ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The University of New Mexico is trying to recruit Native American students to help put a dent in the teacher shortage. The program started last fall and it’s already helping nine students get closer to their goal of teaching in New Mexico.

Glenabah Martinez is the director of the Institute for American Indian Education at UNM. In 2018, Martinez conducted a series of community forums to learn how to help schools that serve the Native American Community. That research led to the creation of the Native American Teacher Preparation program.

The Native American Teacher Preparation program provides a full scholarship for students at UNM and other UNM campuses across New Mexico. Only 3% of New Mexico’s certified teachers are Native American. Martinez says that the community has been calling for teachers saying, “we want teachers from here, we want teachers to live here, in Shiprock, in Taos, that’s where this idea came from.”

Andrea Trujillo is a senior, majoring in Early Childhood Education and she will be signing up for the program this year. She’s already looking ahead to graduation and how she will help out her community. “I’m excited to teach wherever is needed, so I’m open to wherever I can – whether it’s on the pueblo or not. Just somewhere where I can do my teaching,” said Trujillo. “For instance, our language in the Sandia Pueblo, we’re trying to get that back and so hopefully in the future, I can work for the Pueblo of Sandia and incorporate the language as well as the teaching.”

This program will continue as long as it receives funding from the state. Students must be enrolled members of a New Mexico tribe to get into the program. The scholarship calls for members to teach in a Native community after they graduate.