Feature

Lead On: A Tale of Two Mentors

Jodie Howcroft

Once upon a time two new teachers embarked on their first year of teaching . . .

Thankfully, they did not take this journey alone. As part of the New Teacher Induction Program (NTIP) that started in 2006–2007, newly certified teachers have the opportunity to work directly with and benefit from the leadership of a mentor for a full year.

Mentors play an important role in creating the possibility for happy endings for new teachers: that despite the stress and demands of their first year, they will become highly effective professionals who enjoy a fulfilling career.

Let’s meet two of these mentors.

JO-ANN CORBIN HARPER

Jo-Ann Corbin-Harper is passionate about teaching.

A grade 6 teacher at Ancaster Meadow School, Corbin-Harper has been with the Hamilton-Wentworth DSB for 16 years. Before that, she taught in Barbados. Not one to shy away from leadership roles, she takes on student teachers, has served as a literacy lead, is an ETFO steward, and has led literacy in-services.

Corbin-Harper’s desire to guide others and to help develop their teaching skills led her to become a mentor. She completed the application form (which must include a principal’s recommendation) five years ago and hasn’t looked back.

Her protégé Karen Rashid is in the classroom next door, also teaching grade 6 – an ideal situation. Finding time to meet formally can be challenging; proximity allows for many useful, informal chats, say Rashid and Corbin-Harper.

Witnessing the professional growth of her protégés is Corbin-Harper’s reward: “To see you’ve helped that person develop as a teacher; they’ve taken the ideas you shared and shaped them to be their own.”

She defines a good mentor as “someone who listens, who understands, who is a guide, who knows the curriculum, and who realizes that they can learn from their protégé too.”

Corbin-Harper and Rashid are clearly comfortable with each other, speaking openly and adding a little good-natured humour to the conversation. Mentors do not evaluate their protégés, which allows for this level of trust and comfort. According to ETFO, “A mentor is not a supervisor or an evaluator. A mentor is a colleague, a coach, a support, and a resource.”1

Karen Rashid feels her relationship with Corbin-Harper is one of the greatest advantages of the NTIP program: “Knowing I am not alone, knowing I have someone to support me, having a safety net and a sounding board makes such a difference.”

For mentors there are substantial benefits too. “I’m a little more open-minded, more patient,” Corbin-Harper states. “I love to share ideas and I get fantastic ideas from my protégé. I feel lucky to be able to help shape another person’s career.” Her wish is that more teachers would get involved “to realize the value of the program.”

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