During the 2018-2019 school year, I have had the privilege of developing a program focused on reducing isolation and increasing support for new teachers in the Juda School District. I want to thank the wonderful administration and staff in Juda for allowing me to be a part of their community. When this project began, I knew rural schools, both in and out of Green County, are challenged with recruiting and retaining teachers. Why teachers don’t seek out jobs or stay in rural schools is not quite clear, but this possibly could be contributed to their overall job satisfaction. Efficacy is often linked to being provided with the appropriate support so teachers can feel they can do their job well. Research has also shown that the best level of support comes from other teachers. The district administrator and I also wondered if encouraging investment in the rural community increases a teacher’s desire to stay. All these thoughts transformed into the new teacher project in Juda. The story of three new teachers is likely a common tale across other small schools in Green County. This year Juda had three new teachers, all working in very different roles. We met on a monthly basis and covered a variety of topics pertinent to skills required of new teachers, including classroom management, teacher effectiveness, and teacher leadership. It was a challenge developing a program that fit the needs of three individuals teaching various content. I worked closely with the district administrator to design a program that would focus on strategies which highlighted the strength of these rural communities in an attempt to connect these teachers with the one thing their roles have in common: teaching in a small rural school. Together the teachers and I explored how the rural context presents unique aspects, both encouraging and challenging. Through this project, we discovered the importance of keeping teachers supported and interested by highlighting the positive effect the rural context has on their teaching practices. My time in Juda has shown me that the school is at the heart of the community and so are the teachers. I hope this research project will help future individuals who are challenged with creating an effective new teacher mentor program in a small rural school. Below I outline the framework to design the project, discuss program features, and present a modified version of the district’s current new mentor program.
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Juda School District