ALBUQUERQUE, NM (KRQE) – Some are calling it a crisis: teachers at the end of their rope, quitting in the middle of the year. In many cases, their students are left with long-term substitutes. Teachers gave KRQE News 13 some insight into the harsh realities of working in a classroom these days. While they’re hopeful the governor and legislature will bring relief, many just can’t take it anymore. “Workload is a huge issue,” said Tanya Kuhnee, an English teacher at Eldorado High School. “We’re in buildings that are literally crumbling,” said Sean Thomas, a government and psychology teacher at Eldorado High. New Mexico teachers are not afraid to talk about the difficulties they face every day. “If you ask people in general, what do you think about teachers? The overall feedback tends to be very negative, and that gets hard to hear,” said Kuhnee. Now, many teachers, are giving up “We lose 50 percent of teachers within the first three years that they enter the job,” said Thomas. According to Albuquerque Public Schools (APS), the biggest district in the state, 560 teachers have left since August. Of those, 83 have retired. A good number of those – 41 – left just three months into the school year. Both Rio Rancho and Santa Fe school districts have lost about 40 teachers since school started. While APS says the numbers are typical, the union says it highlights a growing problem. “I’ve seen a lot of really capable teachers who still have a lot of years ahead of them just say, that’s it, I quit,” said Ellen Bernstein, President of the Albuquerque Teachers Federation. Bernstein says it’s at a crisis level. “There are thousands of kids throughout the state who are being taught by subs,” said Bernstein. One of the biggest issues, teachers say, is lack of respect. Other big issues include pay, workload, the high stakes testing, and educational resources. “How do you teach government when the last president was 15 years ago in the book?” said Kuhnee. According to a study done by New Mexico State College of Education, teacher attractiveness in New Mexico is rated a “2” on a scale of 1 to 5. However, educators who have stuck it out say with the new leadership in Santa Fe, they’re optimistic. “I have hope for the future, I think things are going to get better,” said Kuhnee. The Teachers Union is working to identify new ways of attracting teachers. They’ve created the “Educators Rising” mentorship program, encouraging high school students to pursue careers in public education. Atrisco Heritage, Eldorado High, and Manzano High School have similar programs. In her State of the State address, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced she wants to see a 10 percent pay increase for educators, a $12 minimum wage for educational assistants, and $5 million for classroom supplies this legislative session.
Hundreds of New Mexico teachers quitting mid-year