Passing the Torch: Funding Teacher Mentorship Ignites Lasting Educational Excellence
by Dan Mullins
Geared towards teachers in their first five years of service, the Lester B. Pearson School Board’s Teacher Mentoring Program seeks to support and encourage teachers who are new to the profession.
While the training required to become a teacher is quite comprehensive and rigorous, having an experienced teacher who can provide specific help with the diverse challenges new teachers experience is invaluable. Ultimately, some teachers who might otherwise leave the profession may instead choose to remain and thrive as expert teachers and may one day impart their knowledge to a future cohort of incoming teachers.
The Board has long valued mentorship and placed great importance on supporting new teachers. But while mentoring initiatives have existed in the past, new opportunities arose during the 2022-2023 school year, when Quebec’s Ministry of Education made additional funds available. That funding continues this year, and the Board’s program is in full bloom.
Mentor teachers of the LBPSB establish meaningful relationships with new teachers, providing insight into pedagogy, but also classroom management, communication with parents, evaluation and reporting, and many other aspects of teaching. In addition to both one-on-one conversations and larger group activities, mentor teachers are empowered to observe and work with teachers in their classrooms while students are present.
Groups of Mentors and Mentees during the October 12th event
A network of Mentors further strengthens the program. The mentors work together to bring professional development and resources to their mentees and support one another to meet the needs of the new teachers they’re working with. On Google Classroom, which provides a virtual meeting space, there are often postings such as “I have a grade 3 teacher who could benefit from observing someone who is experienced with teaching multiplication. Who can help?” There is always someone available and new teachers are encouraged to observe their more experienced colleagues in other schools.
Overseeing the effort are Nathia Messina, the Assistant Director of the LBPSB’s Educational Services Department, and Sheila Dunwoodie, a pedagogical consultant also with Ed. Services. Ms. Messina and Ms. Dunwoodie facilitate communication between mentors and find resources they might need, asking the mentors for their recommendations on the types of professional development that would be most useful to the new teachers.
“Working with the mentoring program has become one of the most rewarding parts of my job,” says Ms. Dunwoodie, “I am consistently blown away by the wisdom and commitment of the mentors and know that the new teachers with whom they’re working are benefiting from their experience and generosity.”
The School Board provides 4 days during the school year for all the mentors and new teachers to come together for professional development and fellowship. On these days, pedagogical consultants from Educational Services also meet with the new teachers whose workloads fall with the consultants’ dossiers, helping to establish or strengthen working relationships that may benefit the new teachers throughout their career.
The Student Services department is also running a series of 3 half-day workshops about inclusive education at LBPSB, where new teachers learn about everything from differentiated teaching through curriculum modification and adaptation for students to Individual Education Plans (IEPs) to effective classroom management and beyond.