As educators we know that learning is to teach is a lifelong process. In the process, teachers renew and review content, strategies and assessments as they continue to ask questions about student learning. A school's most valuable resources is the educator who successfully impacts student achievement.
How do districts find, train and retain those individuals who are or will become that dynamic teacher? In the field of teaching, there is no apprenticeship for a year or a yearling training program. First-year teachers are given the same job description as veteran teachers; more often they are given additional duties to compensate for a low beginning salary or the district's need to fill co-curricular positions.
How will beginning teachers be successful as they focus on student achievement and all the other extras that are required of a first-year teacher?
Last year, the state of Iowa generated legislation and money for a mentoring program for new beginning teachers. The objectives and the focus of the mentor program remain the same: to promote excellence in teaching, build a supportive environment within school districts, increase the retention of promising young teachers and promote the personal and professional well-being of those teachers.
AEA 5 Mentor Training, a two-year program, is designed to train district mentors to work with beginning teachers. The training program provides first- and second-year mentors with knowledge, skills and continual information to support the beginning teacher's growth and development. The beginning teacher and the mentor are expected to extend their learning through various activities and reflection pieces.
This year, the Iowa Department of Education has developed guidelines for the Staff Evaluation and Professional Growth Program, which requires first- and second-year teachers to participate in the professional development activities through the district induction program and district career development plan.
In addition, a cumulative professional portfolio will be created and maintained by all beginning teachers in year one and two. The role of the mentor is to serve as a "coach" (using cognitive coaching techniques) as the beginning teacher collects and analyzes artifacts that show evidence that he/she has met the Iowa Teaching Standards.
A total of 43 first-time mentors attended training sessions in August and October, and over 80 second-year mentors in AEA 5 are currently involved in either the AEA mentor training program or the PATHWISE training program.
For more information about the mentoring program, contact Martin at kmartin@ aea5.k12.ia.us.