By Brigid Driscoll / NM News Port
ALBUQUERQUE—Nearly 1,000 New Mexicans have registered to serve as substitute teachers since Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced the Supporting Teachers and Families Initiative Jan. 19.
The Public Education Department issued new licenses to almost 500 volunteers in the program’s first three weeks.
Lujan Grisham encouraged National Guard members and state employees to serve as substitute teachers in order to help keep schools and daycare centers open during the omicron surge.
Volunteers are required to get a background check, fill out an application and attend an orientation with the Public Education Department.
Steve Garcia, who recently retired from the New Mexico Army National Guard as a colonel, said Guard members are perfect for filling in as subs.
“They are drug free… they can all pass background checks, they’re not criminals … and they have very specialized leadership training,” Garcia said in a phone interview.
Raquel Archuleta, a teacher at Cibola high school said that she has not had a National Guard member in the classroom yet, but she has had many friends experience it.
“It was just kind of weird because they were just sitting there quietly, just doing handouts,” Archuleta said.
Teacher shortages have been a problem nationwide, but New Mexico is the first state to send members of the military into the classroom. Guard members who volunteer to teach will be called to active duty and paid as usual.
State employees who work in classrooms will be given paid time off, which will not be deducted from their vacation time.
In accordance with revised CDC standards, the state Department of Public Education recently stated that quarantine and self-isolation periods for public school children and staff would be reduced from ten to five days. It is still unknown how many guards will enter the classroom, but state and local politicians are doing everything they can to avoid returning to the remote learning disaster.
The governor is encouraging New Mexicans to apply for a substitute teacher license if you are above the age of 18 with a high school diploma or equivalent.
Brigid Driscoll is a reporter for New Mexico News Port and can be reached @Brigid94279186 on Twitter