Alaska Statewide Mentor Project Helps Increase Teacher Effectiveness and Retention

Sue McIntosh, Program Manager, Alaska Statewide Mentor Project

Wouldn’t it be great for Alaska’s early career teachers to have personalized support from a full-release, experienced Alaskan teacher?

Well, there’s terrific news on that front!

Since 2003, the Alaska Statewide Mentor Project (ASMP) has given that gift of non-evaluative support to Alaskan’s early career teachers (ECT).  We provide instructional mentoring for each ECT’s first and second year of teaching, based on reflective practice, equity and cultural relevance, high expectations, ongoing inquiry, and collaboration.  Over the past 18 years, ASMP mentors have served in 52 of the 54 school districts in Alaska.

The Alaska Statewide Mentor Project exists to lift up and support the profession of teaching in Alaska. The project develops an effective teaching force that is responsive to the diverse academic needs and cultural backgrounds of all students.

ASMP operates under the K-12 Outreach umbrella at the University of Alaska Fairbanks under the School of Education, and is committed to partnerships that support quality education for Alaska. We endeavor to do this by providing individualized, ongoing support to early career teachers, helping to increase their effectiveness and retention.

Our Vision: Every student in Alaska has the benefit of a great teacher. This happens not by chance but by design.

Our Mission: Give new teachers the support they need to succeed.

If you think about it, teaching is the only profession where entry-level personnel are expected to do the same job and perform at the same level of competence as experienced practitioners. They often do it alone. This is unfair and unrealistic. Every early career deserves a multiyear induction program that provides systemic help and support, and this cannot be done adequately by another teacher with a full-time load. ASMP mentors fill that need.

Research on early career teachers who have received mentoring from the ASMP shows that after five years, over 94% of teachers are still teaching. Additional research shows that mentored teachers not only stay in the profession longer than other teachers, but they achieve greater professional efficacy over the course of their careers, with greater gains in student achievement.

Mentor and ECT sewing atikluk.

This year, our 11 mentors are serving 118 early career teachers across the state. Mentors and early career teachers meet at least weekly to discuss successes and concerns, and to plan next steps. 

Extended monthly visits occur whether on site or virtually, address more in-depth topics such as standards-based lesson planning (including cultural standards), the observation process, and analyzing student learning. 

Thank you to the following districts who were able to cost-share with us this year:  Alaska Gateway, Annette Island, Bristol Bay, Copper River, Dillingham, Hoonah City, Lake and Peninsula, Lower Kuskokwim, Lower Yukon, Nenana, Nome, Northwest Arctic, Pelican, Petersburg, Sitka, Tanana, Yukon Koyukuk, and Yupiit.

ASMP also has mentor-trainers who train teacher leaders in districts that are growing their own cadre of mentors.

Feel free to contact me about the program, cost-sharing, training teachers in your district to be mentors, or ways to secure mentoring for your district/school. Phone (907) 590-7490, or email Sue McIntosh, ASMP Program Manager.

I will leave you with some quotes from early career teachers and site administrators that will illustrate the deep impact mentors have on the development of Alaska’s newest teachers:

Early Career Teacher Quotes:

  • “Not only did she help her teachers, she helped other staff, cultivated relationships with students, and involved herself in our community. She really showed herself in her effort to connect on multiple levels with our community.”
  •  “My mentor has helped me turn big picture ideas into practical application. Whether that is in management, or instructional design, she has helped me build more structure.”
  • “It was nice to receive emotional support from someone who knows the profession when I felt overwhelmed & stressed, especially after moving somewhere new where I knew nobody! Although I do not enjoy writing down goals (lol), [mentor] showed me how this can be beneficial. It helps me (as a new teacher) stay focused on the most important tasks at hand. Setting goals with [mentor] was pivotal in being able to meet with reading groups in my class every week.”
  • “[ASMP mentor] is truly a light in my life. She is supportive and encouraging, while helping me to better assess my teaching strategies and practices.”
  •   “I think the most beneficial part of my relationship with my mentor was to be able to disconnect from the daily struggles and step back to see the larger picture. Time to reflect is not only vital for student learning, but for teacher learning as well. Having someone with knowledge and experience to talk with about observations in the classroom is incredibly valuable and allows me to identify the signs in the classroom in order to make the best teaching decision.”
  • “I don’t have another teacher who teaches what I do on site so it’s rare I can talk to someone who is going through the same thing as me. Having someone to run things by is the most helpful thing my mentor has done.”
  •  “At the beginning of the school year I had a student who was not compliant with my classroom rules. [mentor] and I talked about this student and he gave me resources that worked with her. He reminded me to try and make the choice her choice and to have a contract with her. Which really worked.”

From Site Administrators:

Which aspect(s) of the Alaska Statewide Mentor Project have had the greatest impact on student learning? Why?

  • “Having an objective and open minded person to talk to, and to help teachers understand the big picture of instruction. Many new teachers come in with deficit thinking about our students. A mentor can really help turn this around.”
  • “Having an experienced, calm teacher help navigate those First Year waters is valuable. If the teacher has better direction and support, it stands to reason that students will benefit.”
  • “I’m glad the mentors exist. I had one as a new teacher that helped me navigate my village, and retain my sanity, and now I am a principal. Mentors help.” — Site Administrator

For more information, please visit the Alaska Statewide Mentor Project website.