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New Alabama teachers will be coached by mentors

By Bob Johnson
Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY — New teachers have sometimes found themselves going straight from college to standing in front of a classroom full of young pupils, often with little idea of what to expect.

Gov. Bob Riley hopes that a mentoring program will give new teachers some help when they take those first steps into a public school classroom.

The new program, funded by $4 million in state funds and praised Wednesday at a news conference, will allow every first-year teacher to have a mentor in the new school year, which begins this month in most school districts.

The mentors will be experienced teachers, who will each be paid a $1,000 stipend to be mentors to a young educator.

"This is to make sure new teachers have everything they need," Riley said at the news conference.

The mentoring program was recommended by the governor's Commission on Quality Teaching, which included educators from across the state.

One member of the commission, Phillip Feldman, associate dean of education at the University of South Alabama, said most professions provide a mentor or role model for new employees.

"Even the best quarterback in the NFL, Peyton Manning, has a coach every day," Feldman said.

Riley and state schools Superintendent Joe Morton said they hope the mentors will help encourage young teachers to stay in the classroom.

Morton said from 30 percent to 50 percent of new teachers leave their teaching positions within five years.

Morton said the mentoring program would be particularly helpful in schools with a large number of low-income students.

"Schools with a lot of students in poverty struggle the most to retain bright young teachers," Morton said.

Riley said he expects the veteran teachers to do more than just tell younger teachers "where the lunchroom is and how to line up the kids in the hallway."

Talladega County Schools Superintendent Cindy Elsberry said young teachers need someone to show them how to improve student achievement.

"I think the children are going to be the benefactors of this," Elsberry said.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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