New Teachers Find Support From Mentors
When you walk into Gyna Rios’s first grade dual language classroom at Kent Elementary or Savana Mayfield’s art room at Kentlake High School, it’s obvious they love what they do. From colorful student artwork covering the walls to upbeat music playing in the background, you can tell they’re passionate about teaching. What you might not guess, is they are both new to the teaching profession.
This is Rios’s first year in her own classroom and Mayfield’s second. If you ask them how it’s going, they’ll both say Kent School District’s teacher mentor program has been vital to their journey.
“You have to start from scratch as a new teacher,” Mayfield said. “It’s really helpful to have someone supporting you who knows what it’s like and can answer questions and help you along the way.”
Rios was a paraeducator at Kent Elementary before deciding to pursue her teaching certification through the KSD’s partnership with Antioch University.
“I actually worked as a paraeducator in this same room,” she said with a laugh while gesturing around the room. “It’s a lot more responsibility when it’s your own classroom, there’s a lot going on at all times. I’m always thinking about how to be a better teacher to help my students.”
The New Teacher Mentor Program is one way our district is developing and retaining a diverse and premier workforce.
“When we think about the success of our teachers, it’s really a systemic effort,” New Teacher Mentor Program Specialist Hilari Anderson explained. “Our new teachers need a lot of support in different ways, from emotional to instructional support. We help them reflect on their teaching, include equity in their classrooms, and be mindful about their journey and what brought them to the profession.”
Teachers who are new to the profession have a designated mentor who is dedicated to supporting them throughout their first year. After their first year, teachers have a peer-mentor who is usually in their building.
“I love seeing it come full circle,” New Teacher Mentor Program Specialist Kjell Rowe added. “Teachers I mentored seven years ago are now National Board Certified and helping mentor their colleagues, it’s really rewarding to watch them keep growing into the best teacher they can be.”
“Kjell regularly comes to observe my teaching and talk with me about how things are going,” Rios said. “She also sends me little messages and things to help encourage me.”
When behavior issues arose in Mayfield’s class last year, she reached out to Rowe for guidance and support.
"She helped me become a better teacher,” Mayfield said. “She provided specific strategies, resources, and showed me how to build important relationships with other teachers and staff in my building to better help students.”
“Equity is an important part of our focus and mentors are particularly able to do this because we’re in classrooms every day,” Anderson said. “Ultimately, the goal is improved student outcomes and learning.”
Rios, who was born in Mexico, recognizes how important it is for her students to see someone who looks like them at the front of the classroom.
“Like a lot of our students, when I came to the U.S. I didn’t know any English and it was scary being in a new place,” she explained. “Now, I share my story with my students and tell them they can also go to college and achieve their dreams. I want to be a teacher they remember telling them they could do it.”
Come Teach in Kent!
Join us at our certificated career fair on Saturday, March 7, from 10:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. at Kentlake High School.