New Mexico school districts facing substitute teacher shortage

Education

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – New Mexico has struggled with a teacher shortage for years but because of the pandemic, it’s only gotten worse. That shortage includes substitute teachers and it’s having a big impact on the classrooms. The Albuquerque Public Schools superintendent said because there aren’t enough subs to fill in when teachers are gone, other teachers, administrators and principals are sometimes having to step in to help.


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Brian McAlister has been a substitute teacher with APS for three years. He said he took the job because he likes working with kids and helping them become better students. “I normally do high school,” said McAlister. “This is the first year I’m doing middle school kids. It’s a challenge but it’s a good challenge. I see I’m making progress and I like working with them.”

Right now, he’s filling in as a middle school math teacher until the district fills the full-time position. “Albuquerque, APS needs a lot of teachers so there’s a lot of positions out from what I hear,” McAlister said.

The teacher shortage is not limited to just APS. It’s a statewide issue and it was a problem before the pandemic but the COVID-19 hasn’t helped filling positions including substitutes.

“So I believe we’re sitting on 650 [current substitutes] at the moment so we need another 500 and that seems like a lot but it’s during this day and age with the pandemic it’s exaggerated the problem,” said APS Superintendent Scott Elder.

While the district is trying to fill hundreds of positions, school administrators, other teachers and even principals are sometimes working double duty to fill in. “So what’s happening is teachers are having to sell their prep periods or take time for when they would normally plan and go into other classes and cover for their peers,” said Elder. “We have EAs [education assistants], we have administrators, we have teachers, we’re using everybody we can.” Superintendent Elder said the extra work is putting more pressure on staff that’s already stretched thin.

McAlister hopes more people apply and said working as a substitute can be rewarding. “If anybody wants to work with young minds and make a little income on the side, it’s a good thing to do,” said McAlister.

As of August, APS was looking to hire at least 300 regular teaching positions mostly in middle and high schools. The district is also trying to fill hundreds of other positions for food services, custodians and bus drivers. For more information on jobs with APS, visit aps.edu/human-resources/substitute-services/apply-to-be-a-substitute.

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