New Mexico school remembers teacher with memorial garden

LOS LUNAS, N.M. (KRQE) – For some, it’s a place for healing. For others, it’s a learning tool. What started as a nature center at one Los Lunas elementary school will soon celebrate one year as a memorial garden for one unforgettable teacher.

Divana Olivas remembers the day her mother, Ruth Olivas, submitted classwork for her Master’s Degree. It was the same day she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Divana Olivas says her mother still bought the gown and cap, but never wore them.

Her mother’s passion for education had a lasting impact on Olivas.

“It was really important to her to continue and finish her PhD, and that’s something that’s sort of changed my life path,” Olivas said.

Olivas soon realized she wasn’t alone. Her mother touched many lives.

“Other people were mourning her as their teacher, as their former teacher. I wasn’t just mourning my mom, I was also mourning a woman in the community. Realizing that, I wanted to create a space where other people could also heal,” said Divana Olivas.

It brought her to Desert View Elementary’s nature center in Los Lunas — the school where her mother was teaching when she died.

Working with school leaders, they created a community garden — a place for healing, reflecting and engaging students.

On April 9th, 2015, it was dedicated to Ruth Olivas. A “Spring to Success” event at the school on Wednesday included a celebration of garden’s first anniversary.

“Seeing the sign and my mom’s name on it. I want to cry every time, but it’s really happy tears and, sometimes, they’re sad. But it’s awesome,” Divana Olivas said.

She now calls the garden a “labor of love,” but hesitates to take credit for it. Instead, she shares it with others her mother inspired.

“I think it should be whatever the school and the students want it to be and, of course, always reflected in the memory of my mom,” Divana Olivas said.

As for her mother’s unfinished education — Divana Olivas starts a doctorate program in the fall.

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