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UW Coaching and Mentoring Course Trains KSD Mentor Teachers

Teacher Mentors Representing all grade-levels and content areas, Hallie Mills and her colleagues are coming together on a rainy April afternoon to wrap up a 20-week online and in-person hybrid course on coaching and mentoring adult learners. The course, provided by the University of Washington's Teacher Leadership program and taught by KSD Mentor Program Specialist Kjell Stroomer-Rowe, is part of an effort to boost the leadership capacities of Kent School District’s BEST (Beginning Educator Support Team) mentors.

Mills, who teaches at Martin Sortun Elementary School, says it's already paying dividends in the form of greater confidence in her skills and understanding. “I enjoyed this course and know I’ll be able to apply these skills in any situation,” she said.

Over the past three years, the UW Teacher Leadership program has partnered with Anacortes, Nooksack Valley, Mercer Island, Kent, and Northshore school districts to offer cohort-based learning opportunities for more than 100 teacher leaders. Kent School District has offered the coaching course to BEST mentors twice, and hopes to offer the course once again in 2015-2016.

Made possible through an Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) grant, the mentor training increases support for beginning teachers in years 1-3 of their teaching careers. Mentoring in these critical years has shown to increase teacher retention, build skills, and help new teachers become more proficient at a faster rate than their non-mentored peers.

KSD is fortunate to have this competitive grant, and a mentor program, as not all districts can offer this level of support to their beginning teachers. KSD has four full-time mentors, but with over 120 first year teachers and roughly 80 second and third year teachers in need of mentoring, support at the building level is also critical. Mentoring requires a sophisticated set of knowledge and learned skills, which the UW course provides, making it a great fit and a perfect partnership for the BEST mentoring model and these teacher leaders in KSD.

The coaching and mentoring adult learners class is one of three core online courses in the teacher leadership master's program at UW, all designed to assist teachers in working together to improve instructional practice. Participants in the coaching course are engaging with recent research on working with adult learners; using coaching strategies, such as observing instruction and engaging in coaching conversations; collaborating with administration to bring about effective coaching and mentoring programs; and creating action plans for site-based projects implementing their new knowledge.

In addition to online instruction, the program includes supportive in-person seminars hosted by the Kent School District. During the in-person seminars, participants check in with each other about progress on assignments, ask clarifying questions of their instructors, and practice coaching. In their culminating seminar in April, participants shared their final action plans, which included ideas such as models for peer observation and coaching, improved delivery of professional development that is increasingly responsive to staff needs, and more.

“This course made me hungry for more. It opened my eyes to a different role and perspective in education and reignited my passion for teaching,” said Intermediate Intervention Specialist Laura Mroos at Jenkins Creek Elementary School.