LAS CRUCES Sun News 02/12/2019
According to a recently released report by researchers in the College of Education at New Mexico State University, there were 740 teacher vacancies in New Mexico last year, compared to 476 teacher vacancies in 2017.
While the NMSU College of Education is working on several initiatives to address teacher vacancies in the state, an existing program is helping by recruiting qualified people with bachelor’s degrees into the college’s Alternative Licensure Program. The program features a program of study approved by the New Mexico Public Education Department that leads to an initial teacher licensure through online and in-person courses. Program participants may obtain a license in either elementary, secondary or special education in New Mexico.
“Most of the secondary classes are offered online, but the methods course is taught face-to-face, which gives teachers a chance to meet other teachers and people doing the same thing,” said Cecilia Hernandez, director of the NMSU Alternative Licensure Program. “They work through courses as a cohort instead of off on their own.”
In 2003, the state of New Mexico instituted a rule stating that anyone with a bachelor’s degree could apply to an alternative licensure program. Hernandez said at NMSU, there are 50 students in the alternative licensure program, and all of them are at a master’s level.
“They have two years to complete the program and we encourage them to complete their master’s. They only have to take four to five extra courses, or 12 to 15 extra credits, and then they’ll have a master’s in education,” Hernandez said.
Blanca Araujo, director of the NMSU Office for Teacher Candidate Preparation, said one of the unique aspects of the alternative licensure program at NMSU is that the program’s instructors conduct the classroom observations of teacher license candidates, while some universities depend on the school where candidates are teaching to perform the observations.
“We also have a dedicated director of the program, and her (Hernandez’s) focus is to make sure she takes care of our students,” Araujo said.
Ryan Durkes, a history teacher and varsity football coach at Santa Teresa High School in Santa Teresa, is currently enrolled in the program. Durkes said he wanted to become a teacher after graduating from Howard Payne University with his bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies with a focus on history, geography and theology.
“I researched a couple ways to continue my education to get my certification. I applied for a position at Chaparral Middle School in the Gadsden Independent School District. I got the position but had to go through the alternative licensure program,” Durkes said.
Durkes said he has benefited from the program in “many different ways. I have been able to read and listen to other teachers who are in the same position as me, and we’ve been able to feed off of each other and help one another out in specific situations and in general. Sometimes you feel like you’re alone in this, but through classes and professional development meetings you realize others are going through the same and it helps.”
Durkes said he has also benefited from the flexibility of online classes.
“Being a teacher and a football coach, I’m busy around the clock. Online classes give me the opportunity to do work whenever I can, instead of a set schedule I have to attend on campus,” Durkes said. “The positive support and great teaching from my professors throughout the program has been awesome for me. They treat you as a person and not as number. Dr. Hernandez and all the staff have truly helped guide me down the right path.”
To be eligible for the NMSU Alternative Licensure Program, applicants must have earned at least a bachelor’s degree in a related field; course requirements of 30 undergraduate credit hours in the teaching field with a minimum 2.75 GPA (or 3.0 GPA for graduate school acceptance); register for and pass the New Mexico Teacher Assessments Essential Skills subtests I, II and III; be hired and submit a copy of a current teacher contract from a school district in New Mexico that states the applicant is the teacher of record; and admission to the School of Teacher Preparation, Administration and Leadership in the NMSU College of Education. Applicants who are accepted must also apply to the NMSU Graduate School as a student.
Applicants must also teach with an intern license throughout the program and successfully complete required coursework within the state’s two-year time limit, and participate in two semesters of observation by a university supervisor with a $300 fee for each semester.
For information, visit https://tpal.nmsu.edu/admission/paths-to-becoming-a-teacher/alternative-licensure/.