Mentoring program dubbed huge success

Members of the Rainy River District School Board learned a thing or two at their regular monthly meeting, which was held last night in Rainy River.
Kendall Olsen, chair of the board’s Mentor and Induction Committee (MIC), spoke very highly of the program that involves teaming an experienced teacher with a new one.
A huge success in Olsen’s eyes, the guidance from the mentor appears to have had a positive impact on a number of new teachers.
Ray Koprowski, who worked with two mentors, could not sing the program’s praises enough last night. “They are more than a mentor, they are a friend,” he remarked.
Koprowski also noted there have been several occasions where he just was not sure he could get through a situation.
“One day I told Jean [Hiebert], my mentor at Huffman, that I was tired and was not sure I would be able to get everything ready for the next day,” he told the board. “She listened and then reassured me, telling me to break it down.”
Koprowski said the mentors also listen to first-year teachers and allow them a say at the table.
“It feels good to know that despite their years of experience, they are willing to listen to my ideas,” he said.
“The program is fantastic. It made my first year of teaching an amazing experience.”
Olsen noted the program went beyond simply supporting new teachers last year. “We broke down into teams and looked at different areas in the district’s public schools,” he explained.
Riverview kindergarten teacher Charlene Brubacher noted her team of kindergarten teachers looked at play in the classroom. “It was good to meet with other teachers doing the same thing,” she said.
She said they took their experiences and made changes together by comparing notes.
Technology in the classroom, improving school and home relations, and boys’ learning styles also were looked at by the teams.
Olsen said the MIC looked at the big picture, not only focusing on the new teachers and improving classroom experiences for them and students, but also at how to improve the abilities of the mentors.
“We sent mentors to Calgary for training and I travelled to Minneapolis for training, as well,” he noted.
Olsen said MIC hopes to expand the program from a one-year experience to two years. In the meantime, they also have developed a new Teacher Mentor Manual.
“They all get a big fat binder that most end up collecting dust,” he remarked.
“We hope this new manual will be easier to use. The jury is out on whether it will or not, we will see at the end of the year.”
There currently are 35-40 mentors in the system helping nearly 30 new teachers.
Trustee Ron McAlister praised the program, saying, “If the enthusiasm from these two young teachers is the same with all, I would say the program is a roaring success.”
Olsen thanked the board for extending funding for the program.
“With this success, by all means we hope to continue with financing of the program,” board chairman Dan Belluz said.