Just a matter of weeks before school started in September this year, New Mexico schools put out an emergency call for more teachers. Just one district cited a shortage of more than 250 teacher positions open. And that wasn’t the first year, either. Like many states, New Mexico’s teacher shortage is chronic, a state that educators blame on a hostile state government which actively denigrates teachers.
The problem won’t be solved quickly. The whole country is suffering a teaching shortage, particularly in math and the sciences. But long term programs are slowly being put into places. And one of them, taking a surprising form, is at Eldorado High School, a small school in Albuquerque.
One classroom at the high school is very much not like the others. With a bright blue carpet covered in cute animals, pre-schoolers are getting the first steps of their education. And the teachers for these three and four-year-olds are students too. They’re the student body of the high school. Teenagers in grades 9-12 teach the younger generation motor skills, early literacy, math, and science.
The teenagers learn even more, perhaps. Hands-on experience as teachers is a great jump-start for students who want to make teaching a career. They learn to create and apply actual lesson plans, and how to deal with a classroom.
Miskee Blatner, the coordinator of this unconventional classroom, has been maintaining the program for ten years now. She’s been around long enough to see some of these student teachers achieve their own teaching degrees. With 60 percent of new educators winding up in positions less than 20 miles away from their home town, some of her students have wound up teaching the same kids they met as pre-schoolers in her classroom.
Blatner says that it’s very important to get great teachers into classrooms, but that her real success at Eldorado has been simply inspiring more and more students to follow higher education.