PED: Education Stakeholders Discuss Workforce Crisis As PED Sponsors Virtual Educator Workforce Summit


New Mexico teacher ambassadors hosted a virtual summit this week to give education stakeholders from around the state an opportunity to discuss the educator workforce crisis and propose new solutions.

Ninety-one people participated in Wednesday afternoon’s Education Workforce Summit, sponsored by the Public Education Department’s State Ambassadors, a group of 24 teacher-leaders from across New Mexico who are leading ground-level efforts to build a robust and highly qualified educator workforce.

 “We come together today to celebrate this profession and acknowledge it as a place of community, curiosity and creativity,” PED Deputy Secretary Gwen Perea Warniment said in opening remarks. “We need to honor this profession and move toward a strategy of healing. That’s my wish: Let’s move forward in a space of grounded hope.”

 New Mexico’s teacher vacancy rate 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 during the 2020-21 academic year, a decrease of 51 program completions compared to the year before.

 John Sena, the department’s policy director, moderated a panel discussion, and Ambassadors led the breakout sessions that followed.  Panelists were:

  • Miguel Serrano, Director of Human Resources for Las Cruces Public Schools;
  • Lorynn Guerrero, New Mexico 2022 Teacher of the Year and a teacher at New America School-Las Cruces;
  • Adriana Cuen Flavian, a 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 educator pipeline included providing better 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 are people in the Native American community who want to teach but are still working to earn a college degree.

 “We see desire and commitment to community, but how do we create the pathways?” she asked. Ware also spoke of the importance of paying native language teachers at the same rate as other language teachers.

 Serrano said Las Cruces has a lot of people with degrees who need an opportunity to learn more about the profession and opportunities for alternative certification.

 Sena asked panelists if schools are doing a good job promoting education careers to students.

 “I think we can do better,” Strickland said.

 “The context of how education has been seen in our state hasn’t been pretty. High schoolers have grown up seeing their teachers not liking their jobs,” Duncan said.