'Come and join us:' State, fed and NMSU partner to recruit teachers

Algernon D'Ammassa
Las Cruces Sun-News

LAS CRUCES - "Sometimes educators get a bad rap in our society, and that's garbage," New Mexico Workforce Solutions Director Bill McCamley said Friday. "If it weren't for the teachers that I had at Mayfield (High School), I wouldn't be here today."

State and federal officials joined New Mexico State University's new provost to announce parallel efforts for recruiting and mentoring new teachers, boosting the number of public educators in the state and lowering the cost of training. 

The Teacher Apprenticeship Pathway program partners include the Department of Workforce Solutions, Southwest Workforce Development Board and Las Cruces Public Schools.

With grant support funded by the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions announced a new "apprenticeship pathway program" to assist education majors at NMSU. 

U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small, D-NM, speaks with Doña Ana Community College President Monica Torres following a press conference at the Las Cruces Public Schools on Friday, Aug. 23, 2019.

Besides federal scholarship programs, the New Mexico legislature allocated $10 million to the state's higher education department for students in New Mexico public colleges and universities training to be teachers. 

Included as a target group for assistance are teachers seeking alternative licensure, a pathway for people with a non-education degree to become licensed teachers.

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"The dropout rate for alternative-licensed teachers is high," U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small, D-N.M., said, "and we hope by providing tuition assistance and professional development, we'll give them the support they need as they start their new future and build ours." 

David Morales, a teacher at Mayfield High School in Las Cruces and a past New Mexico teacher of the year, has been tapped to develop and lead a new teacher mentorship program. The project, including his salary, is grant-funded.

New Mexico Workforce Solutions Secretary Bill McCamley speaks at a press conference at the Las Cruces Public Schools on Friday, Aug. 23, 2019.

LCPS curriculum and instruction director Wendy Miller-Tomlinson said, "If you have ever thought about becoming a teacher, we want you. Come and join us. This is the most important job in the world and if you think about every career field, every opportunity in our workforce, it starts in our public school classrooms." 

New Mexico's teacher shortage

According to data from NMSU's annual New Mexico Educator Vacancy report, there were 740 teacher vacancies in the state when the report was published in October 2018. The number of vacancies was up from 476 the previous year, a 35.7 percent decrease.

Among the preparers of the report was Karen Trujillo, then an administrator at NMSU who, after a six-month stint as New Mexico's Public Education Secretary, has recently been named interim superintendent for LCPS.

The dean of NMSU's College of Education, Susan Brown, described the shrinking ranks of classroom teachers as a "crisis" in a report this May by the Carlsbad Current Argus

"It's very scary," Brown told the Current Argus. "We just don't have qualified people in the classroom across the state."

As a consequence, some school districts rely heavily on substitute teachers who are meant to be temporary instructors, not normally tasked with creating lesson plans or building relationships with students and their families.

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NMSU Provost Carol Parker said the university would streamline existing scholarship and financial aid programs to help minimize teachers' student debt, and to utilize the university's Aggie Pathway program for community college students to transfer "seamlessly" to main campus and complete a four-year degree. 

McCamley said NMSU students can inquire about the opportunity at the college of education's scholarship department, while anyone with at least a cachelor's degree could inquire at the LCPS administration building at 505 S. Main St.

Algernon D'Ammassa can be reached at 575-541-5451, or @AlgernonActor on Twitter.

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