New teachers take away important lessons from mentorship pilot 

New teachers take away important lessons from mentorship pilot 

Teachers and mentors collaborating at many tables in a meeting room

Earlier this year, the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development asked for input through Ideas for Education. The purpose of this ask was to listen and learn from educators on the front line, who know the system best. Now, those ideas are being put into action. 

Throughout the 2023-24 school year, the teacher mentor pilot in Halifax Regional Centre for Education brought 30 new elementary teachers, in years one to three of their careers, together with mentors in the field to receive coaching from retired principals, regional staff, and/or coaches/mentors, mostly on site and using a student-centred coaching model. 

Heather Lynch, Grade 1 teacher at Chebucto Heights Elementary, feels fortunate to have had the opportunity to take part in the teacher-mentor pilot. 

“Being part of the mentorship program has helped me understand the ‘how’ of striving to achieve best teaching practices,” says Lynch. “Prior to joining the group, I felt I had a good understanding of curriculum documents and where to access resources on the teaching and learning site; however, I sometimes struggled with how to put it all together and achieve my intended result.  

“The mentorship program gave me practical ideas around areas such as maximizing time to learn, building student understanding around the learning targets, and additional ways to create and maintain norms in the classroom. It is this practical advice from coaches and experienced teachers that I found really beneficial.” 

The teachers also participated in several professional learning sessions, both face-to-face and virtual, that focused on topics such as setting up equitable learning environments, lesson planning, and assessment. 

The biggest takeaway Grace Thistle noted from her experience in the pilot is to “accept help along the journey.” The Grade 2/3 teacher at Chebucto Heights Elementary says collaborating with specialists and coaches has enhanced her curriculum delivery in many ways. 

“This mentorship program has helped deepen my teaching practice by providing us with time to collaborate with peers, speak with specialists about core teaching standards and how to implement those into your classroom, as well as specific specialists for literacy, math, inclusive schools and technology,” Thistle says. “As a new teacher, I know the best learning I can do is from my colleagues. I went into my coaching experience with an open mind, as the purpose is not to evaluate my practice but to provide alternate methods of delivery that may be more effective for the students.”  

Harbour View Elementary Grade 1 teacher, Sarah Striteman says her experience in the pilot has helped her to build confidence with “an understanding of assessing where my students are and ways to get them to the next steps in math and literacy.”  

“It's given me time to collaborate with experts and other teachers, which has made me feel like there's a community and supports for me. I work at a school with newer teachers, and they have all enjoyed some of the resources, I have been sharing with them from these sessions. I believe lots of teachers would benefit from this!”