Mentorship Program helps foster a welcoming environment for new teachers

Alexis Dobranowski
Anyone who has started a new job knows that it can be quite daunting walking into a new environment: different people, different technologies, different ways of working…and so many different acronyms.

“SSC, DECA, HSC, LC, MAC* – I have to admit for awhile I was stumped by a few of the acronyms being used; they are different at every school,” said Amy Stent, a science teacher who joined Greenwood in September 2023. “The great thing about the mentorship program meetings on Mondays was that I always knew I had someplace to ask any question I had and not feel silly about it.”

Like all new teaching staff at Greenwood – whether new to teaching or new to the school – Ms. Stent was enrolled in the mentorship program. The program involves protected time to meet as a group on Mondays, as well as a pairing with a 1:1 mentor.

The Monday meetings cover a variety of topics in line with the school calendar - from using the ON system to the report card software to what to expect at parent/guardian interview night and even what to expect and how to RSVP to the holiday social. 

For Lead Teacher Mentor Kelly Smolinksi, it’s an open forum for questions, an opportunity to understand the culture of the school, and a space to talk about all the ups and downs that come with being a new teacher or a teacher that’s new to a school.

“It may seem like little things, but I see that it really validates peoples’ feelings, to know they aren’t alone,” she said. “They have a dedicated time and space to ask questions and share challenges.”

Selma Hammad, an English and French teacher also new to Greenwood, says the mentorship meetings have been crucial to her integration and understanding of how things work at Greenwood.

“These sessions feel like a safe space where we can share any stress we're experiencing and receive helpful tips and ideas from our colleagues,” she said. “I'm also deeply grateful to have had a mentor who is much more experienced with Google tools than I am. She has helped me tremendously with understanding how to set up my classes and using Google tools effectively. 

Mentors and mentees meet 1:1 at their own pace. For some, that means standing weekly meetings; for others it’s just knowing that someone is there to support them in their transition.

“It can be overwhelming, your first few years of teaching. It’s a lot of information to take in. It’s a lot to navigate. The mentorship program ensures you are part of a community and supported by the school,” Ms. Smolinski said. “Of course you can speak to anyone - your subject team lead, teaching partners, other colleagues - but the formalized mentorship relationship means the new staff member has a go-to person that they can also connect with.”

It’s proved extremely effective, Ms. Hammad said. 

“I think Greenwood's teacher mentorship program is unique, and it has made me feel so supported in my first year here,” she said. “My previous teaching experiences at other Ontario schools did not include a mentorship program, and I had to figure everything out on my own or ask willing colleagues to help me. My transition to working at Greenwood was quite smooth thanks to the mentorship program.”

For Ms. Stent – who was drawn to Greenwood by its approach to teaching and learning – the mentorship program has helped her join the Greenwood community too.

“I have taught the course for many years so I know the course material,” she said. “The mentorship program helped me adapt to Greenwood’s methods. It was such a welcoming group and it’s been great to be a part of it.”

Read more about the Mentorship Program.

*Student Success Centre, DECA, Homework Support Centre, Learning Commons, Missed Assessment Centre
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