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New Mexico governor teaches kindergarten class as state faces teacher shortage

By Kalyn Norwood

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    SANTA FE, New Mexico (KOAT) — Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham spent part of her day on Wednesday in a classroom teaching. She signed up to become a substitute to help with the teacher shortage.

It’s not every day your teacher is also the governor, but that was the case for a kindergarten class at Salazar Elementary in Santa Fe.

“It was easier than managing a cabinet room for sure and legislature but complicated nonetheless…these are energetic kiddos,” Lujan Grisham said.

Her office shared a photo of her teaching.

“We did math,” the governor said. “We learned about syllables. We did a watercolor art project. There was a little bit of bad weather so we didn’t do a regular recess, but we went for a nice walk.”

In a virtual press conference afterward, the governor talked about the process, which included reviewing a detailed lesson plan the night before and going through a safety course. Last week, the state announced a new initiative to keep schools open, by enlisting the help of the National Guard and state employees to address the teacher shortage as the pandemic rages on.

The governor’s experience as a sub was educational.

“I’m clearer than ever before that experienced substitute teachers and volunteers are critical to the success of the public education system,” Lujan Grisham said.

“Is there any consideration when it comes to increasing pay for substitute teachers having done the job now and seen the need?” KOAT Anchor Kalyn Norwood asked.

“No doubt, we have to start considering substitute educators in our compensation packages,” Lujan Grisham said. “Before this experience, I might not have understood the value in the context of it is an entire system. If one part of it is fragile, the entire system is fragile.”

Norwood also asked why it was important to the governor to personally jump in to teach.

“I learned from being in that experience,” Lujan Grisham said. “I also believe that you lead by example…If I can ask my state folks to do this work and to figure it out in their day, then by golly, I can too.”

The governor looks to take what’s she learned and apply it to the next class she’s assigned to. For now, she said she’s going to do what substitutes do, and that’s wait until they need say they need her back in school.

“We appreciate the governor,” said Hilario “Larry” Chavez, superintendent of Santa Fe Public Schools. “This is a first step in the right direction to meet our need for substitutes. On behalf of our students, we thank you and invite you back to our schools.”

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