New program seeks to recruit retired teachers to help fill classrooms

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – A brand-new program could bring teachers out of retirement and back into the classroom as soon as this fall, and they get to hold onto all those retirement benefits.

It’s been in the works for years and was just signed by the Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham this past session. The goal is to reach out to retired teachers to help fill up those classrooms because finding teachers in New Mexico is still an issue.

“We ended the last school year with over a thousand classrooms missing a teacher,” said New Mexico Public Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus.

Albuquerque Public Schools currently has 194 open teaching positions, while Rio Rancho Public Schools is sitting at 25 openings.

But a new program, is hoping to help fix that. It calls on the nearly 50,000 retired teachers to return to the classroom while still keeping their retirement benefits.

“They are ready to go to walk into that classroom and get started immediately,” said Steinhaus. 

Steinhaus says those retirees just need to have an active teaching license, and many are already signing up.

“The interest is in the hundreds, which I am really excited about,” said Steinhaus.

“I think in the fall we are going to see quite a few retirees return,” said Whitney Holland president of the American Federation of Teachers of New Mexico.

Holland says there are a lot in her chapter who want to return. Some for full time positions, while others still want to enjoy part of their retirement.

“On the flip side we have retirees who are like no I am retired, and I want to do a couple of weeks or a month here and there,” said Holland. 

And this program will allow them to do just that.

“I definitely believe it’s an incentive for teachers who started young. I started teaching at a young age and I’m not yet ready to quit. I love education, I love what I am doing,” said Dora Summy dean of students at ABQ School of Excellence.

Summy was one of them, she taught for 20 years and retired to be closer to family, until recently. 

“The best thing for me to do was go back to teaching because I loved it,” said Summy. 

She believes there are many in the state who have wanted to return, and this new incentive is going to make it a reality.