Thursday, October 13, 2016

Mentoring, training by veteran teachers could help retain young teachers in isolated rural areas

Small towns like Circle, Mont., struggle
to keep young teachers (Best Places map)
A key to retaining young teachers in rural areas is to keep experienced teachers who can offer guidance and mentorship, Bronte Wittpenn reports for the Billings Gazette. "For some rural teachers, the professional isolation of being one of only a few teachers in a school, or the only one teaching a certain subject, can drive them toward districts that can offer more support—or out of the profession all together."

John Demming, who teaches science in rural Circle, Mont., told Wittpenn, “You can gain a lot of knowledge in your educational classes. But wisdom comes from combining experience with knowledge. A good teacher that’s been teaching 30 or 40 years is impossible to replace." Montana State University professor Rob Petrone, who trains English teachers, said former students teaching in ruraloften call seeking advice. He told Wittpenn that teachers "would say, 'I’m all by myself. I’m the whole English department."

One solution could be mentoring and training programs, Wittpenn writes. While information is scarce, a 1995 study limited to 12 Montana teachers, "found that pairing experienced teachers who volunteered as mentors with their rookie counterparts resulted in more than 90 percent of teachers staying in the profession after two years, compared with 73 percent of teachers without mentors."

The Montana Office of Public Instruction recently created the Teaching Learning Hub, which provides free learning for the state's K-12 educators in an effort to minimize the time teachers spend away from their classrooms to attend training. So far, more than 3,000 users have registered for the site, with about 1,400 educators from 298 schools having completed courses, Wittpenn writes. Most of the participants are from small schools. (Read more)

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