The Suburbanite
  • Mentor program empowers Jackson teachers

  • Jackson Local has embraced a teacher mentor program to help new teachers acclimate to the stresses and pressures of the career.

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  • A little wisdom goes a long way.
    New teachers to the Jackson Local School District discover that wisdom from their veteran peers and establish a solid foundation early in their careers thanks to a special mentor program.
    First-year teachers can easily become overwhelmed by the workload, the stressors of ever-changing state mandates and their required paperwork.
    To help, The Ohio Department of Education has created a Resident Educator (RE) program to help new teachers learn practices and procedures for success. It’s a program that Jackson schools have embraced.
    The RE program, which is tied into the new teacher evaluation system, assigns new teachers to work with experienced teachers from the district in a mentor/mentee role. Mentors are selected by district administrators and they work with new teachers for four years.
    “There are many things that college can't prepare you for when you enter a classroom in the first year,” first-year sixth-grade teacher Lisa Price said. “My mentor has been able to help me with those things.”
    Kelli Fultz, a sixth-grade middle school teacher with nine years of experience, serves Price’s mentor.
    “The biggest thing the mentors do is help out with the procedures of the district and getting the new teachers acclimated to the district overall,” Fultz said. “… We meet to reflect on lessons and for goal setting, which is really important.”
    Throughout the district, new teachers are finding incredible support from the veteran teachers. Whether its through organization tips or simply offering a listening ear, the mentors play key roles in shaping the careers of young professionals.
    Kasey Carter, a history teacher at Jackson High School who mentors first-year teacher social studies teacher Loren Sharpe, understands how important his role is.
    “I look at my role as one that helps keep Loren going in the right direction,” Carter said. “I'm here to help her keep her paperwork for the state on track and to help her manage here timeline for submitting paperwork. We meet once a week to go over problems she has experienced in the classroom or to answer questions on how to handle certain situations.”
    Sharpe teaches five classes with total of 139 students. She remembers the overwhelming task of preparing for her first day for school. All summer long, she bought and read books to use in class, purchased classroom decorations and prayed for sleep to come on the night before school’s first day.
    Admittedly, she doesn’t know what she would have done without Carter’s help.
    “The first year has a lot of stress associated with it and it is nice to have someone I can go to for support and encouragement,” Sharpe said. “It takes a few years for a new teacher to get used to the content and the mentors can help with that by offering resources and information. And, getting help with classroom management is really important.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Gretchen Hull, resident educator coordinator for Jackson, notes that mentors who work with newly hired teachers are well-prepared for the jobs they do.
    “The mentors are selected by the building principals based on content, grade level and proximity of where they teach to new teachers,” Hull said. “Mentors receive 2 days of training by the state.”
    The program follows a specific plan for each year young teachers are mentored. The first two years of the program involve helping with paperwork and allow the veteran teachers to observe the young teachers as they teach. The third year prepares the young teacher for self-assessment and the fourth year allows for review.
    The program, though, is not a one-way street. Mentors who work with newly hired teachers find value in the work they do as well.
    Chris Adolph, an AP English, IB English and grammar teacher at Jackson High School, serves a mentor for two teachers – second-year teacher Lauren Ignazio and another teacher in the first year of their career.
    “Getting to work with the new teachers is a great experience,” Adolph said. “The new teachers bring a lot of excitement and enthusiasm into the classroom and they are really tech savvy.”
    Hull believes that Jackson does a good job of supporting the RE program and it’s participants.
    “Mentors are valued by the district,” Hull said. “ … Our mentors are really supportive and not punitive. We're there to support teachers and help to resolve issues before they become an administrative issue.”

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