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Published May 11, 2023
The University of Wyoming has welcomed the second cohort of the Wyoming Teacher-Mentor Corps (WTMC), an initiative led by the UW College of Education.
The WTMC is designed to foster teacher excellence by creating a network of Wyoming educators who can provide expert support for emerging teachers.
The 19 new cohort members represent 13 of the state’s 48 school districts. They join 21 teachers in the inaugural cohort named last year -- expanding a web of expert teacher mentors that spans Wyoming.
“We know that teaching is a hard job, and transitioning from pre-service training to full time is challenging,” says Colby Gull, managing director of the UW Trustees Education Initiative, who leads the WTMC effort. “During student teaching, pre-service teachers have a variety of mentors supporting them in their work. Then, upon graduation, those supports are traditionally removed, and new teachers are thrown into the middle of the pond to sink or swim alone. Having a high-quality, well-trained mentor provides a system of support that allows new professionals to ask questions, get advice, be observed, observe and take risks without concern for what the ‘boss’ thinks. A mentor is a nonevaluating coach, confidant and support.”
“Our students’ pre-service, practica and classroom teaching experience is already supported by the expertise of mentors in the classroom and UW College of Education faculty. The benefits of the WTMC extend to the in-service phase of our graduates’ first two years in the classroom, better ensuring support that encourages their success and commitment to the profession,” says Scott Thomas, the John P. “Jack” Ellbogen dean of the College of Education. “We believe that, if early-career teachers get the level of support they need from trained mentors, they will have less stress and be better equipped to handle the challenges associated with the first several years of teaching -- and will be more likely to remain in the profession, thereby helping address the state’s teacher shortage.”
Teacher mentors will participate in two summer institutes at UW; two fall retreats and one spring in-person retreat; and quarterly, virtual community-of-practice gatherings. For their work, teacher mentors will receive a stipend for attending both summer institutes and completing all program requirements. Additionally, the UW College of Education will cover all substitute teacher and travel costs for teacher mentors to reduce the barriers for participation in the program.
Teacher mentors are asked to meet with their mentees at least once per month throughout the school year. These meetings are times for the early-career teachers to ask questions, share thoughts and challenges, and report on progress toward professional goals. It also is a time to build relationships between mentor and mentee. Mentors also are asked to observe their mentees regularly and provide feedback on the mentees’ professional practice.
“We do some pretty intense training on giving and receiving feedback so the mentors know how to do this,” Gull says. “In addition, mentees are encouraged to observe their mentors and other teachers in the school so they can see master teachers in action.”
The project was enabled by a significant philanthropic gift and will receive additional support from Ellbogen Deanship funds. UW leads the WTMC program in collaboration with the Wyoming School Boards Association, Wyoming Association of Elementary School Principals, Wyoming Association of Secondary School Principals, the Wyoming Education Association and the Wyoming School-University Partnership.
Here are the educators selected from a strong pool of nominees to participate in the second cohort of the WTMC, listed by hometown:
Burlington -- Cheryl Haslam, who teaches at Burlington Elementary School in Big Horn County School District 1.
Casper -- Becky Junge, who teaches at Journey Elementary School in Natrona County School District 1.
“I am excited to be able to connect, learn and grow with other master teachers around Wyoming and have a chance to positively impact the future of public education in our great state,” she says. “Education is hard work and takes a village, and I am looking forward to working with early-career teachers to help build a community and support system as they embark on their journey as an educator.”
Cheyenne -- Lydia Bustos, who teaches at Henderson Elementary School in Laramie County School District 1.
“As a Wyoming teacher mentor, I hope to learn about best practices throughout the state, network with other educators and engage in conversations about diversity, equity and inclusion,” she says. “I hope to learn about different resources and strategies to support teachers. Teaching can be an overwhelming profession. I hope to become a leader who can provide support when needed.”
Cheyenne -- Lara Divan, who teaches at Henderson Elementary School in Laramie County School District 1.
“Through the WTMC, I hope to learn how to best help new teachers survive and thrive,” she says. “I hope to collaborate with teachers from all over the state in an effort to help support the amazing group of teachers who serve our Wyoming students.”
Cody -- Stephany Anderson, who teaches at Cody High School in Park County School District 6.
“I hope to be better equipped to help struggling teachers find and use their strengths so they can persevere through difficult days to discover the joy of teaching. Teaching is a phenomenal career that too many are leaving,” she says. “I hope to be a part of building a positive culture of creativity, growth-mindedness and collaboration that welcomes new teachers into our fold of caring professionals. This will ensure a positive learning environment for our students, an equipped citizenry and workforce for our community, and an advancing professional staff for our school.”
Evanston -- Susan Anderson, who teaches at Mountain View High School in Uinta County School District 4.
“I believe the WTMC will be valuable for incoming teachers to learn educational strategies, life and work balance strategies, and overall organizational skills. My hope is that, by being a mentor, I can prevent a future teacher from leaving the profession after a few years,” she says. “I love learning from other teachers, whether they are new or veterans. I see this as an opportunity to learn from fellow Wyoming teachers.”
