Defining Support: Teacher Mentors

There is a quote posted on the refrigerator in the staff lounge at BASIS Independent Manhattan from Todd Whitaker. It reads: “The best thing about being a teacher is that it matters. The hardest thing about being a teacher is that it matters every day.”

Our dedicated and passionate teachers are a cornerstone of every BASIS Independent Schools‘ success. We are thrilled to have a Teacher Mentor program where the focus is not only to have a faculty that supports our students, but also a faculty that feels supported.

In this post, we will introduce you to a few of our Teacher Mentors at BASIS Independent Manhattan, explain what they do, and how their contributions are making an impact on a daily basis.

Meet Our Teacher Mentors

Ms. Christine Pham is a grade 5 Science Subject Expert Teacher and founding faculty member at BASIS Independent Manhattan. She has been a part of the BASIS Curriculum Schools network for over five years.

Ms. Catherine Odens served as a grade 4 Learning Expert Teacher in BASIS Independent Manhattan’s inaugural year. She now teacher Humanities in grade 4 and brings to the mentoring role her previous experience of teaching within the BASIS Curriculum Schools network in Arizona.

Ms. Jennifer Dickens joined BASIS Independent Manhattan in 2018 as a U.S. History Subject Expert Teacher. She brings a fresh perspective and balance to the mentor program with her background in both public and charter schools.

What is a Teacher Mentor?

The role of our Teacher Mentors is to:

  • Serve as an additional line of support for our teachers (professionally and emotionally)
  • Conduct classroom observations
  • Provide constructive and positive feedback, along with helpful resources
  • Help build positive relationships
  • Assist in the process of making our teachers the best that they can be for our students

What do Teacher Mentors do?

Each day, our Teacher Mentors work as a coach and confidant. In their coaching, the Teacher Mentors give praise and constructive feedback to their colleagues in the form of specific actions that can then be used directly in the classroom.

First, there is a process in which the Head of School, along with the team of administrators in Academic Programs and Student Affairs, assess the needs of our faculty. Based on the mentor’s areas of expertise, they are paired with specific teachers to work together. Topics they cover in weekly check-ins or “on the spot” during classroom observations could include everything from classroom management, student engagement, teacher presence, and lesson planning enhancement.

Every Monday, the Teacher Mentors open our staff meeting with a 10-minute professional development flash session covering an array of topical advice. The sessions are best practices covering a variety of instructional, classroom management, and planning strategies.

BASIS Independent Schools teacher mentors meeting

Can you give an example of growth you’ve seen or experienced in your mentoring?

Ms. Pham: Sometimes there is a heavier focus on math and not enough time spent on science. In my collaboration with the Primary Program’s Math & Science Department, we have been working to make sure there is a balance between the two disciplines by incorporating hybrid lessons and coming up with ideas to make science more engaging for our younger students. Within a couple of weeks, one improvement I immediately noticed is the increase in student engagement through the use of whiteboards during class sessions, which checks for understanding and helps reinforce the students’ skills.

Ms. Odens: Setting aside 20 minutes each week with a team of teachers for one grade has carved out a safe time for collaboration where the end result is improvement. Using a “Glows and Grows” worksheet, we pick one topic and then sit down to go over what worked (the glow), what didn’t, and how we can fix it (the grow).

Ms. Dickens: In my work with one teacher, she immediately implemented feedback I provided on classroom management and strategies for engagement, which is very difficult. The teacher told me she revamped her lesson plan for that day to use the class’s desire to socialize in a productive way. She successfully navigated student personalities to create group leaders for discussions, which drew on their strengths and helped them succeed and stay focused. Literally, the same day there was a change to the lesson plan that resulted in magic in the classroom.

Our Vision

As we grow as schools and communities, our Teacher Mentor program continues to help our faculty optimize their performance. Each teacher at BASIS Independent Schools is hired with a purpose and we want them to be able to shine in their classroom, putting their passion and expertise on display. Teacher Mentors help strengthen peer relationships and enhance the effectiveness of each teacher inside and outside of the classroom. It is a collaboration where the end benefit is that teachers excel and the students thrive.

This post originally appeared on the BASIS Independent Manhattan Eureka! blog.

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