Mentors get training to assist new teachers

When Kishni Neville started her teaching career in Newberry five years ago, she had a great mentor at her school.Now a Jackson Middle School science instructor, Neville hasn't forgotten that teacher.

"She had this light in her," Neville said. "While our teaching styles were different, I saw her passion and that's what I wanted. I found I enjoyed teaching, and I want new teachers to enjoy it as much as I do."

Neville joined about two dozen other school district educators for a workshop Wednesday, learning formally how to become first-time mentors.

In mid-morning, music straight out of the '60s, '70s and '80s poured from a conference room at the Aiken County Career and Technology Center.The music shouldn't be too surprising for many educators - the mentoring session co-director was Jason Fulmer.

The former Redcliffe Elementary School teacher became a national finalist for the Teacher of the Year Award in 2004. During his teaching career, he was known for using music to help his third-graders learn about English, math and everything else. Nothing has changed.

Fulmer has been a program manager for the Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention and Advancement in Rock Hill for several years. The Aiken County School District sponsored the workshop to build a program of 300 mentors.

"The demands on first-year teachers continue to shift," Fulmer said. "We have to move beyond the 'buddy system.' Mentoring is not only helping with emotional support, but needs to move beyond the first year. It's really about accelerating new teacher development, because it's going to impact kids."

Fulmer's co-director, Margo Gore, is a seventh-grade science teacher at Kennedy Middle School. Both were Aiken County School District teachers of the year.Gore began serving as a mentor in 2001. There was no established training for that role, and while she gave support to new teachers, the training she did received a few years later gave her the opportunity to do more for them.

"I'm now a mentor-trainer," Gore said. "Having been a mentor, I can give advice to new mentors to help beginning teachers. Everything evolves, and you have to meet their needs. You're establishing the types of strategies these teachers will use throughout their careers."Wagener-Salley High School teacher Michael McGhee, now a four-year veteran, got Melissa Bauers as his mentor."She was great," McGhee said. "She was somebody who you could go to and express any concerns. She did such a good job, and I'm hoping to do the same for a new teacher.

"Michelle King, a Kennedy media specialist, notes that library directors face a different kind of challenges when they start out."There is usually only one of us in a school," King said. "We've had some turnover among (library) mentors, and four of us are here today, trying to boost the numbers. I already do this informally, and, now, I'll go see new librarians and others working on their master's in library science. People don't realize the needs of first-year media specialists. There's classroom time with teaching, and, also, all the library work."