Two New Mexico National Guard soldiers reported for duty at Las Cruces Public Schools Monday. Their current assignment is to fill in as substitute teachers while the district continues to onboard qualified applicants. PFC Brannan Artman and SPC Mario Meraz volunteered to serve LCPS as substitute teachers as part of the Supporting Teachers and Families initiative to help fill in as teacher vacancies rise due to COVID-19.
Artman is currently a student at New Mexico State University and is assigned to the 615th Transportation Battalion. His parents are both teachers in Truth or Consequences.
*Pictured left to right: Dr. Jeff Spaletta, LCPS Human Resources Coordinator, SPC Mario Meraz, PFC Brannan Artman and Dr. Miguel Serrano, Chief Human Resources Officer, LCPS.
“COVID has taken a lot from us, and it has been rough on our teachers,” said Artman. “I would do anything to help out our teachers, and this assignment is my way of giving back.”
Meraz is a graduate of Las Cruces High School. In his service with the National Guard, he has volunteered to help coordinate COVID testing clinics and vaccination opportunities.
“It was an easy decision to step up and help out our teachers,” said Meraz.
Artman and Meraz will be in uniform while on duty, a decision that was made by the district.
“Each school district will decide if New Mexico National Guard troops will wear their uniform in the classroom,” said Joe Vigil, spokesperson for the New Mexico National Guard. "New Mexico National Guard troops are coming on this historic mission for 30 days at a time."
According to Vigil, the governor and the New Mexico Public Education Department will determine how long the soldiers and airmen will remain on mission.
Both Artman and Meraz received their substitute teaching license and initial training with the New Mexico Public Education Department prior to arriving in Las Cruces. Before taking over a classroom, they will spend several days observing and shadowing other teachers.
“We are grateful for their service to our country, and to our district” said LCPS Superintendent Ralph Ramos. “In times of crisis, that service looks a little different in the classroom, but the mission is the same – protect and educate our future’s greatest resource, our students.”
According to LCPS human resource administrators, the first day the soldiers could be assigned to a classroom in a substitute capacity could be Friday.