Two members of Western Michigan University’s College of Education and Human Development received a $25,638 grant from the Michigan Department of Education that will fund a four-day professional development program for Kalamazoo area teachers.
The winners of the grant were Dr. Regena Fails Nelson, chair and professional of teaching, learning and educational studies and interim chair of special education and literacy studies, and Jennifer Heymoss, director of the Office of Clinical Experiences.
Nelson and Heymoss created the WMU Summer Institute for Teacher Leaders, taking place June 25 through 28, intended to shape teachers from Kalamazoo Public Schools, Comstock Public Schools, Parchment School District and Portage Public Schools into potential mentors for new teachers and student interns, according to a WMU press release.
Within five years of beginning a career in education, 50 percent of teachers leave the field, Nelson said.
“It’s not always because of salary or the conditions, it’s that [teachers] don’t feel supported in their profession,” Nelson said. “So we think it’s very important as a new teacher, while you’re still learning how to teach, you’re learning the school system, you’re learning about the kids, and you’re learning about yourself, that you have someone who is a mentor who can walk you through that process.”
To help combat the teacher retention problem, the program will focus on four different areas: personal development, adult learning and coaching, mentoring and coaching in content areas and self-care and the profession.
“We’re excited to be able to work with our teachers and provide this service to them,” Nelson said. “We’ll see how they respond, but so far we’re expecting it to be great.”
Thirty teachers were chosen to participate in the program and will receive a $300 stipend for their time. Participants are required to attend a follow-up session at the end of the summer where they will create coaching and co-teaching plans, which they will share with other teachers and mentors at the Inspire Convention, taking place Aug. 22.
While the funding is only for this summer, the model is only part of a larger plan of the CEHD to provide more support for teachers. Nelson hopes to find the funding to continue running the program annually. There are currently fifteen teachers on the program’s waitlist, so the demand for workshops like the Summer Institute for Teacher Leaders is high.