Teamwork was a winning formula for educators in Rochester and Hamburg. With the help of their local unions, both school districts won 2007 National Education Association-Saturn-United Auto Workers Partnership awards for outstanding mentorship programs — proof positive of the value of union educators and administrators working together.
Since 1986, the Career in Teaching mentorship program developed by the Rochester Teachers Association and administrators has successfully shepherded hundreds of teachers through their first year, said Martha Keating, Rochester TA first vice president. The RTA is led by Adam Urbanski, who was instrumental in developing the mentor program, said Keating.
"We have a high retention rate in our district — somewhere around 90 percent — and I credit that to the program," said Keating, who explained that the district welcomes some 400 new teachers annually.
The program is administered through a governing panel of educators and administrators. "We match new teachers with mentors, provide substitutes so new teachers can observe veteran teachers and provide professional development for the mentors themselves so they use a common language when working with mentees," said program coordinator Marie Costanza, an RTA member. The program roster includes 225 mentors who served 460 teachers this year.
Small but effective
With two full-time mentors, the award-winning program at Hamburg schools in Erie County operates on a much smaller scale, but is no less effective.
Hamburg TA member Kimberly DeGal handles K-6 and special education teachers, while colleague Virginia Hanley mentors newcomers in grades 7-12.
A point of pride is that the program won accolades only a few years after its 2004 launch. Noting the program's early success, Hamburg TA President Cliff Huen suggested applying for the award.
"I've noticed a big change since we've started the program," DeGal said. "It gives us the chance to really help new teachers intensively.
The approximately 60 teachers who have participated have rated the program "very positively," she said.
NEA-Saturn-UAW awards celebrate educational programs that successfully forge a union-management partnership. Representatives of the winners were due to travel to NEA's national convention in Philadelphia in June. The NEA is one of NYSUT's national affiliates.
They will also visit General Motors and UAW headquarters in Detroit in November during American Education Week.
For information about the NEA-Saturn-UAW Partnership Awards, visit www15.inetba.com/saturnuaw/filecabinet/Satfile/NEAPartnershipcover.htm.
— Kara E. Smith