El Dorado School District begins new teacher mentor program

Arkansas News

EL DORADO, Arkansas (9/4/19) — The El Dorado School District has implemented a new program to provide better support for its first and second year teachers.

The district began a partnership with the New Teacher Center to begin the Teacher Induction Program.

Superintendent Jim Tucker says for the past three years, they have been researching programs across the country that help develop teachers become really good at their craft.

“We understand that the most important thing you can put in front of a student is a really good teacher,” Tucker said. “It’s the most important part of education.”

Every school in the state has a mentoring program mandated by the Arkansas Department of Education.

The district was using a model by the South Central Cooperative Service but decided to make a change to something they thought would be more beneficial to the teachers.

“We wanted something a little bit more robust, something that offered more guidance and help and something that was more intentional,” Tucker said.

Christy Cranford, 1st grade teacher at Northwest Elementary School, has been teaching for the past 17 years. She still remembers how difficult it was for her when she started her career at 22.

“It was very intimidating,” she said. “I feel like college prepares you for the books and for knowing how to make a lesson but college doesn’t prepare you for the classroom.”

Cranford was selected to mentor a teacher in the district. She has already seen the benefits of the program for herself and her mentee.

“It tells you exactly the things you need to do to help them,” she said.

The impact of the program isn’t just focusing on the teachers. Program Leader Stephanie Lowrey says the main focus is on student achievement.

“Research shows that the teacher is the number one factor in student achievement,” Lowrey said. “The quicker we can help a teacher become effective in their classroom, the greater our students will achieve.”

Mentors help their mentees with their lesson planning, classroom management and just the overall process of being a teacher.

The first and second year teachers were required to participate in the program. The mentors, however, applied and went through an interview process.

“We decided to just see who is interested and passionate about it,” she said. “We didn’t want to overlook someone we didn’t initially think of.”

Lowrey checks in regularly with the mentors and asks them about their work with their mentee and how they can best service them.

There are about 80 first and second year teachers and about 40 mentors. They are required to spend a minimum of three hours with each other.

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