Mentoring program offers support to teachers

New teachers with the Rainy River District School Board spent the last two days in the classroom as part of a mentoring program aimed at giving new staff the support they need when classes begin.
The program, which started last year, matches new teachers to experienced ones throughout the board.
It kicked off with a two-day orientation this week where staff were introduced to the administration, the resources offered by the board, and later to their mentors.
“It’s a great benefit,” Superintendent of Education Terry Ellwood said Monday. “They have the opportunity to meet other new teachers and partner with a mentor to work with the teacher through the course of the year to develop strategies and skills and have a person to bounce ideas off of.”
“First-year teachers are expected to do the same job on the first day that 20-year teachers do,” noted Laurie Holliday, a mentor trainer who helped organize the program here.
The role of the mentor is to support and assist the new teacher. Often they try to match up teachers in the same school or teaching the same grade, but that is not always possible.
“It’s about bringing the new teacher into the system and giving them someone to talk to and find out what the resources are,” said fellow mentor trainer Lucinda Meyers.
“In the end, the students benefit because if the teacher is not sure of something, they can check with their mentor,” she added.
Shane Fiore of Sault Ste. Marie and Elizabeth Cronin of Waubaushene are two of the board’s 17 new teachers who took part in the program this year.
“It’s been pretty useful in getting to meet people and kind of know what the board has to offer,” Cronin said.
“I think it’s a really good idea to have someone to rely on, and also to welcome you to the school community and the community at large,” echoed Fiore.
Peg Keffer, a Grade 6-8 teacher at Crossroads School in Devlin, was a mentor last year with first-time teacher Char Ellwood.
“It was a really wonderful experience for new teachers and teachers that have experience. Both benefited from the partnership,” Keffer said yesterday.
“I think with Char being a new grad, it keeps me up to date on the new ideas coming from the teachers’ college,” she added.
“Mostly it was someone to talk to someone with classroom experience and discuss different situations in the classroom,” Char Ellwood said. “I went into Peg’s position at [J.W.] Walker School so she knew all the staff and the students and that really helped.”
Keffer had some advice for the new teachers in the program.
“Ask lots of questions because you never know. You may feel ‘Oh, this must only be happening to me’ when it is more likely to have happened to everyone,” she remarked.