Atwater School District earns accreditation for teacher mentoring
The Atwater Elementary School District has developed a two-year program that helps its new teachers mature into seasoned professionals who are more likely to stay in their jobs for many years.
Ana Boyenga, the district’s assistant superintendent of Educational Services, said it took the district three years to get accredited by the California Teaching Commission to offer the teacher mentoring program.
Diana Heller, Stephanie Ludwig and Linda Lamerson, teachers on special assignment, head up the induction program.
Atwater, the Los Banos Unified School District and Merced Union High School District are the only school districts in Merced County to offer their own induction programs.
“We need to support our new teachers so they stay. It’s customized to their needs, not a cookie-cutter approach. This is a selling point that they are going to get a coach when they come. It’s really important for our school district and board,” Boyenga said.
Heller said new teachers are not sure what to expect when they start teaching. Expectations could be completely different from reality. She said Atwater’s induction program is unique and differs from others.
The district has 232 teachers and is still looking for new teachers, Boyenga said. In her 25th year in education, she said she had a mentor teacher when she started out.
The teacher induction program operates all year round. Participating teachers who have provisional credentials when they start take part in an exit interview at program’s end and then get a clear teaching credential.
Each induction participant receives a minimum of one hour per week of individualized support from a full-time mentor. Each participant develops a unique Individual Learning Plan which is used for professional growth. The plans are based on the California Standards for the Teaching Profession.
The ultimate goals of the program are to increase student achievement in meeting California’s adopted state standards by developing teacher competence. The district wants every student to have a highly qualified teacher who continues to grow as a professional through reflection, collaboration with colleagues and adoption of appropriate teaching methods.