Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
Teaching is a rewarding position but like most jobs, there are stressful elements. The field can be especially challenging for those just starting out, and Cardinal administrators realized they needed a better program to support and mentor those new to the job.
Three years ago, Cardinal Community School District began a mentoring and induction program for its new teachers. The program came through Great Prairie Area Education Agency's (GPAEA) New Teacher Center to replace a previous mentoring program that paired new teachers with experienced teachers on their campus.
'Typical mentoring programs in the past always tried to help a beginning teacher with ‘management' type things like grades,” explained Anne Morgan, GPAEA program lead. 'There would be occasional support in writing lesson plans, but the reality was that the mentor was also a full-time teacher.”
As a result, success with the previous program depended on each individual pairing and how much time a mentor teacher could dedicate to the program. With their own lessons to plan, classrooms to run, and assignments to grade, mentor teachers often had little time to spare for mentoring.
The new GPAEA program solved that by bringing in Stephanie Ferrell as an instructional coach for first- and second-year teachers.
As an instructional coach, Ferrell spends two to three years working with each new teacher, depending on their needs. During that time, Ferrell meets with each teacher for a couple of hours each month, observes them in the classroom, and uses tools from the GPAEA New Teacher Center to measure their progress.
'Steph is always with the teachers and able to devote the time teachers need now,” Middle School Principal Cindy Green said. 'She's been a great fit.”
The program focuses on helping teachers create an optimal learning environment that centers on students in the classroom. They learn how to use engagement and data analysis to make improvements in the classroom and meet students' diverse needs.
'I really enjoy it because it really keeps it from being evaluative on my end and to really just focus on the teachers' needs,” Ferrell said.
The program has proved beneficial with a decreasing number of new teachers in the program, from 23 in Ferrell's first year on the job to 16 this year.
'We wanted to see our number of new teachers decrease because that means that we are retaining them,” Green explained. 'We want to make sure that we're keeping our new teachers here.”
Between Ferrell's role and NTC's tools, new teachers say they are receiving the support they need.
'I didn't have to go through my first and second year of teaching alone,” Taylor Torres, third-grade teacher said. 'I am a better educator because of the support and resources provided to me through this program.”