New Mexico dispatches National Guard troops as substitute teachers

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, National Guard troops have responded in a variety of ways to meet the needs of their respective state governments.

Now, as many as 100 guardsmen in New Mexico have been called upon to fill a new role: substitute teachers.

“A critical source of stability”

According to the Washington Examiner, public schools across the state have struggled to fill positions as they re-opened for in-person education.

As for the involvement of National Guard troops, it is said to be voluntary and will involve the same background vetting and licensing requirements expected of traditional substitute teachers.

Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced the initiative — called Supporting Teachers and Families, or STAF — last week. In addition to troops, she also hopes to attract volunteers from within the ranks of state employees.

“Our schools are a critical source of stability for our kids — we know they learn better in the classroom and thrive among their peers,” the governor explained in a statement.

The stated goal of Grisham’s plan is for the volunteers to counter staffing shortages and fill in gaps when necessary due to absences caused by COVID-19.

“Keep kids in the classroom”

As the governor went on to explain: “Our kids, our teachers and our parents deserve as much stability as we can provide during this time of uncertainty, and the state stands ready to help keep kids in the classroom, parents able to go to work and teachers able to fully focus on the critical work they do every single day in educating the next generation.”

A Military.com report signaled that the governor’s action came on the heels of a decision by nearly half of the state’s school districts to return to remote learning due to staffing shortages.

Brig. Gen. Miguel Aguilar, the state National Guard’s assistant adjutant general, noted that 44 members had already been deployed to classrooms around the state.

“Everyone on this mission is a volunteer and they can come off as they need,” Aguilar explained. “If you are in a classroom and teaching, you should want to be there. We’re going to send folks that are able to do it and really want to do it.”

It is worth noting that Grisham appears to be leading by example, having taken the appropriate certification course and filling in as a substitute teacher at a Santa Fe elementary school on Wednesday.

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