Planting the Seeds of Success with the Mentorship Experience Pilot

Planting the Seeds of Success with the Mentorship Experience Pilot

This fall and winter, we took a chance on a new professional learning opportunity being offered by ATLAS and MDE – The Mentorship Experience Pilot. Through this experience, a more seasoned Adult Education practitioner is partnered with someone who is hoping to learn more about the field. For our pairing, Kristy was the mentee, and Stephanie was the mentor. We both attended a kick-off meeting, and then we met six times over about 12 weeks. When we said good-bye after our final meeting, Kristy was starting an ABE Licensure program at Hamline University, and Stephanie felt more connected to and energized by her work than she had in a long time.

The mentee perspective

From Kristy’s perspective, a main benefit of the mentorship experience was a chance for her to connect with someone who could answer her questions. Oftentimes people feel like they don’t want to bother their colleagues because providing help is “not their job,” but having a mentor means that there is someone who expects and welcomes questions. This can be especially beneficial for teachers who are new or working in programs with limited support. Furthermore, when programs are experiencing times of transition with new managers or new staff, it can be especially difficult to find “an expert” who is able to provide support and guidance, and mentors can help to fill-in these gaps.

When Kristy reflected on her mentorship experience, she said, “I knew that I needed help, but I wasn’t even sure what I needed. The process has led to identifying even more questions that I didn’t even know that I had.”

The mentor perspective

For Stephanie, being a mentor was revitalizing in a number of ways. When working with Kristy and answering questions, it was an opportunity to reflect on routines and practices and think about their effectiveness and value. When Kristy would ask questions like, “Why do you do it that way?” Stephanie was pushed to stop and think before providing an answer. Sometimes we get stuck in ruts when we’ve done something for a long time, and we might forget why we even started implementing this routine or using that favorite resource.

Being a mentor provided Stephanie with a reason to look at her professional practices through a critical lens, which is something that we are often just too busy to stop and do. It also led to a sense of greater professionalism and felt like an opportunity to give back to the field of ABE.

Kristy is already an amazing ABE professional, and as she continues on her journey towards licensure and eventually has her own classroom, it is an incomparable feeling to know that this mentorship experience will have played a role in her success and the future success of her students.

Tangible results

Not only did the mentorship experience provide valuable professional development, but it led to the creation of a tangible product. Kristy gathered so many wonderful ideas and so much valuable information from Stephanie that she needed a way to process and internalize everything. She also wanted to create materials from that information that would be beautiful and useful to share with students in class.

She put everything together into a website with slideshows and other resources that she uses in the classroom. Students can also use it independently to review and dive deeper after lessons. So far, the website houses pages relevant to GED-level reading and writing and English language learning, but Kristy is continually adding new pages.

The mentorship experience was a highly productive partnership for Stephanie and Kristy, and they are looking forward to reaping the benefits of the seeds that they planted together for years to come. If you’d like to plant your own seeds of success, learn more about participating in an upcoming cohort!

Stephanie Sommers, Instructor Minneapolis Adult Education
Kristy Cannon, Instructor Metro North ABE