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What is Early Childhood Education?

Early childhood education (ECE) refers to preschool and young school-age children, who are typically between 3 and 8 years old. It is their job to prepare these young children for future learning in elementary school classes and beyond.

A preschool teacher will have activities for the class to engage in that are educational and appropriately challenging for their age group, such as singing songs, putting puzzles together, reciting poems and nursery rhymes, painting, drawing, coloring, or playing educational games like identifying items, counting, and memory games.

As children progress through their early education, activities must progress with them, becoming more challenging, teaching new concepts and requiring more and more focus. The job of a preschool teacher takes a lot of patience, understanding, and tolerance. In addition, one must really enjoy working with young children, as that’s what the majority of your time will be spent on, around 8 hours a day - five days a week.

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Steps to Become an Early Childhood Education Teacher in New Mexico

In the state of New Mexico, licensed ECE teachers can work with children from birth to third grade. This means that once you obtain your preschool teaching license in New Mexico, you will be qualified to teach children up to 8 years old.

New Mexico has a variety of options to become a state licensed preschool teacher. Since the release of the Quality Counts Report, New Mexico has been working on improving its educational system with more funds and job openings for preschool teachers and more. This means that ECE preschool teachers will be in high demand in New Mexico and can expect more pay in the future. Therefore, it is a very wise decision to pursue a degree in ECE preschool teaching. Although it may seem like a hassle to obtain licensing, once you get through it you will be able to enjoy a successful, rewarding career as an ECE teacher.

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Step 1. Earn Your Degree

In order to gain licensure in the state of New Mexico, you must complete a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education, from a college or university that is regionally accredited. This will need to have 36 to 42 credit hours from an approved ECE program. Those hours should break down to 18-30 credit hours student teaching any children aged birth-8 years old; 150 hours spent teaching or assisting within those age groups, and 6 credit hours spent teaching reading.

Your other options for licensure include multiple years of verifiable work experience within the ECE age group; obtaining an unrelated bachelor’s degree and engaging in training for the ECE age group; gaining a higher-level degree in ECE, like a master’s or doctorate including specific courses in ECE; obtaining a higher-level degree and completing the Online Portfolio for Alternative Licensure (OPAL) program; or gain a higher-level degree and have 5 years of verifiable teaching experience with a few courses to cover reading and student teaching requirements.

Step 2. Pass Your Exams

Besides earning a degree, you will also need to pass the New Mexico Teacher Assessment (NMTA) exam, to become a licensed preschool teacher in New Mexico. Unlike other states, who use the PRAXIS exam, New Mexico uses tests from the National Evaluation Series (NES). The required exam consists of two parts: Competency in Early Childhood and Basic Skills: Reading, Writing , and Mathematics.

Note: If you already received certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards you are exempt from taking these assessments.

The testing requirements vary slightly for each grade level as follows:

  • Early Childhood, Birth-3: Essential Academic Skills, Early Childhood Education (Birth-PreK), and Early Childhood Education (Age 3-8)
  • Elementary, K-8: Essential Academic Skills, Assessment of Professional Knowledge (Elementary), Elementary Education, and Essential Components of Elementary Reading Instruction
  • Special Education, PreK-12: Essential Academic Skills, Assessment of Professional Knowledge (Elementary or Secondary), and Special Education

Step 3. Apply for Your License

Once you’ve completed your educational and testing requirements, it’s time to apply for you license.

You will apply by submitting the following to the New Mexico Public Education Department:

  • A completed application
  • A money order for $125 made out to The New Mexico Public Education Department
  • Official transcripts from every institution you attended
  • A completed background check packet along with a check or money order for $75 to cover the processing fee.
  • Copies of any other teaching licenses that you may hold

Step 4. Alternative Licensures

As mentioned before, there are other options for licensure in New Mexico. The Alternative Licensure Program, is an alternative designed by the New Mexico Public Education Department (NMPED), that allows you to obtain an internship license to teach, gain teaching experience, and preparing for and complete the exam requirements for full licensure.

Another route you can take to become an ECE preschool teacher is to gain verifiable experience of working for an accredited day-care center with at least 2 of the children’s age groups from above.

The Online Portfolio for Alternative Licensure (OPAL), is another way to go. To take this route you must complete the following:

  • Obtain a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate with an appropriate amount of ECE courses
  • Submit your letter of interest to the OPAL program
  • Register to take the New Mexico Teacher Assessment Exams
  • Enroll in a 6 credit-hour teaching reading course
  • Gain experience by teaching under an internship license for one year
  • Complete the online portfolio to demonstrate your competency through your teaching experience.

Popular Career Choices:

  • Preschool Teacher
  • Kindergarten Teacher
  • Elementary School Teacher
  • Special Education Teacher

Requirements for ECE Teacher Certification in New Mexico

After obtaining your internship teaching license in New Mexico, your school district will instruct you on how to get your Level-1 teaching License, since your internship license is only valid for 3 years and is not renewable.

A Level-1 teaching License will be valid for 5 years and it is also not renewable. After those 5 years, you will be given an application along with instructions to upgrade to a Level-2 License for which you must meet the following requirements.

