ICCSD Mentors New Teachers

December 16, 2015

For new teachers, teaching their own class for the first time can be intimidating. The Iowa City Community School district is attempting to help these teachers by giving them a “veteran teacher” as a  mentor for their first two years of teaching.

“If we’re not doing our job effectively, they are not going to be an effective colleague,” Alicia Brock, a coordinator for the program, said in a meeting with district mentors. “[The new teachers] are in our profession. They are going to stay, or at least that’s the hope that we have. Trying to look at the big picture, we want to create someone we know we can work with.”

According to Brock, one of the program’s main goals is to encourage the mentors to meet with their teachers once a week to encourage a better level of communication. University of Iowa graduate and City High alum Danielle Smith Oakes is in her first year of teaching Kindergarten at Lucas Elementary School. Oakes is also taking part in the mentor program this year, with Katie Holland as her mentor. Holland is a third grade teacher at Twain Elementary.

“Katie helps me work through challenges with specific students, and gives me advice on strategies to use for classroom management,” Smith Oakes said.  “We celebrate successes, and figure out what went well when I tell her I had a ‘good day’ so I can ideally repeat what works well for my students.”

For Smith Oakes, having an experienced teacher has been beneficial as a first time teacher.

[Holland] offers creative suggestions and solutions to problems that I never would have thought of since she has so many years of teaching under her belt,” she said.

City High English teacher Beth Fettweis was mentored by with Daphne Foreman when she first arrived at City High.

“What Mrs. Foreman helped me do was learn how to help high school students more, and how to understand high school students better,” Fettweis said. “That chance to talk to her, and even to go through some of the basic frustrations and concerns of being a first year teacher at a high school, gave me a lot more comfort and confidence as a teacher.”

According to Fettweis, her mentor experience also went beyond helping her adjust to the high school environment.

“I think that as a rolemodel [Foreman] is someone that’s so warm and kind to her students that it was impossible not to learn about human relationships from her too,” she said.

 

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