April 14, 2010

Help wanted: a few good mentors

Posted: April 14, 2010
Image is Jocelyn Harding and Julie Bradford teaching students in a Madison Simis classroom
Jocelyn Harding (left) and Julie Bradford are just one of many mentor teacher success stories featured in the College of Teacher Education and Leadership program.

A win-win situation is one in which both parties stand to benefit in some way.  Arizona State University’s College of Teacher Education and Leadership (CTEL) is offering a win-win-win opportunity through a time-tested program that provides the teachers of tomorrow with professional, experienced guidance inside and outside the classroom, while also providing current teachers, acting as mentors, with motivation, emotional rewards and more.  The third party may be the most important – young students receiving the benefit of a pair of adults in the same classroom.

The college is seeking mentor teachers to host an ASU student teacher or intern during the upcoming fall 2010 semester.

“Teachers who participate in this important program are providing opportunities for future professionals,” said Mari Koerner, CTEL dean. “In turn, these teachers realize the opportunity to explain and reflect on their own teaching practices, and engage in lively conversations about the methods and concepts our students are learning.

“And the young students in the classroom, through this mutual engagement between future teacher and current professional educator, have the attention of two adults focused on improving student achievement.”

The college is offering a special incentive to fill the ranks of needed mentors for student teachers, including a waiver of the $70 CTEL graduate program application fee, as well as a choice of one of the following: $360, a 6-credit tuition waiver, or professional development workshop vouchers. Mentors working with student interns receive professional clock hours.

“We are committed to combining the best practices from current research with practical hands-on experience,” Koerner said. “One of the ways we do this is through our mentor teacher program; mentor teachers host a student teacher or an intern in their classrooms and assist these novice teachers.”

The success and the possibilities of the mentor teacher program can be seen at Madison Simis Elementary School in north-central Phoenix where second-grade teacher Jocelyn Harding mentors Julie Bradford, a senior who will graduate in May with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. Like all CTEL student teachers, during the semester Bradford teaches 210 hours, observes for 120, prepares for 180, and completes 90 hours of related activities.

“A mentor like Jocelyn is extremely important to my growth as a teacher,” said Bradford, who served a CTEL internship in Harding’s classroom for five months in 2008. “Without a mentor teacher, I wouldn’t have the direction I need on what to teach and when to teach it. Jocelyn has taught me so many lessons that I will use in my future career as a teacher.”

Bradford notes that her meetings with Harding are fit around their busy schedules and may take place during lunch or as they prepare lessons, before and after school, and even during morning recess. Bradford has been under Harding’s watchful eye and guidance since January.

“Jocelyn has helped me in so many ways,” Bradford said. “There are the little things like the importance of using a quiet voice when teaching, because the louder the teacher gets, the louder the students get. Bigger lessons are learning to be very clear and specific when giving direction to students, being prepared with a lesson plan and materials, and that it is important to redirect poor student behavior before it becomes an issue.”

Harding, meanwhile, is also benefiting from her role as mentor.

“This is extremely rewarding,” said Harding, who has taught in the Madison School District for more than eight years, including the last four with Simis’ second-graders. “Julie is amazing, and it has been great to witness how she has grown in her preparation to become a teacher and to be able to help her in this endeavor.”

Harding received her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from CTEL in 2000. She said her mentoring responsibilities keep her teaching “fresh” and force her to dig deeper into her files, books and other materials in order to provide Bradford with as much background and experience as possible. She also said that her mentoring has brought benefits to her 26 students, giving the youngsters two teachers to provide one-on-one support, run small group lessons and perform monitoring assessments.

“I am motivated to bring my ‘A-game’ to school every day through this mentoring program,” she said. “I know that eventually I will turn over the reins. Therefore, I need to be sure that I have modeled great teaching so that when that day comes, both of us can approach it with confidence.

“If you love what you do as a teacher, and you know and value the importance of preparing future educators and potentially future colleagues for this demanding career, then you should become a teacher mentor.”

Harding said student teaching is the final stage in teacher preparation, and while mentor teachers are in a position to positively impact the future success to tomorrow’s educators, teacher mentors are also helping to secure a brighter future for education overall.

“A student teacher like Julie – this is her springboard, and she may never have an opportunity like this again," Harding said. "This experience can make or break the eventual experience as a new teacher. Many teachers leave the profession by their fourth year of teaching. I think a big part of this is an overall lack of support. If these student teachers establish a firm foundation in classrooms such as mine, hopefully, we can impact the trend.

“Student teachers don’t need us to be perfect; they can learn from our mistakes as much as they can learn from our successes. What they need more than anything else is support and a shared enthusiasm for this challenging, but rewarding profession.”

For information on how to become a mentor teacher, contact the College of Teacher Education and Leadership at 602-543-6300 or visit ctel.asu.edu/mentor and download the application.

ASU’s College of Teacher Education and Leadership is at the vanguard of the university’s teacher preparation and education efforts.  The college prepares great teachers and school leaders by combining best practices derived from current research with innovative teaching approaches, while also placing a high priority on real-world classroom experiences.  Its graduates are confident, effective career professionals who will transform the lives of their students and the character of their schools and communities.

Stephen Des Georges, Stephen.Desgeorges@asu.edu
480-727-0757
ASU Foundation