Skilled 4 Work: Woman goes back to school to become teacher during pandemic

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — When the pandemic hit, many people had to press "pause" on their career. However, one woman took advantage of the extra time at home to switch to a more rewarding career – without spending a dime.

Alicia Lopez’s priority is her family. Her old job had tough hours, and then the pandemic hit.

"I was working at the brewery and I was laid off," Lopez said.

Contemplating a career change, she thought of her children.

"The reason I wanted to go into education is because, you know, I do have children and I saw the impact that their teachers were making," she said.

Lopez’s oldest child, Ethan, is going into eighth grade. He has dyslexia, but despite the learning challenge, he is a straight-A student – in part because of good teachers.

"A lot of people have a very archaic view of what special education is, and that’s not the way it is anymore," Lopez said.

Lopez – who still has student debt for her bachelor’s degree in art – thought she would have to pay more to get a master’s degree to teach.

"It’s like a debilitating debt," she said. "Because it makes it very hard for me to get a car loan, or be on our mortgage, because my debt-to-income ratio was too high."

However, CNM’s Special Education Teacher Training (SETT) program did not cost her a penny.

"It’s rigorous, but there’s a lot of support," Lopez said.

She will be finishing her classwork online while she starts teaching special education at Eisenhower Middle School this fall.

CNM has a few teacher training programs – and numerous opportunities for financial assistance. That’s how Lopez had her training paid for.