September 05, 2007

Hamburg, Rochester locals win NEA-Saturn awards for mentoring

Source: New York Teacher

Teamwork has been a winning formula for educators in Rochester and Hamburg. With the help of their local unions, both districts won 2007 National Education Association-Saturn-United Auto Workers Partnership awards for outstanding mentorship programs.

Since 1986, the Career in Teaching mentorship program developed by the Rochester Teachers Association and administrators has 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.

She says the district's 90 percent retention rate is a direct result of the program. Rochester welcomes some 400 new teachers annually.

"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 roster includes 225 mentors who served 460 teachers last 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."

About 60 teachers have taken part.

The awards celebrate educational programs that successfully forge a union-management partnership. Representatives of the winners traveled to NEA's national convention in Philadelphia in June.

For information about the program, visit

— Kara E. Smith

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