New Mexico counties prepare for National Guard substitute teachers

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – School districts across the state are preparing their classrooms for members of the National Guard to come in as substitute teachers. This unprecedented move is a part of the governor’s Supporting Teachers and Families initiative also known as STAF.

The Public Education Department says as of Tuesday evening, 104 applications have been filed and only 63 volunteers have completed the training to become a licensed substitute. Of those who have been certified, 48 are National Guard members. There are still hundreds of vacancies statewide right now.

Wednesday will be the first day of the new program for the Los Lunas School District. They were assigned two National Guard Members and the superintendent says they are looking forward to that extra help.

“The need is great so there is going to be a lot of opportunities for them to go into the classroom and help support those classrooms,” Superintendent Arsenio Romero said.

As Los Lunas prepares to be one of the many schools in the state to welcome the National Guard into their school, there are a lot of questions of what this new program looks like.

Will they be in uniform? How long are they staying? What will lesson plans be like? Romero says the answers are pretty straight forward.

“We want them to be a part of the community. We want them to look like a teacher, they are going to sound like a teacher, they will be able to run that classroom like a teacher, and the more time they are with us the more comfortable they are going to be,” Romero said.

Right now, the plan is for the guard to stay in his school through March. During this time, they will be filling in any gaps the school may have when it comes to staffing.

“Many are going to be core classrooms, math, reading, language arts, science, and social studies but we are also going to need support in some of our elective classrooms,” Romero said.

Romero expects his teachers to prepare lesson plans like they would for any other substitute. And it’s an unfortunate truth that this year his students are used to having a sub in the classroom.

“This is a response to a very specific need we have right now we have multiple staff out and we want to ensure that we don’t have to move to a digital learning platform or a remote learning platform again,” Romero said.

While he is excited to have this new partnership between the National Guard and public schools, Romero recognizes it’s just a short term solution

“The long term solution is to look at the salaries of teachers, to be able to recruit teachers in from other states, and professions. And to work to retain those teachers so they stay with us for a number of years,” Romero said.

These two National Guard substitutes will start on Wednesday. While two may not see like a lot, keep in mind, so far there are only 63 volunteer substitutes through this program for the entire state.

Plus, Los Lunas is one of more than 20 districts that’ll be getting guard members. Other districts include Farmington, Bloomfield, Aztec, Clovis, Portales, Las Vegas, Questa, Raton, Springer, Central, Hondo, Silver City, Cobre, Deming, Alamogordo, Loving, Haberman, Artesia, Hobbs, Los Lunas, Moriarty, Estancia, Santa Fe and Albuquerque.

A PED spokesperson explained the Guard will be helping out in the more rural districts and they are counting on state workers to help out in the urban areas.