New Bayfield teachers to get mentors

Program also set to help struggling teachers

Rookie teachers in Bayfield schools will have mentors to improve their chances of success. So will existing teachers who are struggling.

Education consultant Becky Smith, a retired Ignacio teacher and former Bayfield School Board president, described the program to the school board on Aug. 12.

"Bayfield is doing a lot to support teachers on quality instruction," she said. "We have high standards for teachers. A new teacher has a lot to take on. We've designed a support program for them, a teacher to work with them for the entire year, an experienced teacher, to create a successful year for the new teacher, to bring them into the teacher community and keep them in the position."

Smith listed two levels of mentoring - intensive for rookie teachers or existing teachers who are struggling, and less intensive for experienced teachers coming in from another district. "They know how to be teachers," Smith said. Second-year teachers also will be in that group.

First time teachers and teachers new in the district are required to participate. Other teachers can ask to have a mentor.

The mentors are experienced teachers who volunteer to participate. "A mentor has to be a special person," Smith said. "They need at least three years teaching experience and have a good understanding of initiatives in the district. ... We have some great teachers who aren't a good coach with other adults. We need people who can be a supportive coach. Principals will ask them. They can say no."

Smith said she would train the mentors over the next two to three weeks, in "what good mentoring looks like." She expects there will be around 14 mentors. They will be paired with mentees in similar grade levels and content areas - a maximum of two per mentor for the more intensive mentoring, and a maximum of three for the less intensive.

Each mentor and mentee must meet face-to-face three times per quarter, Smith said, and communicate weekly.

"The program isn't tied to the evaluation process at all," she said. "We want them to have the time to grow without that pressure."

Mentors will be asked to keep a log, but what's said between them and their mentee is confidential, Smith said.

She said she met with new staff in early August, and "There was great relief that they'll have mentors. ... At the end of the year, the new teachers will rate the mentors, and the mentors will rate the program, so we know what to adjust for next year."

The board approved extra duty stipends for mentors at their Aug. 26 meeting. That list had 11 mentors with stipends ranging from $750 to $1,250.