Graduates of CNM: Jasmine Alvarado

Jasmine went through the Special Education Teacher Training program just as COVID-19 hit, but thanks to support from her professors and peers, she’s thrived as a student and as a teacher
January 12, 2022

Jasmine Alvarado originally thought she was going to be a speech pathologist so she studied Speech and Hearing Sciences at UNM. But then she graduated, entered the field, and realized it wasn’t for her.

Worried about what to do next, a friend told her about CNM’s Special Education Teacher Training (SETT) program where students who already have a bachelor’s degree can come in and get trained in special education, receive a teaching license, and get paid a teacher’s entry-level salary while they attend classes and work in the classroom. 

“I’ve always loved working with kids and I liked the idea of being there for kids who needed a little more help, so it was a great fit,” Jasmine says. 

The SETT program is a collaboration between Albuquerque Public Schools (APS), CNM, and the Albuquerque Teachers Federation (ATF), and is designed to prepare teachers like Jasmine with on-the-ground training from day one. 

During their first term, students get to teach four days a week in an APS classroom alongside a lead teacher. They also attend CNM classes one day a week and get paid for all their time. During the second term, students continue to take CNM classes and are usually given their own classroom while being supported by their lead teacher and staff from CNM. 

During her first term Jasmine was placed at an elementary school in a mixed second and third-grade class. That was during the first year of COVID so everything was online and quite a challenge. Luckily, she says, the CNM faculty and the other students in her cohort were incredibly supportive. 

She says Kelley Peters, who runs the SETT program, and faculty member Portia Sharp ensured students always stayed on track, gave in-depth and helpful feedback, and worked hard to help the students build community. 

“All the professors were stellar and definitely the most effective professors I’ve ever had,” Jasmine says. “Their ability to build community was so important. It was great to be able to share my wins and my struggles with all the other students who were also going through the same experience of being a first-year teacher.”

Kelley Peters says the SETT program structure has a very intentional design that aims to support students in every way possible. At any one time, APS usually has over 100 vacancies for special education teachers because the burnout rate is high. She says SETT aims to not only help fill those vacancies but also slow the burnout rate by better preparing new teachers while simultaneously providing the financial support they need to enter the field. 

“We’re trying to facilitate their entry into the profession so they have the support and network they need to get through the tough times and so that they have their feet firmly underneath them,” Kelley says.  

Jasmine says she definitely felt prepared leaving the program and was able to apply for and secure a position as a special ed teacher at the same school where she did her student teaching. That’s where she is today and says she loves being able to help her students not only with academics but also with other life skills. 

“The second and third grade mixed classroom is definitely the sweet spot for me,” she says.  

In five years Jasmine sees herself still working at the same school but wants to have her level two license and is excited about gaining even more experience in the classroom. For right now, she’s glad to be making a difference.

“I’m really happy that I found SETT and can’t recommend it enough for those who are interested in the special education field,” she says.