Green River -- Kelly McCully, who teaches at Monroe Elementary School in Sweetwater County School District 2.
“I am excited to become a UW teacher mentor to learn alongside the best educators in the state. The chance to work with future teachers will give me an opportunity to impact their lives before entering the teaching field,” she says. “I hope to use what I have learned to help the staff at my school. There are great ideas coming from the future educators, and I hope to gain knowledge to bring back to my school.”
Lander -- Nicole Page, who teaches at Gannett Peak Elementary School in Fremont County School District 1.
“I am excited about the opportunity to become a UW teacher mentor because I hope to improve the teaching experience for new teachers, build relationships for collaboration with teachers around the state and, overall, improve the retention of valuable teachers in my district and around the state,” she says. “It is my hope that, through WTMC, I will be able to help new teachers in my district gain the confidence and skills necessary to thrive in the ever-changing educational setting.”
Laramie -- Chrissy Gale, who teaches at Beitel Elementary School in Albany County School District 1.
“After 21 years of being an elementary classroom teacher and working with incredible students, families and colleagues, I am eager to help inspire the next generation of teachers,” she says. “Since entering the field back in 2002, the demands on teachers have only increased. I feel passionately about helping individuals be as prepared as possible for beginning their new career.”
Laramie -- Helen Ommen, who teaches at Beitel Elementary School in Albany County School District 1.
“Teaching is complex, fascinating and joyful work. I’m grateful for the mentors who have had a positive impact on my teaching practice, and I want to contribute to the next generation’s understanding of the powerful work and purpose of teaching,” she says. “There are many different kinds of wonderful teachers, and I think there are multiple ways of impacting student learning in positive ways. I don’t want to create replicas of myself in other teachers; I want to ask great questions, offer support, share research, think deeply and engage with content so that we become the most impactful versions of ourselves as teachers for our students and communities.”
Mountain View -- Sarah Butters, who teaches K-8 in Uinta County School District 4.
“I have had so many great mentors in my own teaching career, and I am so excited to pay it forward. People just entering the teaching field have an excitement and energy that are so amazing, and I’m elated to get to be a part of that,” she says. “I hope that I can take what I learn and use it to help veteran teachers and new teachers alike. Gaining perspectives from others will no doubt help me to grow individually, but also bring that knowledge back to share.”
Powell -- Darci Ostermiller, who teaches at Westside Elementary School in Park County School District 1.
Powell -- Kelsey Tobin, who teaches at Westside Elementary School in Park County School District 1.
“I am excited to join the network of committed educators across the state as we strive to create a support system for emerging teachers. Establishing a collaborative culture with ongoing professional learning will strengthen Wyoming’s education foundation,” Tobin says. “I hope to better understand how to foster a collaborative learning culture where all staff feel confident reflecting on and analyzing their teaching practices and student learning. Through this process, I also hope to increase my efficacy as a teacher and teacher leader.”
Rawlins -- Ryan Puckett, who teaches at Rawlins Middle School in Carbon County School District 1.
“When I was presented with this opportunity, I wanted to jump on it, as it will benefit me -- but, more importantly, the individuals and school I work at -- to become more effective not only in the classroom, but all facets of life,” he says. “Anything I can learn to help our staff and students I am all for, and this is one of those opportunities that will open doors that will ensure high levels of learning for all students and high levels of growth development for educators, no matter the subject or level.”
Rawlins -- Jared Ritschard, who teaches at Rawlins High School in Carbon County School District 1.
“I look forward to collaboration and the learning and personal growth that consequently come with the process of helping others,” he says. “All too often in the field of education, there is the tendency for a focus on the negatives that come with the career. I believe that, if there is going to be an increase in the retention of educators, there must first be a paradigm shift or adaptation from focusing on the negatives to highlighting the positives and celebrating the great things that are happening in the world of education.”
Rawlins -- Amanda Shaffer, who teaches at Rawlins Elementary School in Carbon County School District 1.
“I am excited to become a UW teacher mentor because I am always looking for opportunities to be a leader within my school and I enjoy working with our new teachers,” she says. “Through the Wyoming Teacher-Mentor Corps, I hope to learn best practices in order to help the needs of our incoming teachers.”
Rock Springs -- Angela Banks, who teaches at Rock Springs High School in Sweetwater County School District 1.
“I am excited to become a UW teacher mentor so I can help the new teachers at the high school be successful. I also am looking forward to meeting new colleagues and growing as a teacher,” she says. “I hope to have a positive impact on my school by providing guidance and information to new teachers to teaching, new teachers to the building, new teachers to the district, as well as teachers who have taught for a while. I look forward to sharing what I will learn with others and hope it will help teachers want to stay in the district and education.”
Saratoga -- Anthea Teska, a special education teacher in Carbon County School District 2.
“I am excited to be able to help new teachers navigate the nuances of being a teacher. I also am hoping to provide a solid foundation for new teachers so that they are comfortable and excited staying in the field of education,” she says. “I am hoping to develop strategies that will support our new teachers in the district -- and to work my way out of a job because teachers want to stay with us.”
Ten Sleep -- Wade Moore, who teaches sixth grade in Washakie County School District 2.