The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, November 30, 2001


Mentoring program fosters excellence in teaching

The Teacher Mentor Program helps sustain the culture of educational excellence at the Carlisle Public School. Recently developed by school steering committee members, teachers Jenn Putnam, Gene Stamell, Sara Bysshe, Susan Fitzgerald, Steve Bober, Ann James and Paula Ewers, and principal Andy Goyer, its mission is "to promote the professional development of new teaching staff by fostering collegiality, encouraging reflective practices, and creating a culture of support within a community of learners." Veteran teachers are made available to help new teachers feel supported and become familiar with the staff and ways of the Carlisle school system. Superintendent Davida Fox-Melanson said, "We are so lucky to have people of this caliber transmitting the culture in the Carlisle School."

Veteran teachers as mentors

During the summer of 2000 the steering committee members learned all aspects of a mentoring system with representatives of a number of other school systems in a training program. This past year the program was instituted in Carlisle. The committee solicited veteran teachers as mentors and organized meetings with the new teachers throughout the year. They have since designed a Mentor Handbook available to all new teachers to Carlisle as well as their designated mentors.

A regular course on mentoring has been added to the instructional courses for the faculty. This winter the course on mentoring includes a series of five instructional periods open to other teachers in the school system. Topics covered are the definition of a mentor: his/her role and responsibility; the decision-making process and the Carlisle school culture; a session of role playing, encouraging listening skills and providing feedback; peer observations, how to take notes, observe and share information; and a review of the Mentor Handbook.

Special education teacher Susan Fitzgerald said there is always a concern whenever there is a turnover of new teachers at the beginning of the year. The mentor program increases the effectiveness of new staff. Third grade teacher Gene Stamell emphasized that all conversations within the mentor-teacher relationship are confidential.

The steering committee provides interested and qualified mentors from the school community but the school administration actually makes the final match with the new teacher.

Third-grade teacher Stamell said that "Being a good mentor is to understand how someone else feels and how to communicate in a valuable way."

Colleagues observed

Seventh-grade teacher Sara Bysshe said that the program recommends that a mentor observe the new teacher for a minimum of two times a year. New teachers are encouraged to observe colleagues in action and can also find help by being connected with the various grade teacher teams.

Sandy Kelly, the library media specialist said, "As a new staff member the program can make a huge difference in someone's life." Seventh-grade teacher Steve Bober acknowledged, "It is a very satisfying experience." Superintendent Fox Melanson said, "The program works very well. It becomes interesting to hear reflections and see how the teachers have grown as a result. It makes new teachers realize how important they are to the school."

All new teachers have mentors

School committee member Cindy Nock asked about teachers who enter the school system in the middle of the year. The answer is all new teachers receive a mentor no matter when they enter the year. Teachers who change positions within the school community will also receive help on a case-by-case basis. Nock commented, "It is a wonderful way to transfer a veteran teacher's gifts to a teacher new to Carlisle.

2001 The Carlisle Mosquito