On mentors

MentoringHands-0A mentor is defined as someone who guides another to greater success. I’m mentoring a new-to-kindergarten teacher this year, and it has caused me to reflect on who my mentors are. Of course, I could list so many of the authors of the books that line my walls – Nancie Atwell, Katie Wood Ray, Lucy Calkins, Donald Graves, Dick Allington, Ken and Yetta Goodman, Marie Clay, Debbie Miller, Steph Harvey and Anne Goudvis – just to name a few.  We all have those mentors. The people we get excited to see in person at NCTE or IRA, the authors we wait in line for the chance to speak a word or two, the authors whose voices echo in our mind as we teach every day.

But as I reflected on this, I started thinking of the teachers I have taught with throughout the years. Teachers I have worked with who were in their first year or their twentieth have made an impact on my teaching to this day. I fear that we are entering an age of teaching where collaboration and sharing are discouraged. Stories of competition between teachers in the name of test scores frighten me. (for many reasons) Teaching can be a lonely profession. We can easily be isolated in our classrooms. Sharing and learning from our colleagues is so important and sometimes the littlest thing can stick with that teacher across the hall forever.

I want to thank a few of my teaching mentors I think about daily. You’ve given me ideas and inspiration that I carry into my classroom every day. I realize the danger of doing a post like this – I’m sure I will leave someone out. And really, everyone who I’ve had the privilege of teaching with has impacted me in some way. Thanks to Zoya Bankley Lucas, I still hand out “love notes” – tiny pieces of paper with fun messages – to my kids every day as we say good-bye for the day.  Christy Thompson, Sam Straker, and Susan Cox are my inspirations for creating community in my classroom. They have taught me so much about honoring and respecting children and listening to them. I can hear their voices every day as I interact with my kindergarteners. Julie King taught me how important enthusiasm and patience are in a classroom. The joy she showed for her job and students, even in the face of challenges and frustration, is something I think of often when faced with difficulties. Pat Johnson’s voice comes to me often as I work with my young readers and writers. “What would Aunt Pat do?” is a thought I have at least once a day. Rosary Lalik and my cohort for the Literacy Studies master’s program at Virginia Tech truly transformed who I am as a teacher. Your voices blend into a symphony of support and encouragement to challenge me to think outside the status quo and always question and speak up for what is right for children. You help me be brave in my teaching. Melanie Rick taught me so much about arts integration. The lessons we planned and taught together help me every year as I integrate the arts into my teaching. Ann Mabry has helped me achieve balance in my life. I learned that I could be a good teacher and have a rich life outside of school through her. Kassia Omohundro Wedekind, Jessica Shumway, Debbie Gates and Michelle Gale, you have taught me to love teaching math. You come into my math workshop with me every day and help bring excitement, inquiry and fun to math. Shannon Christie, Lauren Price and Althea Greenstone make up my current kindergarten team. I learn from each of you and feel so grateful to be a part of a team who shares a common, child-centered philosophy and love for teaching kindergarten.

Thank you all.

Who are your teaching mentors? Who can you thank today for making you a better teacher?


Our Virginia Tech Literacy Studies cohort

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