This story is featured in the Spring 2018 edition of the HPU Magazine. Discover below how mentorship prepares Stout School of Education graduates to lead their own classrooms.
According to Katie Ethridge, mentorship is what sets the Stout School of Education apart.
A 2014 graduate from the school’s B.A. to M.A. master’s program, Ethridge teaches science at Byers Middle School in Denver, Colorado.
When she was a student, her university community was filled with support and accountability. As a full-time educator, she now understands the impact made on her by professors who cared for her as a person and an educator.
Mallory Heffelfinger agrees. She graduated in 2017 and will complete her first year of teaching this spring.
Heffelfinger credits the school for equipping her with the skills and strategies needed to be a highly effective teacher and says she was provided numerous opportunities that fostered her love for service and leadership in the field of education. But, both she and Ethridge thank one specific mentor for their success.
Bridging the University Experience with Careers
“Mrs. Debbie Albert was my most impactful mentor at HPU,” says Heffelfinger. “She served as my advisor, professor, and university supervisor during my student teaching. I came to refer to her as my ‘Campus Momma!’”
Beyond the walls of the classroom and far from HPU’s campus, Albert continues to mentor Heffelfinger and hundreds of other School of Education graduates both personally and professionally.
Albert joined HPU in 2011 as a clinical assistant instructor. A graduate of HPU’s School of Education herself, Albert has been an educator for 32 years. Now, she’s giving back to the school that gave her a start.
In 2012, only one year after joining the university, Albert became director of the New Teacher Support Group, an initiative within the School of Education designed to support first and second-year teachers as they transition from the university to the teaching profession.
“She has invested countless hours in helping me to become a better version of myself and a better teacher,” says Heffelfinger. “Her thoughtful emails and coffee conversations have always provided me with the encouragement and insight that I need. I am the ‘Miss H’ I am today because of Mrs. Albert’s mentorship of me as a whole person.”
Ethridge shares similar sentiments.
“Mrs. Albert was pivotal in my success as a beginning teacher. She was always willing to help me brainstorm, connect me with rich resources for my class-room, and hear about my experiences as a young professional,” says Ethridge. “Even as an experienced educator, I can always count on the faculty at HPU to support both me and my students.”
While undergraduates have strong clinical experiences thanks to their coursework and extensive preparation in curriculum, classroom management, assessment, pedagogy and instruction, data shows that more teachers stay in the teaching profession when supported by a mentor.
That’s why Albert began the New Teacher Support Group as an additional support and encouragement resource for HPU’s most recent graduates.
A team of mentors, including career teachers and administrators, pair with recent graduates throughout their first years of teaching. In addition to direct contact through mentor support, a Facebook group has been added to the School of Education Facebook page that allows for interactions between faculty, mentors and new teachers.
“The program has been very successful,” says Dr. Mariann Tillery, dean of the Stout School of Education. “When students leave us, we continue to provide them with support. The first three years are an adjustment period, and teachers are simultaneously their most vulnerable. Research has proven that the number one reason teachers leave the industry is due to lack of support.”
Though the program is still new, professors in the School of Education are looking for ways to continuously evolve and improve their efforts.
Most recently, they discovered a new means of helping graduates by using data from a common source — Facebook.
Dr. Stephanie Hall earned her doctorate degree from HPU’s School of Education in May 2017. But before she graduated and went on to become a principal in North Carolina, she gave back to the school’s mentorship program in a major way.
As part of her dissertation, Hall worked with Tillery for two years on collecting data from the School of Education’s alumni Facebook group.
Hall saw that recent graduates turned first- and second-year teachers often shared the day-to-day victories and stresses of their jobs on the group Facebook page.
Tillery and Hall tracked the types of comments and coded them based on whether or not the comments were positive, negative or neutral in regards to teaching. For the ones that were negative, they further classified the topic of the comments and came up with five common stressors for teachers during their early years of teaching.
Now, they are using that data to further tailor the mentorship program and meet the professional needs of graduates.
“In everything we do, I’m asking myself ‘How do we use this information for our graduates?’” says Tillery.
And the graduates feel the impact of that.
“I’m originally from outside Philadelphia, and I knew a lot of people who attended HPU,” says Ethridge. “The university was small enough and big enough. The campus itself attracted me, and the amount of practicum you get in the School of Education really drew me in. Having the resources of a large university but the ability to make students feel that they’re personally cared for, that’s what makes the education at HPU so valuable and unique. The School of Education embodies that.”