Dordt College News

Center for educational services helps new teachers

January 11, 2009

A dozen new teachers are being mentored this year by experienced teachers, thanks in part to efforts of the Dordt College Center for Educational Services (CES).

In mid-August, Lloyd Den Boer, an education professor and the new director of the Center, led a day-long workshop for mentees and mentors from Christian schools from the Heartland District of Christian School International.

The aim was to set up a mentoring program that could help them become better teachers and get acclimated to their schools more quickly.

The goal of the workshop was to provide resources and activities through which teachers could share wisdom about how to be effective teachers. Den Boer gave those who attended a handbook that included summaries of such things as:
• principles of adult learning relevant to mentoring
• research on phases of professional development of teachers
• mentoring models and practices
• the model of reflective practice developed for Christian teachers by John Van Dyk in his 2007 book “Fostering a Reflective Culture in the Christian School: The Maplewood Story” (Dordt College Press: Sioux Center, IA).The new director of the Center for Educational Services is Education Professor Lloyd Den Boer, who was a teacher and principal before joining the education department in 1999.

“Lots of research points to the benefits of mentoring programs,” says Den Boer. They help new teachers learn about their environment more quickly, which means they can focus on their teaching more completely. Research also indicates that fewer mentored teachers leave teaching in the early years. This offers great benefits both for schools, which don’t have to be looking for as many new teachers, and for students, who benefit from learning from experienced teachers.

“Teachers were especially excited about the list of things that are often forgotten in orientations,” says Den Boer of the list of compiled “little things” he’s gathered throughout his years as teacher, principal, and professor.

For this year, new teachers at six schools were matched with experienced teachers in their school. Following the August meeting, participants were asked to submit a specific mentoring plan by September 15 and then convened again as a group at a breakfast meeting on October 2, at the Heartland Teachers Convention held on Dordt’s campus.

The mentoring program grew out of CES’s desire to provide practical service to local schools. Den Boer met with area principals last spring to ask them what they most needed from CES. Mentoring programs and help for multi-grade teachers were at the top of the list.

Den Boer, working with education department colleagues Pat Kornelis and Timothy Van Soelen, will visit teacher pairs in their schools in January to see how they are doing.

The mentoring workshop and support will be available annually for new teachers. In the meantime, the education department through CES is working on other ways to give support to multi-grade teachers. The annual B. J. Haan Conference scheduled for March 12 and 13 will have as its theme “Teaching Reading/Forming Faith.” David Smith of the Kuyers Center at Calvin College will be the keynote speaker.

A new focus of the CES will be to help Iowa Christian schools prepare to implement the recently adopted Iowa Core Curriculum. The Iowa Department of Education gives all accredited schools until 2012 to complete implementation, calling it the biggest reform initiative in Iowa education for several decades. Schools will need to rewrite K-12 curriculum in literacy, science, social studies, and math as well as analyze student assessment and teacher professional development data.

“The DOE appears to be strengthening the rigor of local curriculum and promoting teaching strategies that engage students at deeper levels of understanding,” says Den Boer, who notes that the changes have happened sooner than expected. “It’s both exciting and a bit overwhelming to see it right in front of us.”


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