In August Kaeylynn Liddell became a substitute teacher at Carlsbad Municipal Schools under the ESS Education Management and Staffing Solution program.
Just months later, Liddell was promoted to an instructional assistant leading classes that help at-risk students.
Liddell was one of many substitutes that Carlsbad Municipal Schools Superintendent Dr. Gerry Washburns said the district relied on to fill long-term positions within the Carlsbad school system.
The 22-year-old mother was one of the many substitutes across the state working to fill an increasing number of educator vacancies – 51 of which remained unfilled across Carlsbad’s schools.
ESS Applicant Specialist Claudia Moreno said the district may not have been able to conduct in person school without substitute teachers like Liddell.
“I want to show my appreciation to them because they made everything possible for students to have someone in the classroom,” Moreno said. “They showed up every day wanting work and to be there for the kids of the community.”
As the number of inexperienced teachers grew, the district took advantage of an alternative licensure program that would allow substitutes to pursue a degree and become full-time teachers, while working and gaining experience.
Liddell said she harbored the dream of becoming an educator since high school.
“I’ve always enjoyed the idea and every teacher that I had in high school seemed like they loved what they do so I’m like ‘ok.’ Plus I love math,” she said.
Liddell said she planned to take the next step in becoming a fully licensed teacher and will attend New Mexico State University next fall.
Beginning a teaching career didn’t come without challenges, she said. The first month of substitute teaching she was challenged with creating lesson plans around an unfamiliar curriculum, a week of remote learning after a surge in COVID-19 cases and prepubescent students with teacher crushes.
She said she has learned a lot since then — her familiarity with Carlsbad schools and its students creating the confidence to continue the job she’s fallen in love with.
“I love it,” Liddell said. “I love the interaction I get with kids and I feel like I’m making a difference in their lives.”
The former waitress turned educator said working for CMS gave her the financial stability to start the process of buying a home for her and her son, Malakai.
Claudia Silva is a reporter from the UNM Local Reporting Fellowship. She can be reached at [email protected], by phone at 575-628-5506 or on Twitter @thewatchpup.