CNM and Albuquerque Public Schools are teaming up to try to fill a serious need for special education teachers in Albuquerque.

“Last year in the state of New Mexico, roughly 12 teachers graduated in the special ed program,” Karen Rudys with APS said.

“To survive your first year of teaching, it really requires not only the dedication of the teacher but a tremendous amount of support and guidance, which is currently lacking for those teachers that are going in unprepared their first year,” CNM Education faculty member Kelley Peters explained.

With a severe shortage of more than 80 Special Ed teachers at APS, the state’s biggest district is now collaborating with CNM and the teacher’s union to create a pipeline to fill the vacancies.

So, CNM is offering a 15-month alternative licensure program, called Special Education Teacher Training, to give students more experience in the classroom quicker as a co-teacher while they’re still in school.

“They’re working together in the first semester, fully supported, learning how to teach, and then that intern moves into their own classroom in the second semester,” Ellen Bernstein with the Albuquerque Teachers Federation said.

“This program sets up the opportunity for them to get that guidance and support while they’re working so that when they take over their own classroom, they really are truly competent and they feel more confident in the classroom which we believe will lead to long-term retention,” Peters said.

CNM has offered the program in the past, but now the students will receive free tuition and APS will give them a salary and benefits worth about $50,000 while they’re in the program. It’s money that would otherwise be used for substitute teachers.

“It’s a better use of those funds because we’re training these teachers and hopefully we can retain them in the position,” Rudys said.

APS said the students would have to commit to staying in the district for two years after completing the program.

CNM is looking for at least 25 candidates that could start taking coursework by the summer and start co-teaching in the fall.

APS said it hopes current APS employees or unemployed people with bachelor’s degrees will fill up those spots.