Las Vegas, N.M – New Mexico Highlands University will begin offering a new online teacher licensure fast track program aimed at getting professionals with bachelor’s degrees or higher into education careers faster.

Applications for the Highlands School of Education Alternative Teacher Certification Program will be available on the Highlands University website at in early January 2019. The program is expected to begin in March 2019.

“This program aims to recruit and train individuals with college degrees who have an interest in becoming teachers and have significant experience as professionals in their fields, particularly in the subject areas in greatest demand such as special education, math and science,” said Virginia Padilla-Vigil, dean of the Highlands School of Education. “There is a significant ongoing teacher shortage in our state. Candidates pursuing and completing this new program will be able to fill some of these vacancies, serving the educational needs of New Mexico children and youth.”

The Higher Learning Commission, New Mexico Public Education Department, and the Highlands Board of Regents all approved the proposal for the Alternative Teacher Certification Program.


Virginia Padilla-Vigil

“This new teacher certification program is an exciting opportunity for Highlands to tap into a pool of professionals in the state who can bring their experience and enthusiasm to the classroom for New Mexico’s students,” said Sam Minner, Highlands University president.

“We value strong leadership and the capacity to do innovative things and think Dr. Padilla-Vigil and Highlands University are a wonderful example of that,” said Christopher Eide, director of educator quality at the New Mexico Public Education Department. “This new Alternative Teacher Certification Program is an outstanding example of creative thinkers who are grounded in practice doing what they believe is best to bring teacher education to another level.”

Eide said the New Mexico Public Education Department thinks the children of these teachers will benefit through the innovative methods of preparation.

Some of the highlights of the new teacher licensure program include:

  • The courses will be offered online to accomodate professional adult learners.
  • All participants will receive support via online seminars.
  • Participants have the opportunity to be employed as a teacher while they are completing the program.

Padilla-Vigil said mentorship is an important component of the Highlands Alternative Teacher Certification Program.

“Candidates who are teaching are assigned a mentor teacher who will provide support, guidance and feedback on an ongoing basis,” Padilla-Vigil said. “Candidates who don’t wish to be employed as a teacher while they are completing the program will complete a traditional 16-week student teaching experience under the supervision of a cooperating teacher.”

The program takes just two semesters to complete.

“The program is designed with working professionals in mind. The courses are delivered online asynchronously at the student’s convenience, making the program very accessible and flexible,” Padilla-Vigil said.

Padilla-Vigil said the beauty of this nontraditional route to licensure is that prospective teachers are able to immediately apply what they are learning in the program in their own classroom.

“Those with strong content area preparation and substantive experience working within their fields have a strong potential to be highly effective teachers in their discipline. As an example, an engineer with strong working knowledge of mathematics could be an excellent math teacher,” Padilla-Vigil said.

Padilla-Vigil said the program aims to recruit and train high-potential candidates who will be retained long term as teachers who make a positive difference in the lives of New Mexico students.

For more information about the program, contact Ann Wolf at (505) 891-6923 or Ronnette Ortiz at (505) 891-6932,