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Tampa Bay Business Leaders Weigh in on Role of Mentors

Mentoring has long been viewed as a valuable professional development and evaluation tool in many fields, most notably in the corporate world. In fact, in the private sector, 75 percent of executives point to mentoring as playing a key role in their careers, according to the American Society for Training and Development. We asked area business leaders to share their thoughts on the value of mentoring:

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I have had many mentors in my career. The advice I received was crucial and on many occasions, a mentor’s advice was pivotal in major career decisions. Just as important, though, were the examples they set for me. I have been blessed to have mentors that showed me by doing rather than just by telling. I also think the mental effect of knowing that I had people I could go to and that were cheering for me did wonders for my self-confidence.”
— John Fontana, President, Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino


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My mentor, who took a chance on me when I was young and inexperienced, served as a role model and showed me that women can succeed in business. She helped me believe I could go as far as I wanted to go.”
— Laurie Goldman Noya, General Manager, Westfield Mall, Brandon


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I attribute a large part of my success to the various lessons taught to me by my mentor. He taught me many things, including to always act like a professional and to take the high road."
— Alton C. Ward, Shareholder, Hill Ward Henderson

 

 

 




































 

Mentors and Peers

to Provide Perspective

to Hillsborough Classrooms



When the new school year starts in the fall, Hillsborough County Public Schools (HCPS) will launch a groundbreaking new system for evaluating and supporting teachers. As students and teachers return to the classroom, they’ll be greeted by a corps of energetic, highly trained and diverse fellow teachers who will serve as peer evaluators and mentors.

More than 100 peers and mentors will work with teachers in the classroom and provide ongoing feedback that will be used as part of a redesigned evaluation system. Mentors will provide guidance to new teachers, while peer evaluators will be assigned to experienced teachers. This system is a critical component of HCPS’ Empowering Effective Teachers initiative, funded by a seven-year, $100 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The goal is to improve student achievement by ensuring that every classroom has a highly effective teacher.

For the peers and mentors, their new roles provide an opportunity to have a real impact on students, on their colleagues—and on the future.

Dave Giberson, a former teacher at Gaither High School, came out of retirement for the chance to take on this new challenge.

“I was encouraged by former colleagues to apply to become a peer evaluator,” said Giberson. “I spent 41 years teaching before I retired, and I knew this program was something I’d want to be a part of. I’m most looking forward to seeing great teaching in action.”

As Superintendent of Schools MaryEllen Elia told the inaugural class of mentors and peers at a recent orientation session, the task ahead of them is great.

“You are going to impact every teacher in every classroom,” she told the group. “This is going to bring us the change we need.”

Peer and Mentor Program at a Glance

  • More than 650 teachers applied to become peers and mentors.

  • Of those, 72 peers and 47 mentors were chosen by a committee that included teachers, curriculum staff, principals and HCPS administrators.

  • Those selected are among HCPS’ highest-performing classroom teachers. Applicants were rated on education level, training/professional development, student achievement, mentoring experience, leadership/management experience, collaboration, evaluation scores and administrative references.

  • Peers and mentors will serve two- to three-year rotations, and then return to teaching.

  • More than 13,000 teachers will be evaluated through this new system during the 2010-2011 school year.

  • Eventually, 30 percent of a teacher’s evaluation will be based on feedback from either a peer or a mentor. The remaining portion will be based on principal feedback (also 30 percent) as well as student learning gains (40 percent).

A Closer Look at the New Peer/Mentor Roles

The peers and mentors each will have distinct roles. Peers will observe teachers between two and eight times during the year and will be tasked with providing insightful and consistent feedback, as well as an evaluation. In addition to the evaluation, the mentors will work closely with their assigned first-year teachers to provide coaching and observational analysis of their classroom activities. Each mentor will be assigned approximately 15 teachers and will spend time providing guidance that will help these teachers grow professionally and enhance their skills.

