Downer's Grove Mentoring Program

by Judy Huizinga

The Initial Imputus: The District 99 mentoring program became reality three years ago. A committee made up of teachers and administrators worked for two years to create a viable program to meet the needs of newly hired teachers in
District 99. The program fulfills the dream of former Downers Grove Education Association President, Diana Hess. Initially the program was open to new teachers and returning teachers who had been out of the classroom for five or more years. The program quickly expanded to include all teachers hired by the district as well as new department heads.

Program Coordination: The program continues to be run by the Mentor Committee which is made up of a core of teachers and administrators who served on the original committee. The committee has expanded to include former mentors, former proteges and current mentors. Last year a Mentor Coordinator was named to head the Mentor Committee and oversee the program. The committee meets together monthly. In addition the Mentor Committee meets alternately with Mentors and Proteges as a group every other month. Each committee member is assigned specific Mentor/Protege pairs to monitor. This assures constant feedback and a personalized approach for the program.

Mentor Selection & Roles: The Mentors are selected from a pool of volunteers by the District Mentoring Committee. The mentors are trained in late August and will serve as a Mentor throughout the school year. The Mentors and Proteges develop collegial relationships that enable the Protege to learn the procedures and culture of the District. Mentors are challenged to evaluate their own teaching styles and strategies as they work with the Proteges. The impact of this program on the District is substantial as nearly one-fifth of the current staff will be replaced by new staff before 1996. The future of District 99 depends upon the ability of the Mentors to share the history, climate, expectations, and mission of the District with the Proteges.

Program Impact: In sheer numbers alone, the program has tripled its outreach. It's very different to present to 60 plus people rather than 24. This year's program planning started last March with department heads writing department master schedules to include a common scheduled time with a Mentor and a new hire. The Mentor Committee has learned from past years that common planning time or lunch are crucial for the success of the Mentor/Protege relationship. Theory and research support this premise.

What We Have Learned & How We Have Adjusted: The Mentor Program has been continuously evolving over the past three years. This evolution has occurred based on the feedback the committee solicits from participants. Let me 'catch you up' on some of the other significant changes in the program this year. The Mentor Committee has expanded to include two Proteges. They have added a new perspective to committee discussions. The mentoring of new department heads has
continued. Experienced department heads mentor new department heads in regards to that position. Department heads have their own set of checklists this year, designed specifically for that job. The definition of eligible Proteges has expanded slightly to include teachers new to the District even if they technically qualify for a Mentor only during the second semester. Mentoring can now be used as an alternative evaluation plan. The Mentor Committee has also made plans to increase communication to the staff to keep you abreast of what is happening in the program.

The Rewards: This year promises to be challenging as well as rewarding. District 99 has hired an excellent group of teachers to carry on the culture and tradition of excellence. It is more enjoyable to work with these (mostly) new professionals and be reinvigorated by them. It is also rewarding to work with a dedicated group of Mentors who have in mind the welfare of their Proteges in District 99 and the profession. In many instances situa tions have been addressed by the administration to make the school and district operation procedures more "user friendly". No problem seems too small or too large to be addressed by Mentors and Proteges together. It makes my job as Mentor Coordinator gratifying and fun.

This has been an exciting year for the District 99 Mentor Program Committee:
Dr. Larry Bowers
Sandra Brennan
Janice Dayon
Linda Emmons
Chris Guerrieri
Judy Huizinga (Coordinator)
Nancy Jandris
Bob Lewis
Michael Mayfield
Nina Narozny