A teacher’s first year in the classroom can be daunting. This fall, the South Dakota Department of Education will launch a virtual mentoring program – the Teacher to Teacher Support Network – designed to help rookie teachers survive their first year on the job.
“National statistics show that the turnover of new teachers is high,” said Melody Schopp, director of accreditation and teacher quality for the South Dakota Department of Education. “We know that first year is critical. This program is about supporting our newest teachers, so that they are successful and remain dedicated to the profession.”
According to the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, a third of newly hired teachers leave the profession during their first three years. Almost half leave during the first five years.
Through the Teacher to Teacher Support Network, first-year teachers will be paired with veteran South Dakota teachers. The mentors chosen to participate in the network will be selected from among previous Milken Award winners, state Teacher of the Year candidates, National Board Certified Teachers, and Presidential Awardees for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching.
The veterans will offer advice and support on a variety of topics ranging from discipline issues to parent-teacher conferences. Rookies will be expected to develop a professional development plan that will guide the mentoring partnership.
“We’ve laid out certain guidelines and expectations for our mentors, but we want the relationships to be driven by the needs of the first-year teachers,” Schopp said. “Our goal is to give these teachers the support they need to become confident, accomplished professionals. If that happens, we should have a better chance of keeping them in the classroom.”
The Teacher to Teacher Support Network will be open to 110 first-year teachers and 55 mentors. Mentoring will be done through electronic means such as e-mail, phone calls and the Digital Dakota Network. “We think this arrangement will appeal to new teachers in some of our more rural and isolated districts, where they may not have the benefit of an onsite mentor,” Schopp said.
Both veteran and rookie teachers will be selected through an application process. Veterans will be paid $1,000, while rookie teachers will receive $500. The program is funded by Title II-A.