Schools strive to maintain new teachers

Published 6:08 pm Thursday, September 22, 2016

Beaufort County Schools is continuing efforts to keep its 31 first-year teachers in the county.

At Tuesday’s regular meeting, the Board of Education approved this year’s draft of the Beginning Teacher Support Program, which is required every year by the State Board of Education and General Assembly.

The program was set in place more than 10 years ago as a way to encourage teachers statewide to stay in North Carolina. The state requires local boards of education to craft their own versions, tailored to a particular county’s needs.

Mark Doane, assistant superintendent for Beaufort County Schools, said the plans are a good way to help new teachers succeed in the county and do so by garnering support around them.

“Teaching can be a very isolated profession if you let it,” Doane said. “If you’re a teacher, they expect you to perform on the same level as a 25-year veteran the first day.”

The Beginning Teacher Support plan outlines mandatory steps, including professional development, performance evaluations and orientations, as well as suggestions, including placing a teacher in classes corresponding with licensure and limiting preparations, difficult students and extracurricular assignments.

Another important part of the plan is assigning a mentor to a new teacher as a way to encourage growth.

Doane said keeping teachers is a high priority for the board, especially with many veteran teachers heading toward retirement.

“Our board already does understand how important it is,” he said. “We spend some of our federal dollars on paying some of our veteran teachers for being mentors. … I think that it’s a valuable use of some of our federal dollars.”

Lindsay Gurganus, a kindergarten teacher at Eastern Elementary School, said her mentor, 21-year veteran teacher Mary Martin Moore, has been a good resource for her starting out.

“Mentors are a key to being a successful first-year teacher,” Gurganus said. “I’m lucky because my mentor is right across the hall from me, and she pops in and checks on me. … They’re there to give us advice, too.”

She said new teachers also participate in team planning, which is a good way to learn what works and what doesn’t.

Gurganus said even little things, such as help rearranging desks, means a lot to a new teacher, and helps her with learning how to command her own classroom.

“The hardest thing would just be getting in a routine and figuring out what’s best for your classroom,” she said. “As a new teacher, I get to hear what veteran teachers are doing, and that’s very helpful.”

Gurganus said the Beginning Teacher Support Program is a good reminder to keep first-year teachers on top of all their responsibilities and is helpful to a teacher’s development.

“I think our board is very interested in attracting and keeping beginning teachers,” Doane said. “Really, that’s what the Beginning Teacher Support plan really boils down to.”