MIDLAND Raquel Fuentes entered the professional world of public education as an attendance clerk at Greathouse Elementary in 2016, moving a few years later to a role as Principal Tonya Sanchez’s secretary.
Amid her years behind the big desk in the office, a curiosity developed: Maybe she could become an educator herself.
Last school year, she casually mentioned to Sanchez that she was close to finishing her bachelor’s degree and was interested in dipping her toes into the educational waters by becoming a substitute teacher.
“Ms. Sanchez asked me how far along I was, and I said I only had a few semesters left,” Fuentes said. And just like that, her career as an educator not only started, but accelerated.
According to a news release, there are many educator opportunities at Midland ISD beyond being a certified teacher. A major effort of the Office of Human Capital Management has been to look internally for those with an interest.
“Being an educator is a calling,” said Michele Harmon, Director of MISD’s new Department of Recruitment & Retention. “And quite often, people don’t know that there are myriad opportunities to make an impact in the classroom and grow your career.”
Being a substitute teacher only requires a high school diploma; however, those with some college work can join MISD as a REACH Associate, working full-time alongside a teacher as part of the Opportunity Culture program. Those with at least a bachelor’s degree but no teacher certification can also become a classroom teacher through District of Innovation (DOI).
For Fuentes, a different opportunity was available.
“When she told me she was almost done with school, I jumped at the chance to hire her as a Classroom Instructional Facilitator because I knew she was the perfect person,” Greathouse principal Sanchez said.
CIFs are full-time educators that have at least 30 semester hours toward their bachelor’s degree. What separates CIFs from REACH Associates is they operate a classroom on their own. MISD provides robust training and support at every step of the way, including in the specific content areas they’ll teach.
Fuentes said that since kindergarten she had wanted to become a teacher; however, having children and raising a family put these plans on hold. During COVID, she enrolled at Grand Canyon University and began pursuit of her bachelor’s in education. She will graduate in May and plans to start her teacher certification process in March. As a CIF, she is already getting high-level, real-world, in-classroom experience.
“Teaching is definitely not for the weak,” Fuentes said. “Being a CIF has been the best training I could have ever asked for. I get a lot of help from my principal and other teachers, and this past summer I went through the same teacher training as everyone else.”
This year, MISD returned substitute teacher management in-house. With a new approach to recruitment and retention districtwide comes a new perspective on how the district approaches the substitute teacher role.
“We need subs to fill in when needed; however, we’re really pushing hard to use substitute teaching as an internal recruitment tool,” Harmon said.
There are those who have no classroom experience and are looking for a career change and see subbing as a way to try before they buy. There are retirees interested in rejoining campuses in some way. There are those who left the teaching profession and want to ease their way back into the field.
“What we see on their application is that they’re actually qualified for a full-time role that will give them more robust experience and more consistent employment in education,” Harmon said. “We’re working hard to get the word out that there are more educator opportunities available than just being a part-time sub or full-time certified teacher.”
The rewards can be life changing.
“What I’m doing as a CIF, going to school to be a teacher and getting experience and support running a classroom before I’m even certified is something I never would have imagined with Ms. Sanchez,” Fuentes said, adding that her family is proud of the work she’s doing. “I’m just so blessed to be able to finally do what I’ve always dreamed of doing — be an educator.”