Growing up in what she describes as the “teeny-tiny” town of Capitan, NM, Sheila was always outside with her dad and sisters—exploring the landscape and discovering things she wouldn’t otherwise notice. Today, “the outdoors” is still where you’ll find her. Still exploring. Still discovering things she wouldn’t otherwise notice. Whether she’s running a course with her Middle School cross country team, a group she’s coached for the last six years, or ascending up a rock wall with Miguel, her climbing partner and husband of eight-and-a-half years, Sheila explains that the outdoors is where she feels most comfortable.
But while the seed of her outdoor spirit was planted and nurtured as a child, it wasn’t until later in life that it took root and started to flourish.
Accepting an invitation from a friend to participate in a race, Sheila ran her first 5k while she was in college. And though she’s since stopping running competitively, spending time training with her students and helping them to see the life lessons to be learned from sports are among her favorite things to do.
“I just love running with middle schoolers,” she said. “It’s not as much about running and winning the race as it is about mental toughness and preparing...figuring out how to get through the tough times.” Sheila calls running her “medicine,” and she hopes her students will see it through a similar lens.
“I want kids to know, it’s not just about staying fit and being healthy and being competitive,” she said. Running helps you mentally and emotionally. During some of the hardest times in my life, I could always turn to running to refocus, reset, and get to a better space.”
And while running has a place of significance in Sheila’s heart, if you really want to see the light in her eyes shine brightly, ask her about her other outdoor passon: rock climbing.
It started about 10 years ago. She heard about a climbing gym and went to give it a try. While Sheila says she thought the experience was “really cool,” it was also “super intimidating,” and she wasn’t sure if she’d continue.
Then, she said, “I met a guy. I liked him; he liked me.” And it just so happened that the guy (her future husband) was a climber and had been since he was 18. “My passion for climbing was ignited,” she said.
These days, Sheila, her husband Miguel, their dog Ellie, and a group of climber-friends spend most weekends in the outdoors, developing new climbing routes for themselves and other climbers, and enjoying the beauty of their surrounding geography. Miguel has developed a lot of the popular crags (a steep or rugged cliff or rock face) in New Mexico. And together they’ve set several sport routes in Roy, NM, which has become a world-renowned climbing area.
“It’s a bit of an art,” Sheila said. “It takes a creative mind to see a line up the face of a rock wall to see if it’s climbable or not.”
But much like running was about more than just running, for Sheila, climbing is about much more than climbing. There are lessons to be learned, and these lessons are shared with her students who are fortunate to have rock climbing integrated into their P.E. curriculum.
Even though rock climbing has become more mainstream, females remain underrepresented in climbing circles. “Rock climbing is a confidence booster because it’s all you,’” she said. “I want girls to feel empowered by doing these things; it builds your confidence and makes you believe in yourself. Part of the thrill is being scared and pushing yourself past the fear.”
When she’s not running a course or climbing a rock wall, Sheila can be found in the field where she’s about three months into her new professional role at Bosque as a 7th Grade P.E. instructor and Middle School Field Trip Coordinator. It’s a role she says has been more time- consuming and stressful than she thought, but one that she loves and embraces completely. “I have a heart for middle schoolers,” she said. “I just want to ‘love them through it.’”
And her students know they’re on a journey together. Since being “bitten by the teaching bug” many years ago, Sheila continues the quest to earn her teaching degree, a goal she’s nearing. “I’m constantly learning and studying to be ready for what I’m doing the next day,” she said. “I feel the same growing pains they’re feeling.”
For Sheila, Bosque School has been a place where professional and personal passions have not only been able to coexist, but to thrive, feeding off one another and allowing her to grow in ways she didn’t think were possible.
“Bosque is such an amazing place, not only to be a student, but to work,” she said. “It’s such a nurturing community. Never in my life did I, before working for Bosque, imagine going back to school and wanting to be a student. But being at Bosque, I had to do it. People were encouraging...it was undeniably something I had to do. I was scared and I was nervous and afraid to fall on my face, but here, I felt that even if I did fall, there would be so many friends who would help me get back up and find my way.”