NEW EDPS VERSION
The New Mexico Teacher Ambassadors hosted a virtual summit this week to give education stakeholders from across the state an opportunity to discuss the teacher workforce crisis and propose new solutions.
Ninety-one people attended Wednesday afternoon’s Education Workforce Summit, sponsored by the State Ambassadors of the Department of Public Education, a group of 24 head teachers from leaders from across New Mexico who are leading on-the-ground efforts to build a robust and highly skilled workforce of educators.
“We come together today to celebrate this profession and recognize it as a place of community, curiosity and creativity,” said DEP Deputy Secretary Gwen Perea Warniment in her opening remarks. “We need to honor this profession and move towards a healing strategy. This is my wish: let us move forward in a space of well-founded hope.
The teacher vacancy rate in New Mexico nearly doubled last year to 1,000 vacancies, according to researchers at New Mexico State University’s Southwest Outreach Academic Research Evaluation & Policy Center. Teacher preparation programs nationally report lower admission and graduation rates. In New Mexico, 979 students completed an educator preparation program in the 2020-21 academic year, a decrease of 51 program completions from the previous year.
John Sena, director of policy for the department, moderated a panel discussion, and the ambassadors led the breakout sessions that followed. The panelists were:
- Miguel Serrano, Human Resources Director of Las Cruces Public Schools;
- Lorynn Guerrero, 2022 New Mexico Teacher of the Year and teacher at New America School-Las Cruces;
- Adriana Cuen Flavian, State Ambassador and teacher at Santa Teresa Middle School in the Gadsden Independent School District;
- Karen Ware, Director NACA Inspired Schools Network;
- Gene Strickland, Superintendent, Hobbs Municipal Schools; and
- Stacey Duncan, state director of Educators Rising NM.
Their suggestions for improving the teacher pool included improving funding and support, increasing teacher autonomy in the classroom, investing in community pathways, and celebrating the profession.
“The perception is that it’s not cool to be a teacher,” Flavian said. “Teachers should be celebrated as superheroes.”
Ware said there were people in the Native American community who wanted to teach but were still working towards a college degree.
“We see the desire and commitment to community, but how do we create the pathways?” she asked. Ware also spoke about the importance of paying native language teachers the same rate as other language teachers.
Serrano said Las Cruces has many graduates who need an opportunity to learn more about the profession and alternative certification opportunities.
Sena asked panelists if schools are doing a good job of promoting education careers to students.
“I think we can do better,” Strickland said.
“The context of how education has been viewed in our state has not been pretty. High school kids grew up seeing their teachers dislike their jobs,” Duncan said.