A new teacher mentoring program in the Storm Lake School District will be starting soon, with approval of Storm Lake's application for four mentors close to being granted, according to Superintendent Bill Kruse.
The Iowa new teacher mentoring program is designed to help first-year teachers make the transition to the classroom by working closely with veteran educators. Funding for the program was approved last spring by the state legislature.
The Storm Lake School District already has a teacher-trainer program for all new teachers to the district, but with the new teacher mentoring program, the district will have "mentors" working specifically with teachers in their first year of teaching. This year it has four first-year teachers.
Sevond Cole, a first-year teacher at the Storm Lake Middle School, thinks the program will help him and fellow new teachers.
"Any time you're a first-year teacher the more help the better. It can be for simple things as well as big projects that I'm going to need someone - that's definitely going to help," he said.
Having graduated from Buena Vista University last December, Cole now teachers 7th grade social studies. While not familiar with all the details of the new mentoring program, he said he hopes it builds on the success of the teacher-trainer program already in place in the district.
With the teacher-trainer program, Cole and the other teachers new to the district work seasoned teachers from everyday procedures to special situations.
"For any new teacher to the district in need some type of guidance, those are the people we can go to get some help," Cole said. "So far it has been very successful - it's helped me out a great deal."
Cole found himself using the teacher-trainer program in the first few days. "You go there for everyday things, like finding where certain software is," he said.
While the district plans to maintain its teacher-trainer program for all teachers new to the district, it has applied to receive state funding for the new teacher mentoring program.
The new teacher mentoring program is part of a teacher compensation plan approved by the state legislature and signed into law by the governor earlier this year.
The legislation invests $2.4 million this year and an additional $4.8 million the following school year to fund a two-year statewide mentoring program.
The Storm Lake School District has applied to the state for funding for the new teacher mentoring program.
The Storm Lake School District has adopted a formal mentoring program and has developed a list of goals for the Beginning Teacher Mentoring and Induction Program in the district.
When Storm Lake's application is approved, the state will pay the district $1,300 per new teacher for each of the teacher's first two years. Mentors would be paid a minimum of $500 per semester, and the district can use the remaining dollars to offset other costs.
Already the district has a "teacher-trainer" program which teams up all teachers new to the district with a veteran educator.
The teacher-trainer program connects not only new teachers, but also new teachers to the district with current staff members for mentoring and adjustment to the district.
"If our mentoring plan is approved, our four new teachers will have mentors. We're trying to support both teachers new to the profession and those new to the district with the teacher-trainer program," said Assistant Superintendent Larry Parman.
Current faculty were welcomed to apply to become mentors, and all four first-year teachers in the district will have mentors. There is a special training session Saturday for the newly-selected mentors.
Storm Lake's first-year teachers look forward to the mentoring program, and note help will be appreciated with the upcoming parent-teacher conferences.
"We'll get into a lot of detailed sessions, and especially with conferences because the 7th grade does conferencing different than other grade levels," Cole said.
Cole said he was uncertain what role the teacher-trainer or mentoring programs were going to have, and was afraid they may even serve as "monitoring" programs. That is far from the case, however.
"Since we've been involved in the program it has helped tremendously," he said.
Judy Jeffrey, administrator with the Iowa Department of Education, said the program is about providing support.
"The purposes of the Beginning Teacher Mentoring and Induction Program are to promote excellence in teaching, enhance student achievement, build a supportive environment within school districts, increase the retention of promising beginning teachers, and promote the personal and professional well-being of classroom teachers," she said.