ALERTS:
Search:
Skip Navigation LinksCherry Creek School District > District News > S.T.A.R. Mentor program connects new and "master" teachers
Print this page

S.T.A.R. Mentor program connects new and "master" teachers

starmentorsweb.jpgIt’s impossible for Elizabeth Maloney to walk through Independence Elementary School without running into someone she knows.

During a recent recess period at Independence earlier this month, Maloney made her way to a specific classroom through largely empty hallways. Though most of the students and several teachers were out of their classes and on the playground, Maloney still stopped several times to greet teachers with warm words and a friendly embrace.

Her popularity really isn’t shocking, considering her day-to-day duties. As one of the district’s S.T.A.R. (short for Staff, Training, Assistance and Renewal) Mentors, part of Maloney’s job is to make enduring connections with students and teachers. Maloney is one of seven of the program’s 2014-15 mentors who work directly with first-year teachers in the Cherry Creek School District. Through weekly visits to the classroom, Maloney and her peers help guide newcomers through the ups and downs of a job that can pose plenty of challenges.

“This can be a very isolating job. Even if you’re on the greatest team in the world, sometimes teaching is isolating. I think I give teachers that space to sit back and think and reflect and get better for the kids,” Maloney said. “When my teachers thrive, I thrive – period. That’s how I look at this. I don’t judge, and I’m never there to judge. I’m there to be another set of eyes and ears.”

That mission has been at the heart of the S.T.A.R. Mentor program since it launched in 1994. The underlying idea is simple: to connect new instructors with “master teachers,” veterans with years of experience in the classroom who can offer valuable insights and guidance for those just coming to the profession. S.T.A.R. Mentors accept three-year assignments in the district, working with more than a dozen new teachers during a single school year.

"​Even though I’m mentoring teachers, it’s all about the students when all is said and done."

-- Elizabeth Maloney, Cherry Creek School District S.T.A.R. Mentor


The program’s combination of instruction, camaraderie and classroom work is a perfect fit for Maloney, who kicked off her teaching career in Illinois and moved on to a seven-year stint as a fourth-grade instructor at Dry Creek Elementary. Maloney, who proudly calls herself a “learner,” took full advantage of the Cherry Creek district’s professional learning opportunities; in the process, she found herself in a mentoring course.

“I just thought, ‘Wow, maybe I should explore coaching and working with adults in this profession.’ I didn’t expect to get it,” Maloney recalled. “This is year three in this role, and I am still pinching myself every day that I’m in it. I think it’s absolutely the best experience I’ve ever had in education.”

The new position allowed Maloney to keep up a presence in the classroom, but the dynamic of the mentor role broadened her impact. Through classroom observations and one-on-one interactions with teachers, Maloney found a new facet of a profession she’d known for decades. The S.T.A.R. Mentor’s triple role as coach, collaborator and consultant gave Maloney a new perspective on the classroom.

“I’m still working with students, I’m just seeing it in a bigger way,” Maloney said. “I’m seeing it through teachers. I’m letting someone else take the spotlight and shine. It’s fun to support someone else in that and watch the children grow.”

For new teachers like Cassie Schaefer, the presence of an experienced master teacher is invaluable. Maloney mentored Schaefer, a Metropolitan State University grad and a third-grade teacher at Independence, last year. Schaefer said the support she received from Maloney as a mentor was individualized and in-depth.

Their work together included regular assessments and tip sheets. They focused on student achievement, reading comprehension and test scores. They parsed test scores and other data throughout the year to help track the progress of all of the students in Schaefer’s classroom.

“Even though I’m mentoring teachers, it’s all about the students when all is said and done,” Maloney said.

Working with Maloney helped Schaefer tailor her own approach to the classroom, just as it helped her focus on individual students with individual needs.

“It really helped me target specific students and it was nice to see the growth that every student made over the year,” Schaeffer said. “I like seeing how I could better suit my students’ needs and what I can do as a teacher. She helped provide that; we would talk about that a lot when Elizabeth would come and visit me. She helped me think about it from a different avenue.”

The interactions didn’t end when Schaeffer wrapped up her first year as a teacher in the district. The pair will still get together to discuss classroom dynamics, teaching strategies and individual students.

“When you collaborate, magic happens. This is having another brain to work with, and that’s all you need sometimes,” Schaeffer said. “I’m still reaching out to her. It does continue, and I know I’ll be in touch with her for years and years.”

She’s not the only one. Schaeffer is now among the dozens of teachers across the district who will stop Maloney for a hug and an update when she sees her in the hallways. Such connections last far beyond the end of any given school year.

-- Posted Sept. 24, 2014

Posted 9/24/2014 10:24 AM
The underlying idea (of the S.T.A.R. Mentor program is simple: to connect new instructors with “master teachers,” veterans with years of experience in the classroom who can offer valuable insights and guidance for those just coming to the profession. S.T.A.R. Mentors accept three-year assignments in the district, working with more than a dozen new teachers during a single school year.
Copyright © Cherry Creek School District #5, 4700 S. Yosemite Street, Greenwood Village, CO 80111 | 303-773-1184
Cherry Creek School District No. 5 does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability in admission to its programs, services or activities, in access to them, in treatment of individuals, or in any aspect of their operations. The lack of English language skills shall not be a barrier to admission or participation in the district’s activities and programs. The Cherry Creek School District No. 5 also does not discriminate in its hiring or employment practices. This notice is provided as required by Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Questions, complaints, or requests for additional information regarding these laws may be forwarded to the designated compliance officer: District Compliance Officer or directly to the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, Region VIII, Federal Office Building 1244 North Speer Blvd., Suite #310, Denver, CO 80204.

You are now leaving the Cherry Creek School District (CCSD) portal. Please note that CCSD does not control nor can it guarantee the accuracy, relevance, timeliness, completeness, or appropriateness of any content contained on web sites and/or pages outside of the official CCSD portal. The information or opinions contained on these web sites and/or pages do not necessarily represent the views of the CCSD.

With access to the internet comes the availability of material that may not be of educational value or appropriate for students. While at school, CCSD has taken precautions to restrict access to inappropriate or harmful web sites. However, on the internet it is impossible to control all materials and limit all access to information that has no educational value. CCSD firmly believes that the valuable information and the interaction available on the internet far outweigh the possibility that users may procure material that is not consistent with the educational goals of CCSD.