Walk the Mentor Walk

I believe my profession is the noblest calling on the planet. But I know from 29 years of experience that it is also one of the most difficult. Some say the only tougher job is being a parent!

I know the rewards of being an educator, so it breaks my heart each time I see someone walk away. That’s why I strive to create an environment in which educators are supported through the early years in the profession, which is when most quit, as well as to continue to grow veteran teachers.

Four years ago, I became the assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction at Millsap ISD. One of the objectives in the job description that drew me to the position was the development of a mentor program. It was my dream come true! While each district must create a program that meets the needs of their staff, I encourage any educator seeking a job to find a place that talks the mentor talk and walks the support walk.

The Millsap Mentor Program provides new MISD teachers the opportunity to receive the ongoing support, encouragement, and understanding necessary to experience success. The mentor program also recognizes exemplary teachers as mentors who will provide leadership. We believe personal growth occurs in effective instruction, enabling students to acquire the skills, competencies, and understanding necessary for success. Mentors assist mentees with all aspects of the profession and support their teaching and instructional practices. Teachers previously employed but new to MISD are also included in the mentor program. Aspects of our program include:

  • Teachers new to Millsap ISD are contacted over email and phone calls, or approached in person by various staff members, prior to New Staff Orientation during the summer.
  • A two-day New Staff Orientation is held where new employees are introduced to and trained by key staff members in the areas of mission/vision/values and the operations of technology, transportation, custodial, maintenance, and business procedures. New staff are trained in the instructional implementation of the books Fundamental 5 and The First Days of School, T-TESS, Thinking Maps, etc. Principals meet with new staff, and we invite inspirational speakers. A highlight of our orientation is Meet Your Mentor Day where mentors and mentees have lunch together and get to know each other. We also give attendees an evaluation to fill out to gather input for future orientations.
  • Mentors receive training on the phases new teachers go through and how to offer support throughout the cycle. Expectations are reviewed and appreciation is expressed for mentors who share their wisdom and experience. Our mentor unit meets at least once each semester to exchange ideas and receive additional training. A small stipend is given to mentors for the extra time required to adequately support a mentee.
  • Coworkers and the administration offer constant support through many means of communication throughout the year.
  • New employee classrooms are visited on a frequent basis, particularly at the beginning of the school year, but visits at least every two weeks continue throughout the year.
  • Mentors and mentees observe each other’s classrooms to hone best practices and provide productive feedback.
  • Cohort groups created according to years of service meet throughout the year to address areas of need and to celebrate successes.
  • An evaluation performed by mentors, mentees, and the administration measures the effectiveness of the program. Adjustments are made for the next year’s program.

New Bulldogs cite the level of support and acceptance they receive as one of the most positive things about Millsap ISD. Our retention rate has increased each year since the program was implemented.

Don’t let students miss the joy of having the special people in their lives that they deserve. Seek out a strong program, be a mentor, or talk to someone in your district about creating a mentor program. The students are the winners every time.

Deann Lee has been the superintendent of Millsap ISD schools since August 2016. Previously, as assistant superintendent of MISD, Lee introduced a mentor program for teachers, fostered the development and use of instructional technology programs, and facilitated the strategic planning initiative at Millsap campuses.

Prior to working at MISD, Mrs. Lee served in Paris ISD for 23 years. There she held several positions, including special education supervisor and federal programs director. A tireless advocate for education, Lee served as the 2012-13 president of ATPE. Lee is active in numerous organizations and is politically involved as an advocate for public education.

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