New County Teachers Learn Way With Help From Mentors

New County Teachers Learn Way With Help From Mentors
New County

SNOW HILL — A fresh crop of Worcester County Public Schools (WCPS) teachers went through induction last week, a process that paired them with a mentor and introduced them to some new ideas with the county set to start phasing in the federal Common Core Curriculum (CCC) next year.
The four-day orientation expanded in a number of ways this year, according to organizers, and looks to introduce “culturally competent” and fully-supported teachers into the school system at the end of the month.
Featuring guest speakers, lesson demonstrations and discussions on everything from the teacher evaluation process to county performance criteria, the induction program has been built as a comprehensive tool to get new WCPS teachers ready for their first school year in the county. It’s something that rookie teachers have a lot of use for, said Shirleen Church, coordinator for professional development. But it is also a strong tool for educators that have experience teaching in other areas but are unfamiliar with Worcester, a group that makes up about two-thirds of this year’s class.
“This program has expanded so much over the last few years … and each year we try to make it more comprehensive for everybody,” said Church.
A lot of that is because of an expanded mentor program, she continued, with 49 veteran WCPS teachers being selected this year to help guide the 52 incoming instructors. Mentors spent more time being trained this year than in the past and will be a resource to the new teachers after induction is over and into the next school year.
Mentor Megan Cooke, an educator at Buckingham Elementary School (BES), called the program a “great support system” for new teachers. The mentor’s job is to make their mentee “culturally competent” coming into WCPS, she said, and comfortable in everything from designing a lesson plan to organizing grading to discipline in the classroom.
While always important, the changes associated with the implementation of Common Core next year could present additional challenges. However, Cooke is confident that the transition to CCC will be smooth both for veteran educators and their new colleagues.
“I think it’s going to be rather less challenging then people think it’s going to be to take Common Core into the classrooms,” she said.
Cooke’s mentee, Stacey Bredenberg, an incoming BES teacher who has four years of experience teaching in New Mexico, agreed. Her impressions of Common Core have been positive and lead her to believe that there will be a bit more depth of learning under the new standards.
“It’s more hands on. I think it allows the teachers who have been wanting to do more hands on, to let the students explore and that type of thing, I think it lets them do that,” said Bredenberg.
Another new teacher, Matt Wallace, a 14-year teaching veteran from Wicomico who will start at Snow Hill High School in the fall, also isn’t feeling any intimidation by the transition to CCC.
“There are still standards. We came from standards and we’re just getting another set of standards,” he said. “What it boils down to is when something new comes out, we don’t know until we get involved with it.”
Megan Centineo, another new teacher with prior experience headed to Snow Hill Middle School, is interested in how Common Core will apply itself to her subject — music.
“It’s different for me as a non-core subject but there are new things being put into place for me to start teaching some core subject aspects in my room,” she said.
For example, CCC requires a degree of reading comprehension factored into any subject. In music, this can be pretty flexible, noted Centineo.
“For us, text is the lyrics of a song or a sound clip of music,” she said.
Beyond fresh curriculum, the induction this week confirmed to new teachers that WCPS won’t be “throwing them to the wolves,” said Bredenberg, but will instead provide a measured support system through an educator’s first few years in the county, especially through continued contact with mentors.
“My mentor scheduled my planning period the same as her’s so we both are going to have the same planning period so that’ll be nice,” said Wallace.
Parallel to the individual teacher support, Centineo was impressed with the kinds of classroom resources available in Worcester and the level of cooperation amongst educators.
“It just seems like here everyone is supportive of kids being involved in whatever things they want to be in and we’re all going to work together to give them those experiences,” she said.
In instances where students might have to miss work for music events or trips, Centineo was confident that the other teachers in her building would be empathetic about making academics and programs synch up. Bredenberg is approaching the year with a similar outlook, remarking that from everything she’s seen, WCPS is committed to introducing some of the best prepared starting teachers around.