08/25/05 — Mentors help new teachers

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Mentors help new teachers

By News-Argus Staff
Published in News on August 25, 2005 1:46 PM

Beginning teachers often have a lot of have a lot to look forward to in their first year teaching. At the same time, a classroom full of students can be intimidating.

With looming teacher shortages, school systems are facing the challenge of getting teachers to fill the classrooms, with ongoing efforts made to recruit and retain educators.

One way Wayne County Public Schools has chosen to demonstrate its commitment to teachers is by pairing up veteran teachers with beginning teachers as mentors. Mentors, officials say, help build a trust and rapport that proves beneficial in overcoming teaching obstacles.

"The mentor-novice relationship is mutually beneficial," said Sally Pope, lead teacher for human resources. "The novice receives support and help in getting adjusted to the school, and the mentor gains enthusiasm and new ideas."

Another lead teacher in human resources, Shirley Richardson said the mentor program is an essential tool in retaining teachers.

To be a mentor, a teacher must have taught for three years and be willing to serve as a mentor for three years.

Recently, 41 new mentors went through training to learn strategies to help teachers new to their schools this year. They join the more than 300 trained mentors already participating in the program.

The program has a history in the state, having begun in 1985. It has been in its current form since 1997 when the N.C. General Assembly enacted additional legislation and provided new funding in the Excellent Schools Act.

The state-funded program compensates mentors $100 a month for their efforts.

"It takes time to do the job," Ms. Richardson said. "Teachers have a lot on their plates."

Some mentors have multiple assignments. They meet once a week for at least 30 minutes, help with lesson plans, classroom management and share teaching strategies.

Darrin Evans, a seventh-grade teacher at Brogden Middle School, recalls the challenges of being a beginning teacher. He said he struggled the most with classroom management issues.

"I needed help when I was a first-year teacher," he said. "Maybe I'll be able to help someone."