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In This Issue

       

Mentoring center at Wichita State seeks private funds to help new teachers succeed

Most mentors trained through the Kansas Mentor and Induction Center voluntarily perform these extra duties. “They say they want to do it because it’s important, they’re passionate about it,” says Glenda VanSant, the center’s director.
Most mentors trained through the Kansas Mentor and Induction Center voluntarily perform these extra duties. “They say they want to do it because it’s important, they’re passionate about it,” says Glenda VanSant, the center’s director.

Most new teachers entering a classroom for the first time have a steep learning curve. They see the faces of 25 or so children before them, all with unique strengths and weaknesses. Their fellow teachers and building administrators are as overwhelmed as they are with work demands. Each school day is unpredictable and, often, bewildering.

It’s little wonder that nearly 50 percent of teachers leave the profession in their first five years, says Shirley Lefever-Davis, dean of the College of Education at Wichita State University.

The College of Education, with support from the Kansas State Department of Education and in partnership with a national organization called the New Teacher Center, is trying to address the problem through the creation of the Kansas Mentor and Induction Center. Founded in 2014, the center trains Kansas educators to mentor new teachers in their districts. The guidance and collaboration offered through mentorship is crucial to a new teacher’s success and effectiveness, says Lefever-Davis.

How you can help
The goals of the Kansas Mentor and Induction Center include becoming self-sustaining and expanding statewide. Funds from private donors can help in these ways:

  1. Pay for an educator to earn certification from the New Teacher Center to train mentors. Cost is $5,000 for each person trained. The Kansas Mentor and Induction Center would like to train at least two people each year.
  2. Help cover the costs of materials the center uses to train mentors. This year, cost is estimated at $10,000.
  3. Help provide mentoring guides for program leaders in each school district. The cost is about $1,000.
  4. Support a new program to help all teachers improve their ability to educate students on science, technology, engineering and math. This expanded mission was financed this year through a national grant. With the grant expired, funds are needed to create camps where mentors will work directly with teachers and their students on STEM skills.

“The bottom line is that mentoring programs directly impact student achievement, and that’s what it’s all about,” she says. “Quality educators are the most influential factor in student achievement.”

Currently, there are just five trainers working through the center, which has seen participation by school districts more than double. In its first year, the center trained 24 mentors from seven school districts. This year, it will train 64 mentors from 14 districts. Thus, additional funds are needed to add certified trainers to work with the district mentors. In order for trainers to be certified, they must complete training provided by the New Teacher Center. These costs quickly add up.

“As we build capacity, that’s going to be the thing that will restrain us — not having enough trainers,” says Glenda VanSant, director of the Kansas Mentor and Induction Center. “We need to train at least two people a year, and more would be even better.”

Mentors have very specific skills of observation and communication, VanSant says. “They help teachers reflect, ask them guiding questions, get them to think through what they know and make sense of what’s happening in their classrooms.”

Just as important, they help new teachers feel less isolated, she says. “We throw new teachers into the classroom and it becomes trial by fire. But fire can burn out teachers really quickly.”

Research shows that it takes most teachers about five years to be at their best, Lefever-Davis says. Having a highly trained mentor reduces that to three years.

“The retention of beginning teachers grows exponentially if they have a mentor,” she says. “In the long run, it’s better for students to be taught by experienced, qualified teachers.”

 
Photo of three teachers.

circle arrow If you’d like to learn more about ways to support the Kansas Mentor and Induction Center, contact Jessica Treadwell, WSU Foundation director of development for the College of Education, at 316-978-6842 or jessica.treadwell@wichita.edu.

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