been named a living treasure herself.

“I cried,” Córdova said, describing how she reacted when she was told she had been selected. 

Córdova, who is also a freelance writer for The Taos News, has led parallel careers in education and journalism, work that has left a profound impact on the community. For 25 years, she taught in Taos Municipal Schools, five of which were spent at Taos Junior High (now Taos Middle School) teaching English and journalism, and the remaining 20 at Taos High School teaching a suite of language arts and social studies classes, all while advising yearbook. Amid this long tenure in education, Córdova has been one of the principal authors of the popular “Know Your Neighbor” column in The Taos News, which profiles community figures on a weekly basis.

“I like looking for these stories, the little hidden jewel or something, the little diamond in the rough – and you’re the nosy reporter and you go seek it out,” Córdova said.

Córdova’s two-pronged career stemmed in part from her undergraduate education at New Mexico Highlands University in Las Vegas, New Mexico, where she graduated in 1971 with a triple major in journalism, English and social studies.

“When I first got my degree, I wanted to be the madwoman journalist,” Córdova said. “My dad wanted me to be a kindergarten teacher. He had this stereotype of journalists – they always got drunk all the time, had cigarettes dangling from their mouths and would always commit suicide.”

Córdova explained that newsrooms were mostly male-dominated places in those days, which made it harder for her to start in the profession. Following graduation, she entertained two job offers – one from the school district and another from The Taos News. Keith Green, then the editor of The Taos News, allowed her the option to freelance for the paper. She has freelanced for The Taos News for more than 40 years.

In education, Córdova found a calling through what she termed “hands-on learning,” particularly group projects that allowed students to apply their problem-solving and creative abilities to a subject. Over the years, she tasked her students with challenging Taos’ antiquated curfew laws (which from the 1950s to ‘70s prohibited minors from being out past 10 p.m.), solving local traffic patterns and conducting mock political debates over whether or not the drinking age should be lowered from the age of 21 to 18. In 1995, then-Gov. Gary Johnson appointed her to New Mexico’s lottery board. And though she retired from teaching in Taos Municipal Schools in 1996, she continued to teach part time at several institutions, including Northern New Mexico College and University of New Mexico-Taos. In 2005, Córdova earned a doctorate at California Coast University, where hands-on learning was the subject of her dissertation.

Still, journalism remained one of her great passions.

“As far as writing goes, when I was teaching, writing for publication and stuff, students would ask me, ‘What do you like best? Do you like the interview, the research or the writing?’” Córdova recalled. “I said, ‘I love all of it, and it’s all part of each other. I don’t think you can separate it.’”

During her tenure as an administrator of the Taos Living Treasures program, Córdova fought to keep the annual event alive despite the town of Taos’ cessation of funding from 2012 to 2013. Thanks to Córdova’s efforts, the event was revived in 2014. This year, Taos Ski Valley has helped to sponsor the program, which is now managed by Luzita Trujillo. Lately, Córdova has spent her time working on setting up the future El Prado Community Center.

Córdova was touched when she found out that two of her former students had nominated her to be part of this year’s Taos Living Treasures program.

Córdova expressed gratitude to her husband of 50 years, Arsenio Córdova; her three children, William, Andrew and Tessa; Clara and Shirley, the spouses of her two sons, respectively; and her three grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. 

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