Vote 4 NM: The challenges teachers face | KOB 4
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Vote 4 NM: The challenges teachers face

BRITTANY COSTELLO
October 04, 2018 04:24 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.— Every year, New Mexico is tasked with filling classrooms with strong, certified teachers.

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However, the positions are becoming more difficult to fill. There are hundreds of vacancies across the state.

“Over these past many years, the job has become significantly harder,” said Jason Krosinsky, who teaches at Wilson Middle School

Many teachers say they aren’t just educators anymore, they’re also therapists and social workers. The consequences of the added work shows.

According to the New Mexico Educator Vacancy Report, around 71,000 students in New Mexico are being taught by a teacher with an alternative license or a long-term sub.

The nationwide teacher shortage is also having an impact on New Mexico schools.

“We've had the same problem now for 25 years, about 40 percent of our teachers don't make it to their fifth or sixth year, but that’s been going on for a quarter of a century,” said Christopher Ruszkowski, public education department secretary.

Education graduates at UNM are dwindling, hitting a five year low in 2017. UNM sent 225 education graduates into the workforce in 2017.

Sarah Gibbon attends UNM and hopes to become a teacher after graduation.

“I’ve always just had a passion for children. I think ever since I was in elementary school, I knew I wanted to be a teacher,” Gibbon said.

That sentiment is shared with most teachers. But there appears to be a disconnect once they are in the classroom.

“I was considering leaving, but when I got professional development to help me with those parts of the NM Teach (Observation Rubric) that I was struggling with most, when I read a book and sought out some veteran teachers to help me, I felt more confident to stay,” said Julia Burrola, referring to the state’s teacher evaluations.

Teachers get ranked in one of five categories, from exemplary to ineffective.

Some educators, such as New Mexico teacher of the year, Ivonne Orozco, welcome the evaluation.

"In terms of accountability, there are many states nationwide that are embracing these systems of accountability and they're stronger because of it and I strongly believe that New Mexico is the same way too. We are doing the right thing,” Orozco said.

However, some teachers say evaluations are part of the problem.

“I’ve had many colleagues who have taken early retirement because they don't want to have this evaluation system anymore,” said Krosinsky.

Teachers say a lack of resources is also a big problem.

“I have to be honest, our school started asking parents to buy books for their kids,” said Eldorado High School teacher Tanya Kuhnee.

It’s not uncommon for teachers to pull from their own pockets to make sure their classrooms have the necessary instructional tools.

Teacher salaries in New Mexico are similar to neighboring states. However, teachers are capped once they reach a certain level.

Teachers say money is one of the biggest reasons some teachers call it quits.

“I even have a few friends that say that they would love to be a teacher but they know they can’t do that because they’re not going to be making enough,” Gibbons said.

In 2018, the New Mexico Public Education Department announced a bonus program for teachers. It’s based on teacher evaluations.

Teachers who get an exemplary rating may be entitled to thousands of dollars more for the year.

But some say they don’t feel like the program is an incentive.

“Oh we know you’re just hiding your good teaching until we promise to give you a pay raise or a bump in pay or this special bonus check,” Kuhnee said.

Whatever the reason, one thing is clear, New Mexico is consistently rated as one of the worst states for education and it won't get better without quality teachers. 

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BRITTANY COSTELLO

Copyright 2018 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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