Mentor Teacher Program & Guide Teacher Program
Wheaton, IL Community Unit School District 200 (1987-92)

By: Barry Sweeny - Mentor Program Coordinator

  • Coordinating a mentoring program part-time while teaching part-time
  • Induction Program Coordinator job description
  • The need for a program coordinator
  • Coordinator role as "Mentor of Mentors"
  • The Structure to Promote Mentor Growth
  • Strategies for sustaining the mentoring program

Half-time Teacher & CoordinatorBarry Sweeny was the Mentor Program and Guide Teacher Program Coordinator in a K-12 school district in the west suburban Chicago area. During those years he worked in the morning as an art and science teacher and in the afternoons as a coordinator. This dual role had its positive side in that he was challenged to implement each day the effective practices he advocated for each after noon. Also, he was able to immediately implement in his teaching the day-to-day professional growth he had each afternoon working with mentors and new teachers. The half-time roles also allowed him to try out the role of staff developer without leaving his teaching assignment. He eventually became a full-time staff developer.On the negative side, the two half-time jobs often expanded into two full-time responsibilities. Also, he had no office or work space and no access to a telephone or a computer as a coordinator because the district provided none and he couldn't remain in his classroom as his other part-time replacement was teaching there. He had no secretarial assistance and often felt he aggrevated the school secretary who had to take messages for him, etc. because he was not near a phone. He ended up "getting permission" to clean out part of a book storage room to make a work area. People never knew where to find him or how to communicate with him. Now days e-mail would help a lot.

Job Description & Coordinator Help:Lots of information about Barry's work as a Mentor Program Coordinator is available on his web site on a web page called "Coordination of Mentoring Programs". That page includes access to:
  • "Suggestions for the Mentor Program Coordinator", a 17 page paper including job description, the need for a mentoring & peer coaching program coordinator, sample letters to mentors & guides, and advice to the coordinator on how to "mentor the mentors" to facilitate mentor growth
  • Incentives, Recognition, and On-Going Support in a Mentor Program
  • Planning For & Achieving the Mentor Program's Purposes
  • Planning for the Mentor Training
  • Plans & Samples For Mentor Program Evaluation
  • Selecting Mentors and Matching Mentors and Proteges
  • Three Ways to Develop Mentor-Protege Action Plans

The Coordinator Role as "Mentor of Mentors":Once the initial mentor training and beginning teacher orientation were over, a large part of Barry's role as Mentor Program Coordinator included supporting, challenging, and "mentoring the mentors". Basically this was defined as supporting the mentors' professional growth as teachers and as mentors. Part of this meant continually modeling for mentors what the desired practices of mentoring looked like and then asking mentors questions to get them to reflect on their own application of those practices in their work as mentors and as classroom teachers. In addition to this conversation, Barry recommends several other strategies that can all be categorized under the title...Communication options: Mentors should be given their choice of 2-3 of the following communication options to keep the Mentor Program Coordinator informed of their work and to provide the structure to maintain support for mentor professional growth. Each of these activities are to be initiated by the mentor, if not set previously between the mentor and Program Coordinator.
  • Email contact (a range of once a week to about two to three times a month)
  • Telephone call (a range of once a month to once a quarter)
  • Personal conference using an "action researc" cycle to promote mentor growth (a range of once a quarter to once a year)
  • Dialogue Journal in which the mentor writes about the mentor's experience on the left hand page and periodically sends the journal to the coordinator. The coordinator writes on the right hand page & returns the journal to the mentor. (A range of once a quarter to twice a year.) Click on this link for more info about how Barry used the Dialog Journal to promote the mentor's professional growth.
  • Observation of the mentor at work and a conference, such as while the mentor observes and confers with the protege. This option requires the consent of the protege too. (A range of twice a year to every quarter.)
The combination of these choices could shift to create a balance suitable to the mentor's preferences. Examples include:
  • Mentor A - Email every month and a personal conference each semester
  • Mentor B - A phone call each month and the dialog journal each quarter
  • Mentor C - The dialog journal each quarter and an observation and conference each semester

The Structure to Promote Mentor GrowthEach of the interactions described above were essentially a peer coaching session for the mentor in that the following steps were used (as appropriate) to promote reflection, goal setting and professional development for the mentor:1. Set some standard for quality mentoring practice. (Barry did this in his initial mentor training by defining the "ideal" mentoring roles and tasks, mentor-protege relationship, and mentoring process.)2. Identify the current level of practice of the mentor. (Barry did this originally in his initial mentor training by giving the mentors a "Mentoring Style Self-Assessment". This info was updated each time there was a conversation with the mentor.)3. Identify "areas for growth" to improve mentoring practice. (Barry did this originally in his initial mentor training and the info was updated each time there was a conversation with the mentor.)4. Set goals for mentor development. (Barry did this originally in his initial mentor training and the info was updated each time there was a conversation with the mentor.)5. Create an action plan to implement the goals. This included identifying the ways in twhich the Mentor Program Coordinator could support the mentor's growth, as well as possible roles for the protege, other peers, the principal, etc. (Barry did this originally in his initial mentor training and the info was updated each time there was a conversation with the mentor.)6. Implement the action plan and collect data to monitor activities and growth.7. Periodic meetings or conversation between the Mentor Program Coordinator and the mentor, using the communication tools described above, to update the info on the goals, data collected as evidence of growth, modification of the action plan to improve progress, etc.The most critical steps of all were the last two.8. Debriefing the seven steps just used to promote the mentors growth and discussion of how the mentor can use those same seven steps to promote the protege's growth.9. Discussion of how the mentor can use those same seven steps to promote the growth of students in his/her classroom.

Sustaining the Mentor ProgramBarry has written a paper to describe his "Strategies for Sustaining the Mentoring Program". His concern is that the best mentor-protege interactions are "invisible" to non participants because the mentoring relationship must be confidential.Over the years as a Mentor Program Coordinator and mentoring consultant and trainer, Barry developed a number of highly effective strategies for sustaining support for his program. Barry's ideas include a time line for activities over the first five years of the program, collecting data on mentor and protege growth, using support groups for a wider range of purposes, strategies for collecting testimonials, and "selling" administrators and other decision makers on the value of induction and mentoring. This paper is available on his web site at

Posted December 1998.
Email Barry at:

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