Previously on the ATPE Blog, we introduced you to the Millsap Mentor Program and Deann Lee, Millsap ISD superintendent and ATPE member. This month, we’re featuring two other ATPE members from Charlotte Anderson Elementary in Mansfield who happen to be in a mentor/mentee partnership. Janet Olson, the mentor, and Canyon Samuel, the mentee, discuss what it’s like to be involved in a mentor program and the benefits it brings to their education careers.
Tell us about Mansfield ISD’s mentor program.
Janet Olson (JO): MISD has provided a mentoring program, KEEPS, to support the growth and development of all new teachers since 2002. KEEPS stands for “Knowledge-based Encounters Ensuring Professional Success.” New teachers in their first or second year of teaching are paired with a mentor in the same grade level for two years. I’m happy to volunteer within the KEEPS program because it is a very beneficial experience.
Describe what you do in the KEEPS program.
Canyon Samuel (CS): As a part of the program, Janet and I collaborate to meet the needs of many students and foster my professional growth as a new teacher. She provides me with resources, ideas for classroom management, and best practices to help not only me but my students as well throughout this first year. The KEEPS program allows mentors and mentees to also take a “release day” to reflect, collaborate, and share more ideas to further a mentee’s growth in the profession.
JO: Collaborating with Canyon and fostering our professional success is enjoyable, and I value the relationship we’re building together. I assist in any way necessary to help her more easily meet many student needs and share resources, best practices, and classroom management strategies, in addition to communicating with families, organizing and planning curriculum, and navigating the multitude of daily responsibilities encountered within the profession. We meet with other mentees and mentors on campus at least three times per year to connect, reflect, and evaluate during informal roundtable discussions. The program provides us with a full day of release time to plan or observe other classrooms on our own campus or within the district. We assess whatever Canyon may need, meet the needs quickly and effectively, and network to achieve success.
What is your favorite part of being a mentee or mentor?
CS: My favorite part about having a mentor is having someone to turn to. Despite having separate classes, teaching is a team effort. We always do what we can to help one another, and it creates an environment that is like a family. Having someone to help me in my first few years of teaching will be beneficial and has already helped me so much. Janet is someone who has the extended knowledge and expertise to help whenever needed.
JO: My favorite parts of the KEEPS program are the lasting relationships developed based on mutual respect and a lifelong love for students and learning from one another.
What would you say to someone thinking about joining a mentor program or a school interested in starting one?
CS: I would strongly encourage any new teacher to join a mentoring program. It’s beneficial and helps you build your knowledge in the profession. A mentoring program is important to me because it helps with professional growth and building positive and productive relationships. I am someone who is always wanting to learn, and having a mentor to gather knowledge from is a great way to start a career.
JO: Try it! Being a mentor is immensely rewarding. It is a terrific way to expand your perspective and enhance your professional development by seeing the career with fresh eyes. You’ll become exposed to current university curriculum trends, as well as, often, the latest technology expertise new teachers offer. The mentee/mentor relationship adds an exciting new energy level to the day-to-day routine. Being a mentor is one way to continue committing to excellence and ensure our valued students receive the very best educational experiences preparing and inspiring them to lead our world as productive citizens of character.
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