Eighteen new teachers for the Ludlow Public Schools began preparation for the upcoming school year by attending a two day orientation program that is part of the district wide mentoring program. The mentoring program was first implemented in 2000 to afford teachers new to the district (protégés) the opportunity to regularly meet with veteran teachers (mentors) for advice, guidance, and support.
During the first few weeks and months, teaching in a new district can be similar to a road under construction with several unexpected twists and turns. Having a mentor to guide a new teacher through the plethora of paperwork and help them navigate the challenges, can decrease the anxiety level, keeping the focus on student engagement and achievement.
Kim Keeton, Mentor Coordinator explained, “Each of the protégés attend this initial two day training that helps them become familiar with the district; we share tips and teaching techniques and most importantly we provide support for them. Our goal is to make them feel part of our Ludlow school community.”
“The program continues for two years, providing a total of 75 hours of training for new teachers,” continued Keeton. “The second year has the protégés joining a building mentor and other second year colleagues within their building. The meetings focus on topics and issues that are specific to each individual school. The groups work together planning lessons, sharing ideas, and advice to help support and develop their teaching skills.”
The mentors were in agreement that the program is extremely beneficial in helping the protégés better prepare as they begin teaching in Ludlow. “We want them to feel welcomed and supported, and to know we will be there for them as both their cheerleaders and advisers,” shared Kaitlin Cookish, 5th grade Inclusion Teacher/Mentor. “We want each of them to start and finish the school year on a positive note.”
“It’s important that they know there are people who they can lean on, to help them with every aspect of their teaching from the paperwork, planning and preparation, to being successful in their classrooms,” added Wendi Lawson, 3rd grade Inclusion Teacher. “It’s a great program.”
Kate Roy, who has been hired as a 2nd grade Inclusion Teacher said the orientation has been very beneficial. “Sharing all of the information with us before we enter the classroom has made me feel more comfortable and prepared for next week. I appreciated the opportunity to attend such a beneficial program.”
“This is the most welcoming school community,” echoed Heather Pighetti, who has been hired as an Inclusion Teacher at Ludlow High School. “ The information being shared, and meeting so many staff people before entering the classroom, has put me more at ease; it’s all been very positive and helpful.”
Nancy Raymond and Jodi Yarkey, Ludlow Education Association (LEA) Co-Presidents were also on hand to lend their support and share information about the organization they lead. “We want them to know they are supported, and not alone,” explained Yarkey. Being a member of the LEA and MTA (Massachusetts Teachers Association) gives them a voice to advocate for themselves and their students to ensure quality education in all of our classrooms.”
Erica Faginski-Stark, Director of Curriculum, is very proud of the mentoring program that has grown in scope each year. “Kim Keeton works throughout the school year with building mentors, individual mentors, and protégés supporting teacher development, offering advice and providing opportunities for new to district teachers to meet with success in all facets of their role. With Kim's dedication and the dedication of building and individual mentors, our protégés have an amazing, built in support network.”
“The key to retaining teachers in a district is to have a strong mentoring program with caring teachers to collaborate with incoming teachers and a supportive administration that recognizes the importance of nurturing these relationships,” shared Keeton. “In Ludlow, I am happy to say we have both, and this is why our teachers have longevity.”