WINDHAM — For the past decade, veteran staff in the Windham School District have been taking new teachers under their wings to help them learn the ropes.
This fall, the district is taking things a step further and feedback has been positive.
Longtime mentors Jeanne Guessetto and Paula Renda, both teachers at Golden Brook School, began working last summer to devise an updated plan for reaching out to fledgling educators.
Kori Becht, district director of curriculum, instruction and assessment, met with the two teachers last spring to discuss an expansion of mentoring opportunities.
“These two teachers have been vital to the program over the past two years, and they both spent a good part of their summer revising the program,” Becht said this week.
Renda, who teaches second grade, said the program is multi-faceted, focusing on teacher training, orientation, professional development and mentoring.
“Our general feeling is that developing effective teachers ultimately increases student achievement,” Renda said, noting that she expects the revamped mentorship program will “be more effective in helping students to aim higher and improve more.”
Guessetto, who teaches first grade, said she and Renda used the summer months as an opportunity to meet with educators in other districts and learn what those districts are doing to guide their new hires. At Timberlane Regional High School, they became intrigued by a mentorship program that lasts two years rather than one.
“By having such a clear vision and goals in place, Timberlane has succeeded in creating some highly effective teachers,” Guessetto said. “So we’re following in their footsteps, starting with a new definition of our rules and responsibilities.”
With a new selection process in place, mentors in the Windham School District are highly qualified, she noted, and the process of observation is now more clearly defined.
“We want to put in place clear expectations and time frames,” Guessetto said.
A yearly calendar now dictates goals on a month-to-month basis, with mentors and their charges meeting to discuss those goals at least once each week — or more frequently if there is need.
“It’s still very much a work in progress, but we did come up with a complete calendar of agenda topics,” Guessetto said. “The first few weeks of school can be very, very overwhelming when you’re a new teacher and many seem to appreciate the calendar and its clear focus.”Both teachers agreed they’d appear before the Windham School Board later in the academic year to give an update on the program’s success.