Three Types of Mentors Support Our New Hires
By NICHOLAS J. MYERS/School Administrator, August 2018

AS A 15,000-student elementary school district in the suburbs northwest of Chicago, Schaumburg School District 54 devotes considerable time and resources to identify and hire the strongest teaching candidates available. In a typical year, we will hire about 150 new teachers, a volume requiring a systematic approach to identify top teaching talent and bring them on board.

District 54’s hiring process requires candidates to successfully complete a screening interview at the district level, building-level interviews with administrators and teaching team members and a performance lesson with students. These steps enable us to thoroughly evaluate the fit of each candidate.

While identifying and securing this talent is critical, it is just as important to nurture new teachers through a smooth transition into their first years of employment. We do this through a structure consisting of three types of mentoring.

District 54 begins this process in August with four days of induction week activities tailored to meet the needs of each new hire. Beyond an overview of the district’s culture, curriculum and operating practices, we reserve time for each new hire to meet with a mentor assigned by the district. The mentors support new teachers as they confront the inevitable challenges that emerge in their first years.

We provide this support through the use of full-time release mentors, one-on-one mentors and building operational mentors. Through these three mentoring structures, which have been in place for the past 10 years, we cultivate strong, trusting relationships between mentor and mentee.

» FULL-TIME RELEASE MENTORS are assigned to new teachers with fewer than four years of teaching experience elsewhere. These mentors maintain caseloads of about 20 mentees, and they establish strong working relationships by conducting weekly classroom observations, facilitating individual debriefings, sharing classroom management strategies, co-planning lessons and analyzing student work samples.

The full-time release mentors work with their mentees in understanding the school district’s Teacher Appraisal Plan, often by helping them reflect on post-conference and summative feedback provided by the building principal. The mentors celebrate the positive feedback their mentees receive while assisting the new teachers by placing critical feedback in its proper context.

» ONE-ON-ONE MENTORS are assigned to new staff members in specialized positions, such as occupational therapists, physical therapists, psychologists, social workers and speech and language pathologists. These mentors facilitate induction week sessions with their mentees each August and remain an ongoing resource to new hires through their first two years in District 54.

Required instructional mandates, modes of scheduling students, child study team protocols and individualized education plan processes are discussed at length to ensure new hires understand the full scope of their responsibilities. The mentors facilitate monthly meetings and serve as a direct line of communication to ensure the mentee has a confidential, safe and reliable contact to solve problems that emerge.

» BUILDING OPERATIONAL MENTORS are assigned mentors based at the school to support all new teachers at that school. These mentors are selected by the school principal. They serve as a resource for cultural and procedural questions and meet monthly with all new hires to share timely information, answer questions and direct new teachers to resources as needed.

In addition to instructional planning support, these mentors provide mentees with a network of social support inside of the school, connecting new hires to staff colleagues in formal and informal settings.

NICHOLAS MYERS is associate superintendent in the Schaumburg School District 54 in Schaumburg, Ill. Twitter: @54myers54