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A New State for Mentor Teacher Modules

               Mentor teachers are one of the most crucial parts of the student teaching experience, and the Trustees Education Initiative has been working with individuals from around the state to revise the UW-provided mentor teacher modules. The modules were initially created to better assist mentor teachers who were planning to supervise the student teaching experience of UW College of Education students. This revision was a response to the feedback from the mentor teachers and school districts so that they could be more accessible and beneficial to the mentor teachers who are taking time to utilize these resources. I sat down with Kate Welsh (Associate Professor of Elementary & Early Childhood Education) and Kate Kniss (Albany County School District #1 Professional Development Specialist), two members of the design team for these revised mentor teacher modules, and here is what I learned.
                Firstly, it is important to note that the mentor teacher modules are not published yet and will most likely not be out for mentor teacher use until the early weeks of the Fall 2021 semester. They stated that an announcement will go out to notify people once this resource is finalized and published on the WyoLearn resource. WyoLearn does not require an UW username or password and has the capability to house multiple modalities of information for productive learning and user ease. A key feature in this revision is that the modules are separated out into the timeline of the student teaching experience so that mentor teachers can better find what information they are wanting to gather. In addition, the new modules will have sections in each module devoted to relationship building, collaborative teaching and planning models, observation, and logistics for UW. Part of the reason to these sections is to highlight to mentor teachers how certain pieces of information are utilized to instill transparency and usability.
                Kate Kniss stated that the mentor teacher modules are “… an example of an authentic partnership between UW and practicing teachers.” In this example of partnership, both the University of Wyoming College of Education and the school district personnel were able to share experiences and crucial insights. In that way, they shared equal footing in order to ensure mentor teachers were getting what was needed to best support the student teachers that were going out to their schools.  Another important element brought up in the discussion was how these mentor teacher modules act as a resource for any educator rather than strictly mentor teachers. They highlight best practices as described by mentor teachers from around the state, which can assist in deep collaborative work among colleagues as well as meaningful support for incoming teachers. For administrators, these modules can prove helpful when investigating what to include in district/school professional development and resource sharing.
                The modules are self-paced to ensure mentor teachers are accessing the information when they need it and when they are able to digest it. Many mentor teachers are already working a full-time job with additional personal and professional commitments. It is clear that the decision to mentor a student teacher often comes from the mentor teacher’s belief in the importance of the teaching profession for the future. After hearing the feedback from teachers around the state, this was a crucial revision that the design team worked on with many voices incorporated in the planning.
                This revision to the mentor teacher modules is an exciting one as it highlights how UW and Wyoming school districts are reaching out for feedback and incorporating it to develop some meaningful changes in the resources being provided. If you would like more information on the mentor teacher modules or other projects being worked on by the Trustees Education Initiative, please contact Kate Kniss at kkniss@acsd1.org or Kate Muir Welsh at kmuir@uwyo.edu.
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