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For many first-year teachers, mentorship programs can be a career-saver

Posted at 7:07 PM, Apr 29, 2021

Teacher "recruitment and retainment", those are words we hear quite often when it comes to helping the state of education in Arizona rebound.

The Arizona Department of Education announced earlier this month it is putting $2.5 million in federal relief and recovery dollars toward the Arizona K12 Center's "Induction and Mentoring Program," which provides districts with full-time mentors to support and work with teachers during their first few years in the classroom.

For Sarah Bredar, launching her career during a pandemic has been a roller coaster of emotions.

"It's been exhausting, exhilarating, chaotic and beautiful all at the same time," she said.

Bredar teaches 8th-grade language and literature at Marc T. Atkinson Middle School in the Cartwright School District. it is one of about half a dozen districts in the state supported by the Arizona K12 Center's program.

"A lot of our conversations and help that I've received have been both professional and on kind of a social-emotional level as well," said Bredar.

Sue Adkins is Bredar's mentor, one of five mentors in the district with a current caseload of 13 teachers.

"Each teacher sets their own goals, and each observation cycle is absolutely tailored to the things that they want to work on and what they need support with," said Adkins.

Adkins spends at least two hours a week with each of her mentees, working on skills like classroom management, professional development, and relationship building.

"It might look like modeling in the classroom, it might look like lesson planning, it might look like setting up an observation or I can take teachers into other master teacher classrooms to see what really good teaching looks like," said Adkins.

However, that full-time commitment requires funding. The recent infusion of federal dollars from the state will expand Arizona K12 Center's program from seven to 22 districts.

Adkins says it is an encouraging, but far from the final step in the ongoing challenge to attract and keep qualified teachers.

Teachers like Bredar, who recently signed on to stay with the district next year.

"Without this piece, I fear for the future of education in Arizona, I really do," said Adkins.

"I honestly don't think I would've made it through my first year if I didn't have a mentor," said Bredar.