Voice from the Classroom: The Value of a Mentor

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I’m new to teaching and have recently earned my master’s in education. I just started to implement the strategies I learned during student teaching in my own classroom. Getting to start from scratch is very exciting, but also a little intimidating. I am finally moving from wondering how I would make my classroom look, how I would start each class, how I would run each class, and how I would teach the curriculum, to actually putting it all into practice.

Learning in the classroom isn't just for students! Mentors can be invaluable for new teachers. (Photo courtesy of the author.)

Learning in the classroom isn’t just for students! Mentors can be invaluable for new teachers. (Photo courtesy of the author.)

I’ve always asked a lot of questions and welcomed advice from others, but sometimes other teachers don’t have the time to take out of their day to provide guidance. Every teacher is so busy — balancing life and work; in fact, I don’t know a teacher who works only 40 hours a week. However, somehow I was lucky enough to find myself not only in a great school, but in a fantastic math department, with the best mentor I could ask for.

My mentor has been there every step of the way – I don’t know how I would have managed to be as successful as I’ve been without her. She is open to collaboration and eager to help when I have a question. She has been there to address many of the aspects of my teacher duties, even parent teacher conferences and district mandates.

One obstacle I faced was that the university I attended was in Virginia, and I was unfamiliar with the curriculum in Washington State, where I teach. When I first met with my mentor and the others in my department in early August I didn’t feel fully prepared to teach the new class. However, my mentor was eager to guide me and share resources that the previous teacher had utilized. She and others in my department taught me about the school culture and the material I would soon teach.

Since the beginning of the school year, I have met with my mentor a number of times to discuss what we are teaching. We discuss strategies for working with specific students and how to present the material. We plan each class and my mentor has gone out of her way to buy materials to help my lessons run smoothly and effectively.

I really admire her. She embraces all aspects of her job, is remarkable at what she does, and somehow still finds time to support me. She has been fundamental in my early success, and I truly do not know how a new teacher can be effective without a seasoned mentor. Experienced teachers who have constructive advice for teachers new to the field have a valuable role to play. Their guidance is welcomed and appreciated. I hope every new teacher has the opportunity to learn from a veteran teacher.

Morgan Meyers teaches math at Woodward Middle School in the Bainbridge Island School District in Washington state.  She graduated from Old Dominion University in Virginia with a Master’s in Secondary Education, Mathematics. This is her first year teaching.