Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

New Mexico Public Education Department Year In Review

PED Secretary Kurt Steinhaus

From the NMPED:

SANTA FE — This year’s focus on mathematics, called Math is Me, led to exciting work in our schools and the notion that everyone can succeed with calculations, manipulatives, and numbers.

As 2022 ends, the New Mexico Public Education Department (NMPED) recognizes our hard-working school employees, staff and many wins for children and families across the state. From competitive salaries for education professionals to balanced assessments for students to increased access to school information for the public, it was a year to remember.

The big education headlines of 2022 paved the way for initiatives that will make a difference in the lives of students in 2023, including enhanced broadband and internet, in addition to free virtual tutoring for many students.

Early in the new year, a proposed $4.3 billion education budget is primed to lift student achievement and fully fund more time for students engaged with teachers, as well as provide professional learning for school leaders and incentives to retain the workforce.

“First and foremost, I think about our work in terms of short-term gains as well as structural investments,” PED Secretary Kurt Steinhaus said. “These investments will create environments where both our students and our teachers thrive.”


The department worked tirelessly on their behalf, including the debut last spring of a balanced assessment system for New Mexico learners, providing a baseline for years to come. This system also includes short-cycle tests to increase support for teachers so they can gather real-time information and better meet the learning needs of those in their classrooms.

To enhance internet capabilities across the state, PED, in collaboration with state and business alliances, extended more than 844 miles of fiber-optic cable to remote areas, provided more than 7,000 internet-capable devices to homes beyond the reach of fiber, and helped families and schools apply for thousands of dollars in federal funds.

New Mexico Family and Community Engagement Solutions will help prepare community members for the arrival of broadband in their area and position them for stable, high-paying jobs. For the next two years, NM FaCES will enable communities to engage in digital storytelling and support the development of five internet-based vocation training centers.

To increase learning opportunities, free tutoring support was offered to students, including those in grades 8-12 enrolled in Algebra I. Plus, preK-8 students in Title I schools may receive free tutoring in reading, math, and science, too. The multilingual support features tutoring that takes place before, during and after school, as well as on weekends and during school breaks.

Outdoor learning continues to grow, with $300,000 awarded in 2022 to promote innovation and highlight environmental education.


Teachers received a salary hike that made them the highest paid in the Southwest, bumping up the minimum salary $10,000 to $50,000.

The victory was followed by a PED announcement that it was waiving all fees during February and March related to new licenses and background checks. The decisions made a difference, as the number of people applying for substitute teaching licenses topped 1,000 in the first 20 days.

In addition, the number of teacher vacancies shrunk by 34 percent, with enrollment and graduation from teacher preparation programs tipping upward, according to an October report.

For educators advancing their license from 1 to 2, they were provided a new pathway: micro-credential courses in five areas that include classroom management and culturally and linguistically responsive teaching and learning.

Teachers were appreciated in other ways, too, including allowing those who had retired to return to the classroom for three years without losing their retirement benefits and providing $150,000 in scholarships for those applying to be nationally-board certified.

The successes made their way to the administrative ranks, with the fall announcement of certain paperwork being streamlined so that principals and teachers have more time with tasks related directly to students.

A variety of prestigious awards were given to New Mexico’s teachers, including the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. Silvia Miranda of Mesa Elementary School in Clovis Municipal Schools received the K-6 mathematics award, and Hope Cahill of El Dorado Community School in Santa Fe Public Schools is the K-6 science awardee. Loving High School science teacher Tyler Finch and Gonzales Community School’s Gabrielle Kahawai in Santa Fe received the New Mexico Milken Educator Award from the Milken Family Foundation, considered the Oscar of teaching. Later in the year in Las Cruces, Sonoma Elementary School’s Christopher Nunez also made headlines for the same honor.

Ending her stint as New Mexico’s 2022 Teacher of the Year is Lorynn Guerrero. When she received the honor, she was teaching high school students at the New America School-Las Cruces, as well as teen parents in a GRADS (graduation, reality and dual-role skills) class. Currently, she is assistant principal at Gadsden High School in Anthony. The state’s 2023 Teacher of the Year was named in October. Tara Hughes, who teaches at Nye Early Childhood Center in Santa Fe, is the first ever pre-kindergarten educator to be bestowed with this award.

Members of the New Mexico National Guard stepped up early in the year to help schools remain open, spending time in classrooms as substitute teachers. They responded to a request from Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who also volunteered as a substitute during a Covid-19 Omicron wave.

On the federal holiday that marks the birth of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., the PED went live with the Anti-Racism Anti-Oppression Hotline, allowing students, families and community members to report school-based incidents of racial bias. The effort stems from a 2021 law.

Thanks to a 2020 Senate bill, the department debuted Open Books early in 2022 so New Mexicans can access detailed financial information about state-chartered schools, school districts and regional education cooperatives.

Three New Mexico schools—Acequia Madre Elementary in Santa Fe, Albuquerque School of Excellence in Albuquerque, and Texico Middle School in Texico—were honored in the 2022 National Blue Ribbon Schools Program, which recognizes schools for overall achievement.

A focus on education partnerships with families was a theme in 2022. PED and TNTP, formerly known as The New Teacher Project, offered virtual Family Literacy Academy sessions in Spanish and English throughout the year.

A report released by PED and the Los Alamos National Laboratory Foundation highlighted that the state is on track to transform the high school experience and high school outcomes, thanks to educational pathways to college and career and innovative practices.

The 2022 legislative session yielded results for Native American students, tripling money to the Indian Education Fund, ensuring indigenous language and culture teachers certified by tribes, nations and pueblos are paid the same as Level 1 teachers, and expanding tribal libraries.

The session also allowed PED to widen its LETRS training to teachers in grades three through five. Kindergarten teachers, as well as those who teach first and second graders, have already received the professional learning, which provides a deeper understanding of the science of reading and evidence-based strategies to support all students, particularly those who experience reading challenges.

Grants totaling $7.4 million were awarded to 69 schools to bolster the community schools investments. PED would like for the number of these types of transformational schools across the state to top 100 in 2023; $11.5 million are dedicated to the project in the proposed budget going to the state legislature in January.

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