Teacher Mentors: Go Slow to Go Fast
At Garfield Elementary School in Springfield, Kerry Grochmal has served as a valuable mentor to her colleague, second grade teacher Paige Kvartunas. “When Kerry and I walk into each other’s rooms to meet and plan it is a feeling of comfort, familiarity, safety, and security,” says Paige who has just begun her first year as a teacher with Fairfax County Public Schools.
The Great Beginnings program gives experienced teachers the opportunity to mentor teachers who are just beginning their careers in education. According to the data, the program has proven to be extraordinarily effective in improving collaboration skills with colleagues and creating a positive learning environment for students.
The relationship between Kerry and Paige is not new. While a student at George Mason University (GMU) earning a master's in elementary education, Paige served as a classroom intern for Kerry. After she graduated, a second grade teaching position opened at Garfield. The Great Beginnings program gave them the opportunity to continue working together as mentor and mentee, with real results. As Paige puts it, “this foundation of our relationship allows for a deeper sense of trust as well as [an] absence of judgement when we are communicating our successes and struggles in the classroom.”
During the time that Paige served as Kerry’s intern, the two spent the majority of their time planning out lessons, reflecting on experiences in the classroom, and bonding. They learned about each other as colleagues and also created a deep, long-lasting friendship.
Kerry describes Paige as a team player. “One of Paige’s biggest strengths is being a collaborator. She does this through listening to others’ ideas, accepting differences of opinions, and sharing her own ideas.” When asked if she could apply one thing to her mentee’s teaching, Kerry responded succinctly, “Go slow to go fast,” and emphasized the importance of getting to know your students, “build those relationships and take time to teach routines and procedures. Take the time now to build that community in order to maximize learning.”
When asked to give hypothetical tweets in the event that the Great Beginnings program could be cut, both responses – even at 140 characters – provided effusive praise for the program’s outcomes. About Great Beginnings and our partner’s support, Paige says “Apple FCU allows educators to build powerful relationships and creates a support system for the newest educators in FCPS.” Kerry responded with equal enthusiasm, “From bouncing ideas to encouragement and advice, mentoring prepares novice teachers, ensuring our children’s futures continue to be bright.”
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The Apple FCU Education Foundation supports a Teacher Induction Network of 12 Northern Virginia school divisions serving almost 4,000 new teachers each year. The Network promotes sharing, problem solving and relationship building among school leaders who are developing a comprehensive, data-inspired approach to new teacher induction. Since 2013, teacher retention has increased from 74 percent to 92 percent overall for Network school divisions. Find more information on the Education Foundation’s website.