Just like their students, new teachers face anxieties, ranging from learning new curriculum to ensuring the best classroom culture possible. These fresh faces in the classroom might also feel pressure to be perfect in their new roles. National Heritage Academies (NHA) is helping new teachers get ready in a variety of ways.
New Teacher Summit serves as the initial training sessions for all teachers starting their first year with an NHA school. The opportunity is a three-day long event for teachers new to NHA. About 800 teachers will take part in this year’s series of professional development.
Educators learn about NHA’s curriculum, including Moral Focus virtues, which are a bedrock of NHA’s curriculum. Teachers also plan for their first few weeks of school and establish their classroom’s routines and procedures before the start of the year.
Educators often feel anxiety in their first year on the job, and New Teacher Summit also helps curb those negative feelings. Jessica Angle, NHA’s manager of new teacher development, said the school year is like a roller coaster with some parts of the year providing more stress than others. She mentioned building relationships sets the tone for teachers to have a successful year.
“If they don’t have a full understanding of how important making those connections are to start, then they struggle throughout the whole year,” Angle said. “We give them tools to do that at New Teacher Summit, but some of our teachers join after New Teacher Summit. It could get lost in the mix of things how important that building relationships piece is.”
Another way NHA has prepared young educators is the New Teacher Mentor Program, helping connect new teachers to more experienced colleagues who can offer support through difficult situations.
Mentor specialists are brought in to help mentor teachers give their mentees the right support and guidance throughout the year. Angle said the program was piloted briefly on a small scale before the COVID-19 pandemic, which delayed the program’s progress. The New Teacher Mentor Program is now implemented in 26 NHA schools.
“In my opinion, the best way to overcome anxiety as a teacher is to have a strong mentor teacher,” Angle said. “All the research supports that as well. We've seen that with this program, it does make a difference from the new teacher standpoint knowing they have somebody to mentor them who is not also evaluating them. It makes them feel more comfortable and open to asking questions and asking for help if they need it.”
Jen Richards, a kindergarten teacher at Emerson Academy, taught her first year at an NHA school during the 2022-23 school year. After a hiatus from the classroom as a stay-at-home mother, she tackled her first year back with plenty of paper.
Step-by-step notes were a must for Richards in her first few weeks back leading her classroom. By the holiday break, she didn’t need them anymore.
Another helpful tool she used was setting up a schedule for the entire week ahead, planning every day of the upcoming week and focusing on that week’s goals. Richards also alleviated some stress by making extra sets of any paperwork she had for an emergency that might have pulled her from the classroom.
Richards said her best tip for new teachers is to know the curriculum, noting it is the best way to navigate difficult or uncomfortable classroom environments.
“Read your lesson plans ahead of time,” Richards said. “Make sure you understand them, and if you have questions, ask another teacher who's been in the field for a minute. We have all kinds of teachers who are willing to help out. They're very supportive.”
About National Heritage Academies:
National Heritage Academies (NHA) is a network of 100 tuition-free, public charter schools across nine states, serving more than 65,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade. For more information, visit nhaschools.com.
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