ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – An Albuquerque principal wants to open a charter school, catering to students who want to become teachers.

Experts say New Mexico is experiencing one of the worst teacher shortages in the country. During the 2015-2016 school year alone, Albuquerque Public Schools had hundreds of unfilled positions, but one educator says something could be done to attract more people to the field.

“We thought to ourselves, why not begin with this grass roots movement, who would help us to earlier identify students who may be interested in the profession,” said STAT Charter School Founder Chris Jones.

Jones is currently the principal at La Promesa Early Learning Center, a Westside charter school. He came up with the idea to open STAT Charter School, which stands for ‘Students That Aspire to Teach’.

Jones said, “We really are emphasizing career exploration for students, not only that but self-awareness.”

The school would operate in two now-vacant buildings next to La Promesa. It would offer teaching-focused curriculum starting in 7th grade and would give high school students a chance to see what it’s really like to teach.

“We’ll have actual practicum where students do their student teaching with our sister school, La Promesa,” said Jones.

One teacher says the program could help students figure out if teaching is for them before they have to commit in college and will help build a better teaching force locally.

“Curriculum teachers will never be naturals but naturals can learn the curriculum and I think a school like this will go ahead and attract natural teachers,” said 6th Grade Teacher Eppie Lopez.

STAT is still in the application phase. The next step is to get the Public Education Commission’s authorization to move forward. Organizers estimate the school would have as many as 400 students. If approved, they hope to open in August of 2017.