Categories: NewsPublished On: February 26th, 2024

This article originally appeared in the Hobbs-News Sun. 

By Mayra Lovas

We continue to hear about the teacher shortage across the country and right here in New Mexico. According to the 2023 New Mexico Educator Vacancy Report published by New Mexico State University, there were 751 teacher vacancies across the state including 152 in Southeastern New Mexico. At the JF Maddox Foundation, we are committed to working to improve education outcomes in Lea County, but we cannot make a difference if we do not have enough high-quality teachers in our classrooms.

We are seeing glimmers of hope on the horizon. The Foundation is working to improve the teacher pipeline in Lea County and across the state through our partner, the Golden Apple Foundation, who recruits high school seniors as well as college freshmen and sophomores who have the determination and drive to be highly effective teachers in New Mexico K-12 schools. Golden Apple provides training and mentorship support throughout their collegiate career and the first five years in their teaching careers. Together we are seeing a growing interest in teaching careers – nationally and right here in Lea County, New Mexico. Applications for teacher pipeline programs are growing as students are showing a desire to engage in a career that has a meaningful impact. We also credit recent increases in the pay and benefits for New Mexico teachers and programs like Golden Apple Scholars that support aspiring teachers with academic, financial, and job placement for helping young people achieve these career goals.

We know these programs have an incredible impact not only on the community but on the individuals who participate. We have seen great successes from Golden Apple Scholars like Kaitlin Gallant, a Eunice High School graduate, Maddox Scholar, and current Golden Apple Scholar. Ms. Gallant is attending Eastern New Mexico University (ENMU) and with the support of the Golden Apple Foundation is hoping to be a teacher right here in New Mexico schools. Another Golden Apple Scholar, Stephanie Carmona, a Hobbs High School graduate, and freshman at ENMU, was inspired by a class offered at Hobbs High School, The Teaching Academy. This program provided aspiring educators, like Ms. Carmona, with the opportunity to observe and volunteer in classrooms. Witnessing firsthand the impact of teachers who not only taught the curriculum but established strong connections with their students fueled Ms. Carmona’s desire to relate and inspire hope in her students. “The teachers I admire are supportive and connected to students,” said Ms. Carmona. “I aspire to emulate the connection I experienced with a teacher from Mexico that I had a shared background and conversations with in Spanish. I want to foster that same sense of unity in my classroom.”

Currently in Southeastern New Mexico, Golden Apple is supporting 22 active scholars including six in Lea County. In the coming year, they have already received 32 applications from Southeastern New Mexico residents. Across the state, Golden Apple is seeing unprecedented applicant growth with more than 300 applicants statewide, and the deadline is still to come. If you know a student who is thinking about a career in teaching, it is not too late to apply. The application deadline is April 1. Those interested in applying can visit for more information.

We are proud of the work Golden Apple is doing in our state. They have graduation and licensure rates that surpass 80 percent. In addition, Golden Apple teachers stay in the profession. More than 80 percent of those who begin teaching are retained for five or more years, far exceeding national benchmarks for teacher retention. These are the sort of proven solutions to recruit, prepare, and support New Mexico educators who will return to their communities to teach.

While Lea County is not alone in its quest to decrease teacher vacancies, we can solve this problem by coming together, encouraging aspiring teachers and supporting the work of those who are doing it best.

Mayra Lovas is the VP-Grants at the JF Maddox Foundation, a family foundation in Lea County, New Mexico. Alongside its partners, the Foundation invests in education, social services, and community development for a greater quality of life for Lea County residents.