Thanks to a $216,500 grant from the Meadows Foundation, Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD — in partnership with the New Teacher Center — recently kicked off its New Teacher Mentor Program as part of the district’s efforts to ensure all new teachers are p
aired with knowledgeable and experienced mentors during their first years in the field.
The PSJA New Teacher Mentor Program will provide high-quality training and support to veteran teachers to prepare them to be effective mentors.
“We know that the first year of teaching for educators is crucial to prepare them for their career,” said PSJA Director for New Teacher Support Angela Salinas-Oviedo. “So we want to make sure that they’re skilled, have support, have the best tools and strategies, and that they have the best relationship with a mentor teacher to ensure they’re successful.”
Principals and colleagues selected the first cohort of about 110 teacher mentors from across the district based on their outstanding effectiveness in the classroom.
For Frank Borrego, an electrical technology teacher at PSJA Ballew Early College High School, the training was invaluable.
“It’s great to learn how to be a mentor,” Borrego said. “It comes in handy because I’ve been teaching for seven years now and there is still a lot of new information that I need to learn. Helping a new teacher will help me become a better teacher.”
While over the last several years PSJA ISD educators have received instructional coaching through a leadership coach, the New Teacher Mentor Program will take things to a new level by also providing training and resources to the mentors.
“For the first time we can now train the mentor to ensure they also receive quality support and that we develop their leadership qualities as well,” Salinas-Oviedo said. “Coaching somebody else allows both the mentor and mentee to grow. So, in essence, we are multiplying leadership expertise.”
Klarisa Espinosa, a PSJA alumna and sixth-grade ELA & Social Studies Teacher at Raul Yzaguirre Middle School, looks forward to growing as a leader and educator through the program. Espinosa was part of the first cohort of students to participate in the district’s Early College Program and graduated from PSJA Memorial ECHS with 52 college credit hours in 2012.
“PSJA ISD is one of a kind,” said Espinosa, who began her teaching career at PSJA ISD in 2015. “It’s amazing that PSJA ISD has this opportunity for teachers to learn even more through this extra professional development. We’re blessed to have this opportunity as a teacher and a mentee.”
Mentors in each cohort will be strategically paired with a new teacher at their campus every year over the next five years. According to the PSJA director for New Teacher Support, by the end of the five-year program, the district estimates to have impacted over 1,000 educators.
“I’ve had the privilege of working with new teachers over the last seven or eight years and I can honestly say that I don’t know any other district in the Valley that supports teachers the way we do at PSJA ISD,” Salinas-Oviedo said. “We have been so intentional with not only quality professional development and training, but ongoing support.”