Barbara Lee, a mentor with 31 years of teaching experience, recalled that when she first began her career, “the experienced teachers took me under their wing. They wanted me to learn the art of teaching,” she said. “That’s what I want to pass on to the next generation of teachers.”

Marie Rodgers, who teaches at McDonald Elementary School, said she was looking forward to her new mentor role. “I do a lot of work now with new teachers in our school and I really enjoy that,” she explained. “I thought how exciting it would be to have that be my job.”

Intensive training will begin for peers and mentors in June and continue through the summer. One of their tasks will be to learn how to fairly and consistently use HCPS’ new teacher evaluation tool, which has been developed in collaboration with renowned education consultant Charlotte Danielson. (For more about Danielson and the rubrics that define effective teaching, read our one-on-one interview here.)

“Being a teacher requires a real talent,” observed Jean Clements, president of the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association, which has been working collaboratively with HCPS on the Empowering Effective Teachers initiative since its inception. “What happens in a classroom cannot be scripted, yet there are factors and qualities that define an effective teacher. This first group of peers and mentors is embarking on a historic journey to help identify and replicate these factors. It is a journey that will change the lives of children in Hillsborough County forever.”

Jody Woods is a physical education teacher at Smith Middle School and has been a teacher for 14 years. She said that in her role as a peer evaluator, she will be able to broaden her horizons and impact many more teachers and students.

“This program has the potential to be so beneficial to all of us,” said Woods. “And especially to those in my field, where we often feel isolated. I’ll be able to witness and impact teaching across disciplines and provide my perspective. I can’t wait.”

 

 
 

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Charlotte Danielson:

National Education Leader Helps

Hillsborough Build a Framework for Great Teaching

Charlotte Danielson was a young professional working as an economist in Washington, D.C., when her life took a surprising detour.

Danielson got a taste of the challenge and joy of teaching children—and that unexpected career shift would ultimately lead her to become a nationally known education consultant helping hundreds of public school districts across the country—including Hillsborough County—strive for excellence in teaching.

“I was living in an inner-city neighborhood in D.C. and had gotten to know many of the neighborhood kids,” recalled Danielson on a recent visit to Tampa to work with Hillsborough County Public Schools (HCPS) on its Empowering Effective Teachers initiative. “At that time, there was a push for community control of schools, so I kept getting notices to attend meetings at the local public school.”

Danielson went to one of those forums and was hooked. “Being inside that school, I could see there was work to do, and that it was a lot more interesting than what I was doing as an economist,” she said with a laugh. “I ended up working as a teacher in that school.”

She went on to a career that included teaching at all levels, from kindergarten through college, and served as an administrator, a curriculum director and a teaching coach. She then worked with both Educational Testing Service and the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, developing tools for evaluating the performance of teachers.

“What I learned from that work is that when teachers understand clear standards of practice for what constitutes effective teaching, that’s what promotes professionalism and leads to improved quality and accountability in education,” Danielson explained.

In 1996, Danielson wrote Enhancing Professional Practice: A Framework for Teaching—a book that has since sold over 800,000 copies and become a guide for educators and education reform advocates. HCPS will roll out a new teacher evaluation system based on Danielson’s framework in the 2010-11 school year as part of its seven-year initiative to ensure there is an effective teacher in every classroom.

The framework, Danielson said, is “not rocket science,” but what it does is “describe in words what each level of teaching performance looks like.” The complex job of teaching is divided into four “domains”—Planning and Preparation, Classroom Environment, Instruction and Professional Responsibilities. Within those domains are 22 distinct components of teaching that can be examined at four levels of performance.

For example, one of the components is “Creating an Environment of Respect and Rapport.” In the framework, “rubrics” or word descriptions help to paint a picture of what a teacher does to create this kind of environment in the classroom. For instance, a teacher at the highest level is described this way: Teacher demonstrates genuine caring and respect for individual students.

This kind of framework for evaluation is needed, Danielson explained, “not because teaching is of poor quality and must be ‘fixed.’ Instead, it’s because teaching is so hard that it’s never perfect. We constantly have to strive to make it better.”

