The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

October 15, 2007

Mentoring may stem high teacher turnover

State may use Mankato model to help in teacher shortage

NORTH MANKATO — A revolving door of new teachers replacing dissatisfied ones is leaving Minnesota, particularly rural areas, with a shortage of good teachers in the key areas of math, science and special education.

One of the best ways to counter the problems, says a think tank, is for the state to duplicate the teacher mentoring model used in Mankato.

“The Mankato mentoring program is a key way we will reduce the number of teachers leaving the profession,” said Matt Entenza, chairman of Minnesota 2020, which released a new report on teacher shortages Monday at a news conference at Dakota Meadows Middle School.

The report notes that half of all new teachers change schools within the first five years of their careers and 15 percent leave the profession out of frustration or are attracted by higher-paying jobs in the private sector.

Entenza said the state Department of Education should create an office of mentoring and model it after Mankato’s program.

The Mankato program is a partnership with Minnesota State University. A few district teachers take a leave, for up to three years, to be district mentors who work with student teachers and college students transitioning into teaching.

There are also teachers at individual schools who serve as on-site mentors to first-year teachers.

Brian Fortney, a new science teacher at Dakota Meadows Middle School, said he benefits from the mentoring of Mary Jost, also a science teacher.

“I think it really helps having a mentor that first year when things are so trying and many teachers leave out of frustration.”

Fortney said he spends about 12 hours a day and most weekends working as he learns the ropes in his first year.

“If you didn’t have a mentor, it’d be really easy to become overwhelmed and just drop it. I don’t feel overwhelmed or frustrated.”

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