Voices from the Idaho EdNews Community

Teacher mentoring is highly effective, and deserves more support


All people, regardless of the kind of work they do, could benefit from having a mentor as well as serving as a mentor for others. 

Nowhere is that more true than in teaching. Whether someone has gone through a traditional teacher preparation program or come to the profession though an alternative route, those first weeks, months, and even years in a classroom can be daunting and intimidating.

Yet far too often, teachers simply walk into school, close their doors, and do their best. That doesn’t serve anyone well.

That’s why I am so excited about the mentoring program Teach for America Idaho (TFA Idaho) has launched over the past year. We are seeing in real time the impact mentors are having on our young educators.

It is equally important, though, that our mentoring program is providing experienced teachers with perspective and opportunities for growth inside their buildings. For some, that leadership is exactly what they need to stay motivated to remain teachers. For others, it is an opportunity to try on responsibilities of supporting other adults and systems within a school.

Our mentor teachers vary widely in their tenure as teachers. Our most veteran has been an educator for 35 years. All have proven themselves to be masters of their craft, and are widely respected by their peers.

We are pleased to be able to offer mentor teachers a modest stipend for their commitment – $3,500 – but we know money isn’t the driver for those who have chosen to participate. We would like to expand the program to additional schools and districts in the coming years, and help schools and districts expand and enhance their mentor teacher programs.

Herein lies a challenge. Idaho state law actually requires that all new teachers receive mentoring during the first three years of teaching. But this mandate comes without any funding attached. 

As a result, many districts, especially those in rural areas that are strapped for resources, do not offer mentoring on any consistent or regular basis. The state has an opportunity to step up and provide some funding or resources for this mandate, with a priority given to small districts that lack the capacity to fund or support such an effort.

Idaho’s colleges and universities can also play a role, by helping school districts develop mentoring programs that support new educators entering the profession as well as resources for mentors who support new educators. The possibilities are limitless. All it requires is a commitment from the state and some creative thinking.

Mentor teachers also need professional development. That’s one of the strengths of our program. Our seven-person cohort will meet for three full Saturdays over the course of the year as well as regular coaching sessions. Each mentor receives coaching and support in celebrating successes and navigating challenges.

Research studies consistently show the benefits of mentoring for young teachers. It accelerates their mastery of the craft. Less studied but just as real is the benefit mentoring confers upon the veteran teacher.

Michelle Salas, a veteran kindergarten teacher at MOSAICS Charter School in Caldwell and current mentor teacher to Cassedy Carpenter, a second year teacher, has found it to be a rejuvenating experience. 

“There are certain things that don’t excite you the same way after you’ve been teaching for a while,” Michelle says. “Being partners with Cassedy has helped me remember what is exciting about being a young teacher. It has caused me to stop and smell the roses, and see it through her eyes.”

In the well-documented challenges facing the profession in these post-pandemic times, a strong mentoring relationship can build skills and relationships and help stave off burnout. TFA looks forward to being a part of a conversation that we hope will spread the teacher-mentoring message far and wide across our beautiful state. 


Tony Ashton

Tony Ashton

Tony is the Executive Director at Teach for America Idaho. He has been an educator for more than 14 years as a teacher, administrator, and policy specialist.

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