kept thinking to myself, “I don't know why I’m doing this.” I almost quit,”
shared second year Special Education (SPED) teacher Carissa Simmons.
thoughts changed when she became a participant in the Hawaii State Department
of Education’s mentoring program.
was paired with SPED mentor teacher Tracy Muranaka-Ng, and what developed over
the course of just a few months was a strong system of support that both claim made
them better educators.
is one of two SPED-specific mentor teachers with the department’s Hawaii
Teacher Induction Center. Prior to that, she was a SPED
teacher at Kuhio Elementary and Gus Webling Elementary and has more than 15
years of experience with the department.
background in SPED has been so valuable. She really understands what I’m going
through, and her feedback and ideas are on point,” said Simmons. “I have more
confidence this year and Tracy is only a text or phone call away if I have any
questions. It’s been a wonderful experience.”
type of support is commonly known in education as the Marigold Effect.
it comes to gardening, marigolds are one of the best plants for companion
planting – helping to chase away certain pests and improve flavor and growth of
other plants like carrots, cabbage and cantaloupes. In teaching, these
companion plants take the form of mentors like Muranaka-Ng who help nurture up
and coming teachers.
reflected on her own experience as a beginning teacher, stating, “It was a
rough patch – not having curriculum, not knowing who to turn to, it can be
scary at times.” She is motivated to change this experience for incoming
teachers by providing the supports they need, which she believes will help reduce
go into this profession knowing what they will get paid; however, what they may
not realize is the magnitude of the job,” she added. “Our goal at the Hawaii
Teacher Induction Center is to provide mentoring support from the start and
avoid situations where we may end up losing talented educators like Carissa.
I’m glad we had the opportunity to step in at the right time and keep her with
Hawaii Teacher Induction Center is housed in the department’s Office of Human
Resources, Leadership Institute, and is tasked with implementing a statewide
Teacher Induction Program that consistently supports beginning teachers through
their challenging first years.
Keri Shimomoto, the center’s director,
continues her efforts to build up the program including supports for new SPED
takes a unique skillset to be a SPED teacher, the job can be overwhelming when
it comes to understanding the law (Individuals with Disabilities Education
Act), following procedures, timelines and the paperwork involved,” she
said. “In addition, SPED teachers need to develop and
implement individualized instruction for their students and
coordinate with related service providers, parents and
paraprofessionals. Working with a mentor that has experience, as an effective SPED
teacher, is critical in helping these beginning teachers navigate the
complexity of the job, while providing timely instructional
30 percent of all beginning teachers are SPED teachers and there are just not
enough SPED mentors. The Center is trying to build capacity in this area and raise
awareness about the need for skilled SPED mentors.
“This program is a
wonderful example of the type of talent management the department
values and would like to expand,” said Assistant Superintendent of Talent
Management Cynthia Covell. “The data shows that when a teacher feels supported
they tend to stay in the profession.”
interested in the Hawaii Teacher Induction Center can call (808) 733-4130.