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mentors - summer mentors program helps new teachers
Posted in , on September 15, 2023

Summer mentors fill the gap

Most of us can remember what it’s like to be a new kid in school. Whether you just moved, just started kindergarten or just moved up to junior high or high school, it was overwhelming and filled with uncertainty.

So, you can imagine what it might be like for a brand-new teacher – new to the career, new to the school and new to their students. It can be just as overwhelming and filled with uncertainty.

But in the Arlington ISD, these new teachers are not alone. And now the support they receive starts in the summer, well before they ever step foot in their new classrooms.

The Arlington ISD professional learning department launched a districtwide mentor program for new teachers last spring. But the professional learning team noticed something was still missing.

“There was still a gap between when someone gets hired in Arlington ISD and when they actually show up on campus,” said Jennifer Cummings, professional learning specialist.

So, they launched the summer mentor program this past summer to fill the gap.

“We wanted the focus to be relationship and community, so connecting the new teachers with the larger Arlington ISD district and helping them feel a part,” Cummings said.

The professional learning team identified 22 veteran Arlington ISD teachers from every level who could serve as mentors to recently hired new teachers. Then they gave them training and tools to use throughout the summer. Once new hires went through orientation, they got assigned to a mentor.

The mentorship was designed around six structured contacts that included email, phone calls and in-person meetings. It was all about getting the new teachers acclimated and ready for the new year – everything from getting their email set up to talking through questions and expectations.

“I had a fantastic experience with the summer mentoring program,” said Shey Anderson, a summer mentor and teacher at Venture High School. “The mentees were happy to have someone who could explain district stuff and be their support. We met on several occasions at their school and for lunch. However, texting was the best since things pop up throughout their day.”

One of Anderson’s mentees was Summer Hall, a new art teacher at Sam Houston High School. Anderson invited Hall to lunch, along with a veteran teacher from Sam Houston so Hall would have an immediate connection at the school.

“The information she gave me helped me have a smooth transition and made me feel prepared and equipped for AISD,” Hall said. “It also made me feel important, wanted, and not just a number. This training and many other accomplishments make AISD stand out among other school districts. Consequently, because of this training, I am prepared and never felt overwhelmed, setting me up for success with my future career at AISD and Sam Houston.”

Hall’s experience is exactly what Cummings and her team were going for when they introduced the program.

“We want to keep teachers,” Cummings said. “One of the big parts of that is making sure people feel valued … they are a part of this larger community. I think that the summer mentors really helped drive home that this is Arlington ISD and this how we care for and develop our people.”

Part of a longer relay

The summer mentors were just the first part of the bigger mentorship program.

summer mentors program - Cummings and Pope from professional learning department“It’s a continuum of support for our first-year teachers, and our summer mentors were the first leg of the relay,” Cummings said.

The mentors then passed the baton to Cummings and Renee Pope, Arlington ISD professional learning coordinator, who provided training and orientation during “new teacher week.” And now that school has started, the baton is in the hands of 250 campus mentors.

Those campus mentors are helping the 344 new teachers in the district acclimate to their new careers and the Arlington ISD. They will carry that baton all year.

“The role of the New Teacher Mentor is to guide and walk alongside the first year and bridge substitute teacher,” Pope said. “They are responsible for collaborating with mentees in the selection of interactions that meet their unique needs and interests.”

They continue what the summer mentors started, building relationships and community and providing operations and instructional support for the new teachers.

Learn more about the district’s new teacher induction program.