The increased focus on effective teaching and education reform is a trend Danielson is seeing not only across the country but also around the world.“In the last five years, especially, it’s clear that people have realized that improving our schools is not just a nice thing to do,” she said. “It’s something we must do.” Danielson added she has been impressed by the work done by HCPS and its committee developing the new evaluation system—a committee that includes teachers, representatives of the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association and administrators. “There is a very genuine focus here on enhancing quality and accountability,” she observed.

While Danielson’s framework is having a broad-based impact on education, what means the most to her is the impact on individual teachers.

“The first and best use of these tools is by teachers themselves,” she said. They help teachers reflect on their own practices as professionals, to “see themselves in the rubric descriptions and be able to say: ‘Where am I?’ Then they look over at the next level of performance, and they think: ‘I can do that.’ Or, ‘I never thought of that.’ ”

Danielson recalls getting an email from a teacher whose school system had started using her framework for evaluations. “He wrote to me that he had been on the verge of retiring, but that now he’s decided not to, because teaching is fun again,” Danielson remembered. “Those are the kind of emails I keep.”

At the end of the day, tools like those Danielson has developed are aimed at helping teachers become more effective at an extraordinarily tough job: helping children learn.

“Learning has to be done by the learner through an active intellectual process,” Danielson noted. “An effective teacher engages kids in using their minds. That’s the bottom line.”

 

 
 

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Teacher Profiles:

Meet Two Teachers Who Will

Make a Difference



Woodrow Samuel II, Mentor

Woodrow Samuel (pictured above, center), based at Sligh Middle School’s Health and Wellness Academy, is in his 11th year of teaching. He is the subject area leader for 8th grade Language Arts, and has also taught a variety of subjects in grades 6 through 12 including Chemistry, Biology and Earth Science. Woodrow is one of the sponsors for the Men of Vision program, which seeks to mentor young boys and raise their academic performance.

“I’ve had so many people reach out to help me in my life, that I feel mentoring is something I was meant to do,” he said, explaining his decision to seek out a role as mentor in the Empowering Effective Teachers initiative. He looks forward to the opportunity “to work with 15 teachers, where I’ll have the opportunity to impact hundreds of students.”




Cortney Hastings, Peer Evaluator

Cortney Hastings (pictured above, at left) currently teaches 8th grade American History at Giunta Middle School. She has also taught 7th grade Geography and is certified in Social Science for grades 6 to 12, and Integrated Curriculum for grades 5 to 9.

Cortney has been teaching for five years and this fall will begin graduate courses at the University of South Florida toward a master’s degree in Educational Leadership.

At her school, Cortney has been actively involved in mentoring programs aimed at helping new teachers through their certification process. “I love working with other teachers and was excited about the opportunity to become a peer evaluator,” she explained.

 

 
 

About EET go...


Mentors and Peers

to Provide Perspective to Hillsborough Classrooms go...

Newsmaker

Charlotte Danielson go...

Teacher Profiles

Meet Two Teachers Who Will Make a Difference go...

Feedback

Tell Us What You Think

Please send questions, comments or ideas to us at greatteachers@sdhc.k12.fl.us


 

Milestones

Coming Up

  • Summer 2010—Peer and Mentor Training—Over 100 Hillsborough County teachers will begin intensive training as peer evaluators or mentors. Click here to read more about this program.

  • August 24—Start of 2010-2011 School Year—For the first time, Hillsborough County teachers will be evaluated using a new system developed as part of the Empowering Effective Teachers initiative. Read more about it here.

  • 2011-2012—Revised exams will be constructed to measure student learning gains.

  • 2012-2013—New bonuses roll out for teachers who show success in raising the achievement levels of high-needs students.

  • 2013-2014—New career ladder and performance-based compensation go into effect, after completion of three evaluation cycles under the new system.

Want more details about Empowering Effective Teachers? Visit http://communication.sdhc.k12.fl.us/empoweringteachers/
for the most up-to-date information.