In a Spanish-language classroom decorated with colorful papel picado, traditional paper cutouts that are commonly hung for celebrations in Spanish-speaking countries, Nevada’s Lt. Gov. Lisa Cano Burkhead is helping students with their classwork.
“Muy bien, high five on that one,” she says as she moves from student to student.
Cano Burkhead, who serves as second-in-command to Gov. Steve Sisolak, graduated from Chaparral High School in 1989, and worked in Nevada public schools for 25 years as a teacher and administrator.
On Monday, Lt. Gov. Cano Burkhead returned to the Chaparral campus as a substitute Spanish teacher, teaching students for two class periods. She credited the high school for setting her down a path of working in leadership, hearkening back to her time serving on the Chaparral student council.
“I’m feeling very nostalgic,” Cano Burkhead said of being back on the campus. “Walking up the stairs into my alma mater, to what I called home during my high school career…really I need to credit all the teachers and administrators that I had in high school that really pushed me and believed in my ability to lead, and here I am as lieutenant governor.”
It was the lieutenant governor’s second time substituting since Gov. Sisolak appointed Burkhead in December. Earlier this year, she served as a substitute teacher for one day at Sparks High School in northwestern Nevada.
Nevada, like the rest of the country, is experiencing a teacher shortage exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Earlier this year, the Clark County Unified School District — which serves more than 300,000 students — had approximately 1,270 teacher vacancies and hundreds of support staff openings.
In response to staffing shortages, the district recently changed its substitute teaching requirements to allow emergency substitute teachers who have only a high school diploma.
“We’re in a crisis, and we’re in a crisis nationwide and we need to make sure that we’re doing everything possible…to work collectively and collaboratively to try and figure out ways to recruit teachers and to retain our teachers because our students deserve the very best,” Cano Burkhead said Wednesday.
She said she plans to continue substitute teaching and that it was important for her to hear the voices of students throughout the state. Cano Burkhead said she is gathering feedback during the course of her substitute teaching to see how the state can best support students.
Cano Burkhead told Chaparral students Wednesday that she would ensure their principal had her office’s contact information and that students shouldn’t hesitate to reach out.
“(Chaparral) Cowboys are still as strong as they were back in the 80s,” she said addressing the students Wednesday. “I’m so proud of you.”