By HEAL Staff Writer Jessica Martinez
Yelena Temple grew up in Ruidoso, her family having moved here from Albuquerque when she was four years old. She graduated from Ruidoso High School in 1985, went on to earn her Bachelor’s Degree in Secondary Education (Physical Education and General Science) from New Mexico State University, and then her Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of New Mexico.
“I decided to be a teacher because I have always loved science, athletics, and kids,” Temple said. “I had an insect collection and a bone collection when I was a kid. My biology teacher at RHS in 1983, Mr. Ron Geyer, was my favorite teacher. I loved his class, and in the 10th grade I decided I wanted to be a teacher and a coach just like him.”
Temple taught for twenty-five years in Ruidoso, including 10th grade biology, chemistry, anatomy and physiology, science, ecology and physical education. In addition to teaching full-time, Mrs. Temple was also a coach and sponsor of various extracurricular activities like volleyball, cross-country, track and student council (10 years at RHS and 2 years at RMS).
It was in her sponsorship with the RMS Student Council that Temple found a way to encourage charity and teach community service not only to students involved with student council but to all the student body. The group held a donation drive to gather toiletries to donate to the Nest, Lincoln County’s first and only domestic violence shelter located in Ruidoso Downs.
“We made little Valentine cards for those students who donated items. We then encouraged the students to in turn give the Valentine card to someone else,” Temple explained. “If they didn’t have a Valentine, I told them to give it to their favorite teacher or even take it home and give it to their mom. The whole point of this project was giving and not receiving.”
Along with students Angelica Pizarro, Andre Almarinez and Regan Jameson, Temple delivered the collected toiletries to the Nest, where they will be used by women and children survivors of domestic violence. The Nest relies on the generosity of the community to provide goods and items for their clients who are in crisis or may be trying to leave an abusive home.
“Women and children who come to the Nest are fleeing a violent situation and come to us with nothing but the clothes on their backs. They are often hurt, scared and emotionally drained,” explained Miranda Puryear, Lead Advocate at The Nest. “Women often do not have any clean clothing, pajamas, toiletries or diapers and formula for their babies. Children have left without their favorite teddy bears, toys and blankets. Thanks to community efforts like that of Mrs. Temple and the RMS Student Council, we are able to provide everything a family needs to make them feel clean, safe, warm and comfortable.”
Now that she is retired, Temple plans to spend more time with her family. She has a daughter who is a junior in college and a son who will be a freshman at RHS this fall. She is even looking forward to being able to cook dinner for her family. After-school practices or grading papers often kept her from getting home until 6:30 every night, leaving her husband, Curt, to prepare the meal (“he is a good cook though!”). Mrs. Temple is going to miss all the fun times she had teaching science to her students as well as her colleagues who, like a family, helped her through stress and tough times.