Developing Dynamic Teachers
By Robert Schroeder
All Illinois certified teachers are required to have a mentor as part of their first year on the job. National Louis University is taking this requirement to a new level through its partnership with the Associated Talmud Torahs (ATT) of Chicago, an organization serving the greater Chicagoland Jewish community as its central agency for religious education.
National Louis University professors are coordinating a mentorship program with eight teachers from private Jewish schools around Chicago to provide in-depth, one-on-one support and professional development as part of the ATT's Encouraging Professionalism in Chinuch (EPIC) program. The program started when both new and experienced teachers in Chicago-area Jewish schools expressed a desire for development opportunities.
"What we do is not evaluative and what we do is not prescriptive," said Dr. Jeffrey Winter, associate professor in the National College of Education. "I'm taking every opportunity I can to just continue to grow together and to continue to help that person in terms of the kinds of things that I see and think, as well as providing that person with additional resources."
Winter looks for mentors who are unique fits for each of the eight teachers. The supervisors, principals and teachers who mentor provide guidance on both specific curriculum questions, like improving math-teaching methods, and more general techniques like planning, assessment and management. The key, says Winter, is finding an appropriate pair to meet each mentee's individual needs.
Winter also runs a professional development series geared at keeping teachers current with the latest in educational trends practices. On Dec. 21, 2010, Winter presented a workshop titled "Stand by Your Plan: How Teaching Plans Affect Student Achievement." On Monday, Feb. 7, Winter hosted a second workshop examining sources of stress in the teaching field.
"[These are] an opportunity for them to look at the issues of lesson and unit planning more closely to examine some of the rationale behind planning, to look at the different approaches to planning and ways to bring some new perspectives to the planning they currently do," Winter said.
The lessons provided as a mentor translate directly into the lesson plans in classrooms at National Louis University.
"It benefits me as a mentor in terms of my own professional growth," Winter said. "There have been things I have found through this program that I have brought to my classes, and there are things I have brought from my classes to the EPIC program."