How to Become a Teacher in New Mexico

Those who are researching how to become a teacher in New Mexico first need to consider the state’s distinctive cultural diversity, which presents atypical educational challenges. The state has significant populations of American Indians, descendants of Spanish colonists and recent Latin American immigrants. Besides English, many New Mexicans speak Spanish, Navajo and Zuni. So, its cultural landscape is as diverse as its geographical landscape — a range of jagged mesas, desert and snow-capped peaks — where some communities reside in near isolation.

New Mexico is the nation’s fifth-largest state in size but has among the smallest populations. The population centers are cities like Albuquerque and its capital, Santa Fe, but much of the state is rural.

Teacher requirements

It’s crucial for new teachers to be well-trained in teaching strategies for diverse classrooms. In addition, New Mexico’s full teacher licensure requirements are particularly demanding. To be eligible, a candidate must:

  • Gain admission to an approved teacher-preparation program.
  • Complete a bachelor degree, including 24-36 hours in the content area; 12 hours each in English, math and history; and six hours each in government, sociology, economics and the fine arts.
  • Pass teacher assessments starting with the basic skills test, then content and competency exams for elementary and special education candidates. Secondary and K-12 candidates must pass content and competency exams and content area tests.
  • Complete required teaching-of-reading courses.
  • Complete professional education courses in an approved teacher-preparation program: Elementary and middle, 30-35 hours; secondary, 24-30 hours; K-12, 24-36 hours; special education, 30 hours.
  • Complete 14 weeks of mandatory student teaching.

3-Tiered Licensing

  • New Mexico has a three-tiered licensing system based on performance, continued education and experience. All teachers and their principals create a Professional Development Plan (PDP) for meeting the requirements of their tier or level. They’ re evaluated according to their PDP at a year-end “reflection.”

Teachers must submit a Professional Development Dossier (PDD) to be considered for advancement, according to Teach New Mexico, an online guide to how to become a teacher in New Mexico.

“The PDD documentation is a collection of classroom data (lesson descriptions, handouts, student work, video and audio recordings, photos) with explanations of that data written by the teacher, accompanied by verification and recommendation by the district superintendent,” Teach New Mexico says.

Teachers work their way through four levels:

  • Intern (non-renewable). Once candidates are deemed qualified, they can be licensed to teach for one to three years during which they must fulfill state requirements for a Level I teacher’s license.
  • Level I (Provisional Teacher). Teachers have three to five years to submit a Professional Development Dossier to advance to Level I. Level I salary: $30,000 per year.
  • Level II (Professional Teacher). Teachers cannot advance beyond Level II unless they have earned a master degree and successfully completed three years as a Level II. Level II salary: $40,000.
  • Level III-A (Instructional Leader). This license is renewable every nine years. Teachers at this level are eligible to become mentors, team leaders and peer evaluators. Aspiring administrators fulfill Level III-B requirements. Salary: $45,000 and above.

Benefits of advancement

New Mexico’s teacher salaries rank well below the national average of $55,418. The state’s National Education Association (NEA-NM) reports the annual salary for beginning teachers is $32,092 and the average salary is $45,752.

Master in education online degree programs can boost a teacher’s salary. For example, a new Level I teacher with a bachelor in Albuquerque starts at $30,000. After 15 years experience, that teacher’s salary can increase to $42,945. A teacher holding a master degree without 15 years experience earns the same salary. Add 15 years experience and that teacher can earn $51,521.

Opportunities in New Mexico

New Mexico, like most states, reports a growing need for math, science and special education teachers, whose starting salary is $3,000 higher. Teachers with these content specialties tend to be in demand and command slightly higher salaries.