Teachers helping teachers, first year declared success

by Shelby Smithey…
During a special workshop agenda Thursday, Sept. 13, the Escambia County School Board heard an update on a new mentoring program that prepares teachers for the classroom.

The START program, which is an acronym for “Successful Teachers Assisting Rising Teachers,” is a program that allows more experienced teachers to mentor and evaluate new teachers.

Karen Owen, director of Escambia County’s professional learning department, said that the program served 121 novice teachers in their inaugural year.
“A novice teacher is someone who is new to the profession and who has never taught before,” Owen said. “In total, 2,950 hours were spent consulting and evaluating the novice teachers. The average amount of formal time spent coaching and evaluating each teacher was 24 hours.”

Owen said that the program had 12 consulting teachers who mentored and evaluated the new teachers.

“The consulting teachers did everything,” she said. “They played nurse, coach, lifesaver, procurator of resources and evaluator. Teachers are more willing to value feedback from someone they have a relationship with and trust.”

The START program is sponsored by both the school district and the Escambia Education Association and uses a “reflection” method of evaluation, which allows the teachers to view and critique themselves through video.

“One of our goals was to allow teachers to see their reflection and learn to examine their own teaching practice,” Owen said. “Novice teachers showed strength in classroom setup and communication with students, but struggled with discussion and questions.”

The START program has had a 91 percent success rate in its first year, and will currently be able to serve 156 new teachers. Superintendent Malcolm Thomas said that he believes the program will lead to student achievement.

“Out of 121, we had 110 novice teachers that were eligible for rehire,” Owen said. “It’s going to be exciting to see these teachers go into schools and see what they can do with all the training they’ve had.”