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Keene State and Winchester School Mentoring Program

Winchester 6th grader mentoring three Keene State Education students
Winchester 6th grader mentoring three Keene State Education students

Partnership Between Keene State and a Regional Public School Serves as a Model for Others

Each academic year, Keene State College students who are studying Education have the opportunity to teach children at Winchester School in New Hampshire. These future teachers instruct a range of children from kindergarten through sixth grade, for a full year. This partnership, in particular, is unique, because of a co-mentoring program that is part of this work at Winchester School. Faculty at Keene State and Winchester mentor each other while Keene State students mentor each other. These mentoring relationships are not based on who knows more – they are based on gaining new perspectives from other people, which helps to grow knowledge and a sense of support for teachers and students alike.

If you were to walk into any classroom you would see Keene State students working along with their cooperating teachers. Keene State senior, Kelly Welch said, “I learn something new every day about the world of teaching. Just today I learned about Standards-Based Grading.” Learning experiences are shared among all participants - Winchester teachers have gained valuable knowledge from Keene State students. Recently Amanda Nordberg, a kindergarten teacher, shared her experience of guiding her class through an engineering and design project for a way to pick apples that they couldn’t reach. Amanda recently shared, “Up until a few years ago when I started having the Keene State students in my room I was nervous about teaching science in this manner, now I feel comfortable and am able to embrace it. The students are benefiting from this in a lot of ways.”

For Dr. Debbie Black, Keene State Education Professor who is part of the program, being back in the classroom teaching science and being mentored by the cooperating teachers is an invaluable experience. Keene State students are benefitting as well. “Keene State students get the full experience of being a teacher, while learning how to be a mentor, and being mentored themselves,” said Dr. Black. “Co-mentoring is not hierarchical, and it helps to instill a sense of wonder and curiosity in our students. This approach to mentoring helps students to reframe judgments, and it opens them up to others’ points of view.”

For Keene State students who aim to teach in a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) discipline, the co-mentoring program provides them with the support they need to strengthen their teaching skills, and become confident teachers in fields that can sometimes be intimidating. Heather Pelkey, Keene State alumnae and Winchester School 6th grade teacher, remembers her experience as a student of Dr. Black’s. “Dr. Black has helped me grow my capabilities in terms of how I teach science. I embrace the changing pedagogy on how to teach science because of Dr. Black. I also enjoy helping new and current teachers learn how to teach STEM.”

In October 2015, Dr. Black; Dr. Pru Cuper, Keene State Education Professor; Heather Pelkey and Tim Durr, Winchester School 6th grade teacher, presented at a national conference focused on mentoring at the University of New Mexico. National leaders in the field of mentoring were in attendance. “Our co-mentoring program at Winchester School is a model for how other public schools and colleges can work together to everyone’s benefit.We were invited to present at the conference, because others want to learn from our work – it was a thrill to share our practices and I hope that we have helped others get started,” said Dr. Black.

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