How This Former CNM Student Went on to Become a CNM Associate Dean

Over the course of nearly 20 years David Valdes has grown as an educator and leader
June 02, 2022

Although he’s spent most of his career as an educator and college administrator, David Valdes admits that school wasn’t always his thing. He actually dropped out of high school halfway through his sophomore year, and a few years later, ended up running into some trouble with the law.

Thankfully, David learned his lesson, and it was soon after that experience that he had a conversation that would change the rest of his life.

"One of my friend’s dads took me out to a restaurant and we had a great conversation about growing up and becoming a man, and he mentioned that going to college was a big thing for him and that I should consider going to college,” David says.

When David left the restaurant, he decided to sign up for the General Education Development (GED) test at CNM, which he passed. Then, immediately after earning his GED, he enrolled in classes at CNM where he majored in Liberal Arts.

“I only attended a year and a half of high school, so when I started at CNM I didn’t have a lot of experience in submitting assignments and doing projects and taking tests,” David says. “I never really doubted that I could do it, but going through those first few semesters made me realize that I really could.”

Eventually, David made his way to UNM where he earned his bachelor’s degree in Physics. From there, he became a math teacher at West Mesa High School before returning to CNM as a full-time math instructor in 2010. Today, he serves as Associate Dean of the School of Adult General Education (SAGE), as well as Director of CNM’s Adult Basic Education (ABE) program, which offers courses in English as a Second Language (ESL) and High School Equivalency (HiSET/GED) preparation.  

“I really enjoy trying to help the same population that I came from,” David says. “I fully understand that educational readiness isn’t all about your age and has a lot more to do with life situation, maturity, and personal preparedness, and so I’m happy to try to figure out ways to serve our ABE students and to help them attain their high school equivalency and eventually move on through their college experience.”

David says CNM’s low cost and availability of resources make it the perfect place for those who want to further their education but are otherwise unsure of what sort of career they wish to pursue. He discovered physics while taking a general education class at CNM and believes that anyone who’s willing to put in the effort can discover their own path at CNM, too.

“I highly recommend our students meet with their achievement coaches and advisors every term and discuss where they want to go and how they’re getting there, because I think that simple discussion can really help students as they’re going through the college process,” David says.

Since becoming Associate Dean of SAGE in 2019, David says his number one goal is expanding the school’s reach so that anyone who’s interested in earning their high school equivalency knows that they’re welcome at CNM.

“According to the latest census data, we have a huge population that doesn’t have their high school equivalency,” David says. “Since CNM is such a large, dynamic institution, we have a lot of opportunities to serve the local adult population, so I would really like to better reach those people that need their high school diplomas.”

David says he’s proud to give back to the community where he first started nearly 20 years ago.

“I’m definitely grateful for all the opportunities that I’ve had at CNM,” David says. “CNM has held a important place in my life and certainly impacted my life in a big way.”