  • Teach full-time for at least 160 days a year or for three years
  • Submit a Professional Development Dossier (PDD), showing how much you have developed and progressed as a professional teacher while working for the past three years.

Your Level-2 teaching license will be valid for 9 years. To renew it you can either submit the New Mexico Application for Continuing Licensure or use the ‘Same Level Licensure’ system online.

Note: Your school superintendent must provide a statement of recommendation for you to continue your licensure.

If you have been teaching for at least 160 days a year or 3 years, you may have the option of upgrading your Level-2 teaching license to a Level-3, which is known as the Instructional Leader teaching license. To do this, you must become Nationally Board Certified, or earn your master’s degree and submit a PDD. Level-3 licensures are also valid for 9 years and can be renewed with the same requirements as Level-2.

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Top Early Childhood Teacher Preparation Programs in New Mexico

New Mexico, is home to over 50 higher education institutions that include colleges, universities, and vocational/trade schools; online, on campus, and hybrid.

New Mexico regional accreditation is offered by the Higher Learning Commission, ensuring that high standards are met, and high-quality educational training programs are provided to students, resulting in them earning a recognized professional degree. Other accreditation to look for is CAEP or NCATE.

  • Eastern New Mexico University

    Degrees Offered:

    • School Counseling and Guidance Services; Master’s
    • Early Childhood Education and Teaching; Bachelor’s
    • Elementary Education and Teaching; Bachelor’s & Post-grad Certificate
    • Special Education and Teaching; Bachelor’s, Master’s, & Post-grad Certificate

    Accreditation By:

    • National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE)
    • Higher Learning Commission
  • New Mexico Highlands University

    Degrees Offered:

    • School Counseling and Guidance Services; Master’s & Post-grad Certificate
    • Curriculum and Instruction; Master’s
    • Educational Leadership & Administration; Master’s & Post-grad Certificate
    • Elementary Education and Teaching; Associate & Bachelor’s
    • Kindergarten/Preschool Education and Teaching; Bachelor’s
    • Special Education and Teaching; Bachelor’s, Master’s, & Post-grad Certificate

    Accreditation By:

    • Higher Learning Commission
    • Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP)
  • New Mexico State University – Las Cruces

    Degrees Offered:

    • Early Childhood Education and Teaching; Associate’s
    • Education, General; Associate’s
    • Teachers Assistant/Aide; Associate’s

    Accreditation By:

    • Higher Learning Commission
    • Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP)
    • Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA)
    • Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN)
    • New Mexico State Department of Education’s Division of Vocational, Technical and Adult Education
  • Northern New Mexico College

    Degrees Offered:

    • Early Childhood Education and Teaching; Associate’s
    • Elementary Education and Teaching; Associate’s, Bachelor’s, & Under-grad Certificate
    • Special Education and Teaching; Under-grad Certificate

    Accreditation By:

    • Higher Learning Commission
    • The National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education

Potential Careers and Salaries for Graduates

Because of its scenic beauty, New Mexico is known as the Land of Enchantment, but in the public education system, it is second to last in overall rankings. Each year, a report is released by Education Week, revealing the scores and rankings of educational systems in 50 states and Washington D.C.

This report, known as the Quality Counts Report, measures the education of each state in three areas:

  • Chance for success
    Based on 13 indicators that help understand what role education will play in a person’s life span.
  • K-12 achievement
    Based on 18 measures of achievement related to math and reading performance, advanced placement test results, and high school graduation rates
  • School finance
    Analysis of financial equity and school spending.

Although New Mexico scored a bit above the middle in school finance, its k-12 score was near the bottom, and its chance for success rate was ranked last. Overall, New Mexico came out second to last in the country (the last being Nevada).

In response to this report, New Mexico’s Governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham, released a 21 page document entitled A New Direction for New Mexico Schools, which states that a new initiative will be instituted to provide the children of New Mexico with a high-quality education that will prepare them for success in life.

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Grisham blames inadequate school funding as part of the problem. A study conducted by the American Institute of Research in 2008, did find that schools in New Mexico were underfunded by over $300 million.

Therefore, the governor plans on working with legislative leaders to pass a constitutional amendment in order to boost school funding. They will leverage the $17.75 billion in assets they hold to improve the student’s outcome by paying teachers and staff more and opening more jobs for preschool teachers. The governor believes they are understaffed, and preschool is essential to a child’s education in the long run.

Now is a great time to become a licensed preschool teacher in New Mexico as the demand is currently high and pay should be on the rise for ECE teachers.

This career opportunity will allow you to work for many different institutions such as:

  • Public schools
  • Private childcare
  • Private schools
  • Head Start programs
  • Community-based programs
  • Faith-based programs
  • Military programs

Early Childhood Education Teaching Salaries in New Mexico

Occupation Entry-Level Mid-Career Late-Career
Preschool Teacher $25,700 $29,400 $32,200
Elementary school teacher $39,800 $46,500 $50,300
Professor of Education $63,000 $72,800 $118,500
Special Education Teacher $41,000 $45,000 $49,500
ESL Teacher $39,500 $40,500 $50,600

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