“I learned so much from the online discussions. Our group shared ideas and advice about real situations in our fifth grade classrooms. We were able to draw on each other’s experiences and try many more strategies than we could have thought of on our own. The discussions helped us get through our first year together.”
Regina Gentry, 5th Grade Teacher
Cherokee County Schools
In 2006, Beginning Teacher Coordinators in the region identified the need to add another component to their induction programs. Thanks to the generosity of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, an online support program was designed by the Center for the Support of Beginning Teachers to supplement the other supports provided to beginning teachers by Western and school systems.
The goal of the CSBT Online Support Program is to establish professional learning communities that connect beginning teachers to career teachers and university faculty. These connections allow for “practice-centered” conversations, promoting reflection and the integration of knowledge and practice. The Online Support Program also provides an opportunity for new teachers to form relationships with colleagues from other WNC school systems.
Beginning teachers participating in the program are grouped based on the grade level and/or content area at which they teach. Groups are facilitated by e-mentors (public school teachers and university faculty). E-mentors welcome new teachers to the teaching profession, answer questions, offer experienced perspectives on how to best meet the needs of PK-12 students, and inspire beginning teachers to persist in the profession. E-mentors also post collections of resources that are helpful to beginning teachers.
Survey results clearly indicate that new teachers benefit from the CSBT Online Support Program. Online mentoring respects beginning teachers’ demanding schedules, allowing them to participate at a time and place most convenient to them. It appears that, for many beginning teachers, the online program provides an additional layer of support not available within their schools or systems.