Byline: Anna Johnson Daily Herald Staff Writer
When Angie Heuser's fifth-grade students walk through the door of Maplewood Elementary School next week, the Algonquin resident knows she will have some first-day jitters.
Although she has seven years teaching experience, this year she switched school districts - from one in Mt. Prospect to one in Cary Elementary School District 26 - and in some ways its feels as if she is starting her career anew.
But Heuser believes the nervousness will easily subside, thanks in part to her mentor, Rita Patterson, who also teaches fifth grade at Maplewood.
"It's nice to come into a building and know someone," Heuser said. "They can just give you a smile when you don't know what's going on, and it really helps."
Patterson and Heuser were teamed up just a couple of weeks ago as mentor and "mentee" as part of the district's first official mentoring program. Since meeting, the two attended a workshop together and have spent time setting up their classrooms and getting to know the school building.
"The best thing for new teachers is to have veteran teachers walk them through it," said Sandra Thornhill, District 26's executive assistant for organizational development. "And I think this program is going to be an excellent, excellent addition to what we do here in the district."
Thornhill said District 26 decided to create a mentor program this year for the same reasons many other districts have - to attract qualified teachers and hopefully retain them once they've started.
Throughout the year, the mentor and mentee - most of whom teach in the same grade level at the same school - will meet frequently both on their own and at district-wide program meetings. The two will hopefully build rapport, trust and skills that will improve their teaching performance and enhance student achievement.
Bill DuBois, sixth grade teacher and co-chair for Elgin Area School District U-46's mentor program, believes mentoring benefits not only the new teacher but the veteran as well.
While the new teacher learns how to adjust to the classroom and become a better teacher faster, the veteran teacher often learns new teaching methods and ideas from the recently graduated new teacher.
"Not only are we trying to help new teachers, but we are encouraging veteran teachers to become leaders," DuBois said. …