New Mexico Education Foundation Addresses Teacher Shortages in Region

6/20/2022

Rural Northern New Mexico and Southwest Colorado are suffering from teacher shortages, particularly in secondary math and science classrooms and special education classrooms. The Three Rivers Education Foundation hopes to put a dent in the problem with a unique teacher-training program for professionals considering a change in their careers. This story is sponsored by Boons Family Thai Barbecue and Pop's Truck and RV Center

A San Juan County, New Mexico education foundation hopes to entice more college graduates into the education profession to address the teacher shortage crisis that's affecting school districts in Northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado. You're watching the Local News Network brought to you by Boon's Family Thai BBQ and Pop's Truck and RV Center. I'm Wendy Graham Settle. The Three Rivers Education Foundation hopes to entice college graduates into becoming licensed secondary math and science teachers and special education teachers with a $10 million grant it received from the Colorado Department of Education. The grant is funding for the Three Rivers Teacher Quality Partnership, a program that pays a $55,000 stipend to teacher candidates to complete a year-long residency and complete their master's degrees.

This is a residency. It's not an internship in the traditional sense. It's a residency similar to what a doctor would do. And they go in for one year; they work from 8:00 to 1:00 with a teacher watching, learning, assisting in the classroom. From 1:00 to 4:00, they take online classes that are modules and asynchronous classes. After a year, they get their master's degree, and all they owe is three years of teaching, either math, science, or special ed.

Teacher shortages are rampant in all parts of the country. An American Federation of Teachers study revealed that 40% of school districts nationwide reported trouble filling teaching positions. And closer to home, New Mexico reported that a thousand licensed educator positions remained unfilled at the start of the 2021-22 school year. In a survey of Colorado school districts, the Colorado Department of Education reported that nearly 7,000 teachers still needed to be hired at the start of the 2020-2021 school year. Shortages are particularly acute for secondary math and science teachers and special education teachers in rural districts like those in Northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado. Ortiz said he hopes the stipends will provide enough of an enticement to convince professionals thinking about changing careers to take the educational plunge.

I've had an engineer ask me about the program, and I've had a lawyer ask me about the program and other people with other degrees. And so it really is something that some people are attracted to, changing professions. Or some people who have retired from another profession want to look for a second profession, and they want to go into teaching.

To qualify for the program, candidates must be new to teaching, possess a bachelor's degree with a 3.0 grade-point average, and qualify for admission into the Masters of Education programs at Fort Lewis College, Adams State College, or Eastern New Mexico University. Ortiz said about 20 teachers have completed the program thus far, and he has about 30 scholarships remaining. If you'd like to know more, visit the Three Rivers Education Foundation website at threeriverseducationfoundation.org or at fortlewis.edu. Thanks for watching this edition of the Local News Network. I'm Wendy Graham Settle.

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