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Statewide Teacher Mentoring Program Graduates Second Cohort

SD Department of Education

The second cohort to complete a state-wide, two-year teaching mentorship program celebrated in Sioux Falls Thursday. The state department of education hopes pairing new teachers with mentors will improve teacher retention. 

The Blue Ribbon Task Force is perhaps best remembered for the resulting half-cent sales tax increase to improve teacher salaries in the state. But surveys conducted during the task force showed many teachers wanted a support system to help them adjust from college to running their own classroom.

Courtney Hentges is the new band and choir director for the Montrose School District. When she struggled to manage a few band students who continued playing their instruments during instructions, her mentor helped her approach the issue differently.

“Andrea, when she came and observed me, said, ‘Oh, you’ve got some demonstrators in the classroom!’ And I was like, ‘What?’ And she’s like, ‘Yeah, let them play something for you. If you’re trying to teach a concept and they’ve got it, let them show everyone else how to do it.”

While new teachers get support, mentors can learn new skills too. Andrea Harstad is a band director in the Canton School District. She says mentoring Hentges helped her gain confidence making public presentations and serving on a school committee. But she also finds it fulfilling to help a new educator. Harstad encourages more established teachers not to keep their knowledge to themselves.  

“You know, share that information, because that’s how this profession is going to continue to thrive.”

Harstad says while their commitment to the two-year mentorship program ends now, she and Hentges plan to continue bouncing ideas off each other as the years go on.

This year, more than 430 new teachers and 330 mentors took part in the program across 99 school districts. That’s an increase of more than 100 participants since last year.

Regional Health supports Education and Healthcare reporting on SDPB.

Note: A previous version of this story reported this was the first graduating cohort of the mentorship program. The story has been corrected to reflect it was the second cohort.