Meet Franklin Elementary kindergarten teacher Emily Morgan. Emily is one of approximately 80 teachers in Lake Washington School District (LWSD) who are entering the classroom to teach for the first time this fall. But these teachers are not going it alone.
For their first two years in LWSD, consulting teachers from the award-winning New Teacher Support Program (NTSP) will mentor and support them as they develop the skills, knowledge and attitudes necessary to help all students meet or exceed district and state standards. By the end of the first year of teaching, research has shown that new teachers who participate in mentoring programs can obtain the skills of a fourth year teacher.
“The New Teacher Support Program is what drew me to this district,” said Emily. “I’m excited to work more with my consulting teacher and draw from her experience with the district.”
Each first-year teacher in LWSD is assigned a consulting teacher to serve as a confidential mentor and instructional coach. The consulting teachers visit their classroom about once a week to offer their support. Consulting teachers provide:
- Assistance with classroom set-up and development of organizational systems.
- Ideas and support for creating and implementing successful classroom management systems.
- Curriculum and content support.
- Information and tips for professional communication.
In addition, consulting teachers offer support and training to:
- Develop lesson and unit plans designed to provide differentiated learning to all students.
- Develop and maintain grading systems and complete required district reporting.
- Analyze student working to guide instruction.
“Consulting teachers are seen as peer colleagues,” said consulting teacher Nora Starosky. “They work to develop a trust-filled, working relationship with the new teacher.”
As a part of the district’s professional learning department, consulting teachers understand the Lake Washington School District culture, curriculum and resources. They provide valuable additional assistance to teachers, helping them to accelerate skill attainment and continue to work with best practices.
In addition to classroom observations, consulting teachers also arrange for new teachers to visit peer classrooms across the district and provide new teacher workshops. A full-day workshop in August prepares new teachers for the opening of school.
“It is great to have someone that you feel comfortable with sharing ideas and someone that helps you think about lessons in different ways,” said Iris McClead, a second year teacher at Evergreen Middle School who participated in the program last year. “My consulting teacher challenged me when I needed it, but also told me it is okay to slow down to take care of myself, too.”
Another second-year teacher, Amy Chackel at Redmond High School, said, “Whenever I had a question or a problem to work through, my mentor teacher was available to talk, brainstorm, and offer words of encouragement. He felt more like a partner than an advisor; however, when I asked for advice, he had the breadth of experience to offer me possible solutions and ideas.”
The New Teacher Support Program was implemented in the 2001-02 school year. LWSD administrators and Lake Washington Education Association (LWEA - the teacher’s union) developed this program as a way to attract, retain and support the best new teachers available and to assure that every student in the district would receive the best education possible. Research shows that concentrated guidance in the first years of teaching accelerates skill attainment and learning for both teachers and students.