Aug 24, 2017
Yearlong Residencies for Aspiring Teachers Launch Statewide; Mentor Cadre to Grow to 2,500 by 2020

BATON ROUGE, La. - The Louisiana Department of Education today launched a paid opportunity for experienced educators statewide to receive training to become mentors and to support aspiring teachers as they complete their preparation programs. Training will begin this fall, and over the next three years, Louisiana will establish a cadre of at least 2,500 professionals equipped with the necessary skills to guide the next generation of educators.

Starting in July 2018, all teacher preparation programs in Louisiana will include a yearlong classroom residency alongside an experienced mentor teacher, coupled with a competency-based curriculum, that will provide teaching candidates with the knowledge and skills needed in order to be prepared for their first day in the classroom. In 2017-2018, 500 mentor teachers will receive professional development to support these yearlong classroom residents and other teachers-in-training. An additional 1,000 mentors will be trained in 2018-2019, and also in 2019-2020.

"Through Believe and Prepare, school systems and preparation programs have come together to address district workforce needs and to ensure that aspiring teachers are prepared through yearlong residencies under the tutelage of Louisiana's best teachers," said State Superintendent John White. "These mentors deserve professional training and recognition for their service in this role."

Louisiana Commissioner of Higher Education Joseph C. Rallo agreed: "Classroom teachers prepare the next generation of our students for the challenges of a competitive, ever-changing world. We owe them the best possible environment in which to hone their skills as they enter one of the most important professions. This newly developed mentorship initiative is a positive and important step toward that goal."

Mentor training will begin in fall 2017. The training will prepare mentors to build relationships with their residents and new teachers; identify and address the needs of their mentees; deliver resources to help their mentees improve; and track their progress. 

The mentors, who will be nominated by their school systems by September 8, must possess a track-record of proven success with student learning; a working knowledge of curricular tools and resources; strong communication and time-management skills; an interest and ability to lead others and help them grow; and a commitment to lifelong learning.

School systems are encouraged to collaborate with teacher preparation partners, such as local colleges and universities, to determine the best teachers to take part in this opportunity. When completing the nomination, school systems may list as many educators as they would like but should rank them by preference, as space is limited.

Each school system has been allocated a specific number of spots for mentor teacher training, based on the size of the school system and workforce needs. School systems that currently receive Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF) grant allocations--federal dollars provided to designed to support the teacher workforce in high-need rural school systems--are given priority. There is a chance additional spaces will be made available, and school systems will be notified of any changes. 

The mentor trainings will include nine, in-person sessions throughout the school year that will be held in two locations--one north of Alexandria and one south. The cost of the training will be covered by the Department, and therefore, the training will be free for participants. In addition, participating teachers who are also hosting undergraduate residents in their classrooms will receive an annual stipend of at least $1,000 to assist with related expenses.

The training will be developed and facilitated by national education experts in The Charles A. Dana Center at the University of Texas at Austin, in collaboration with professional association Learning Forward. These partners were selected through a public request for proposals process earlier this year.

"Teacher mentoring is increasingly seen as a model practice in developing strong, effective educators. When done well, teacher mentoring can even lead to the mentored surpassing the accomplishments of their mentors," said Douglas Sovde, the Center's Director of K-12 Education Strategy, Policy and Services. "The Dana Center is thrilled to support Louisiana's leadership as we work together on this important initiative."

School systems, too, are optimistic about the future. Richland Parish, for example, is now building an innovative formalized teacher support program, called TEACH Richland, that is designed to build talent from within the parish, said Superintendent Sheldon Jones.

"Richland Parish is excited to be hosting four year-long clinical residents and providing on-going coaching to 10 practitioner teachers to help all novice teachers build essential teaching competencies needed to increase student achievement in classrooms across our district," Jones said of the 2017-2018 school year. "None of this would be possible without our cadre of mentor teachers; they are the glue that has made TEACH Richland a reality."

Mentor educators are, indeed, "a critical component in preparation programming," said Louis Voiron, Director of Human Resources for the Lafourche Parish School System. "The more time pre-service teachers actively engage in the daily routine of an effective teacher, the better prepared he or she will be when entering a classroom alone for the first time."

What's more, Voiron added: "Districts and preparation providers working together to identify our best teachers to serve as mentors further strengthens the partnerships that we have cultivated over the years."

For more information about educator preparation in Louisiana, click here.

For more information about the mentor training nomination process, click here.

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