PED NEWS RELEASE
Teachers change lives, and during National Teacher Appreciation Week, May 1-7, the Public Education Department invites every New Mexican to thank a teacher past or present for helping children attain the education and skills they need for happy, successful lives.
“New Mexico teachers go above and beyond for their students every day,” said Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who signed legislation this spring raising the average pay for a New Mexico teacher to $64,000, top in the Southwest region.
“A single teacher can make all the difference for thousands and thousands of students – that is the immense power of education, that long-lasting change that educators make in a student’s life. I am so grateful to every New Mexico educator who has answered the call to educate, care for and advocate for their students, and I invite every New Mexican to join me this Teacher Appreciation Week in saying thank you to a teacher who has made a difference,” Gov. Lujan Grisham said.
New Mexico has 22,286 licensed teachers, according to the last official count of the 2021-22 school year, but still had almost 1,000 classrooms statewide led by long-term substitutes because certified teachers were unavailable.
“New Mexico is so lucky to have a corps of amazing teachers who are dedicated to helping our kids learn and thrive, and they are doing an outstanding job,” said Public Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus, who began his career as a music teacher. “But we need more, and we’ll only get more when young people see that society values and respects those who dedicate their lives to this profession and answer the call to join them.”
When COVID-19 exacerbated the educator shortage this spring, Gov. Lujan Grisham initiated the Supporting Teachers and Families program, which recruited state government employees and members of the New Mexico National Guard to become licensed substitute teachers. Through March 25, the program resulted in a 661% increase in new substitute teacher applications compared to the previous year, and a 302% increase in first-time teacher applications.
New Mexico has been taking steps to make a career in education more attractive. Gov. Lujan Grisham delivered teacher pay raises totaling 8.5% in the first three years of her administration. This spring, as New Mexico competes with other states for qualified teachers, she signed legislation to:
- Raise teacher salary minimums by $10,000 for each tier. New minimums are $50,000, $60,000 and $70,000 depending on education level and experience;
- Raise pay for all educators an average of 7%;
- Provide $150,000 in scholarships for teachers wanting to apply for certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, a rigorous, multi-year process;
The Lujan-Grisham administration also hopes to lure more college students into teaching careers by:
- Securing a $15.5 million appropriation so New Mexico teacher preparation programs can offer more teacher residencies, a program that promotes diversity in the educator workforce while filling high-need teaching positions around the state.
- Signing another $50 million appropriation for endowed faculty positions in teacher preparation programs at New Mexico colleges and universities.
While a bigger paycheck is an important way to tell teachers they are appreciated, small gestures matter, too. Since 1984, the National PTA has designated one week in May as a special time to honor the individuals who lend their passion and skills to educating our children.
“Teachers are just crucial to how our kids are raised. They’re with them six to eight hours a day. One week isn’t enough to celebrate, honor and show our appreciation to them,” said Stephanie Hansen, president of the New Mexico PTA.
Here are a few suggestions for expressing appreciation this week to a teacher in your life:
- Write a simple thank you note. Adults and children can both do this to show appreciation for a special teacher;
- Donate to a classroom fund-raiser. Teachers are often trying to raise money for special classroom needs like wobble stools, learning games or adventure kits.
- Use the hashtag #ThankATeacher to share your appreciation on social media.
- Add to your teacher’s stash of office supplies and art supplies – or contribute prizes for the classroom award bucket.