Isabel Maremont Lake graduated from Brown University in 2011 and taught high school English for five years in Henry County and Jefferson County Public Schools. She joined Teach Kentucky’s staff this year as the Teacher Induction and Support Coordinator.
Teach Kentucky is unique in the educational landscape for a myriad of reasons: our focus on recruiting nationally, our emphasis on long-term teacher retention, and our wonderful working relationships with our partners, Jefferson County Public Schools and the University of Louisville.
However, what I feel lends to our uniqueness among peer programs is the ongoing and wrap-around support we provide for new teachers.
Prior to Arrival
From the minute an application hits our inbox, we provide a personalized take on what can be a long process. In fact, many veteran teachers fondly remember The Call from Rowan, which often came minutes after an application is submitted.
The recruitment weekend is another time that Teach Kentucky’s supportive community shines. During the weekend, we love to introduce our candidates to the veteran teachers, who step up in various heroic ways including hosting dinners in their homes, driving candidates around to show off their new home town of Louisville, and coaching candidates through the interview process. Often during this weekend, candidates identify the veteran teachers who morph into their mentors when they begin teaching.
Once teachers arrive in Louisville as brand new cohort members, the supports offered ramp up in a purposeful way. Teachers participate in a six-week Summer Institute, led primarily by veteran teachers. Teachers work in Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) which mimic the structure they will later encounter in the schools at which they work.
Cohort members are led through the process of planning a lesson, managing students, assessing student knowledge, and navigating school policies surrounding special education students, English Language Learners, and other populations. Naturally, these PLC groups end up discussing how to best befriend the most important people at any school (the secretary and the custodians!), where to score the cheapest teacher supplies (Dollar Tree!) and how to cope with first year teacher stress (hiking, brunch, sleeping, the occasional cathartic crying session).
During the School Year
In the weeks leading up to the beginning of school, teachers are matched with a retired teacher advocate (RTA), a feature that is unique to Teach Kentucky. These RTAs visit teachers in their classrooms to help them set up, hang posters, and make class rules. They continue to support teachers through the first months of the school year by meeting with them for coffee, lesson planning help, and Target runs for school supplies. The relationship cultivated between the first-year teacher and a retired long-time educator helps to bolster community.
Throughout the summer and the first two school years, my role as a teacher induction and support coordinator is to observe teachers and help connect them to resources in the district and within the Teach Kentucky community. This can comprise everything from sending weekly emails, visiting classrooms, holding lesson planning sessions, and helping to foster the mentoring capacity among our veteran teachers.
The hope is that, between these Teach Kentucky systems, support from schools, and the mentors and professors University of Louisville’s Master’s program, we will help launch these teachers into their careers in a positive, community-based manner. We boast a 70% retention rate in Louisville’s schools after three years of teaching, and credit our unique support systems as a part of this success.