Teach For Australia partner school Cobram Secondary College, in northeast Victoria, has a “we are all learners” culture – for students and staff alike.
It’s in that spirit the college has introduced a dedicated School Mentor, Lauren McKeown, whose sole focus is on supporting TFA Associates and beginning teachers as they’re developing in their new role.
‘Mentoring is number one’
Cobram Secondary College Principal Kimberley Tempest said it all started with feedback from an Associate on what TFA’s Leadership Development Program would look like at the college “in the perfect world”. Using Victoria’s Teacher Financial Incentives Program “gold standard for induction”, they determined what would make it work for their school.
“We negotiated with Lauren to bring in the role of mentor – an experienced teacher, an outstanding teacher – and it had to be a role on its own. Lauren doesn’t have any other responsibilities – this job is it, mentoring is the number one role,” Ms Tempest said.
“We offer ongoing training, professional development and ongoing support – providing the next step in their development as a teacher. We don’t expect them to be an experienced teacher day one.”
Since 2015, 12 TFA Associates have been placed at Cobram Secondary College including eight who are completing their first or second year of the LDP in 2023 – teaching a range of subjects including mathematics, English, languages, the arts, photography, humanities, science and business management.
“Having a consistent person in this mentor role allows for you to really differentiate for the new teachers because you have your finger on the pulse,” Ms McKeown said.
“This role can advocate for the TFA teachers and they come to me at any time; I can help, guide and listen. For our Associates here, pedagogy trumps the curriculum from the get-go. We give them time to focus on the how of teaching.
“We spend time mapping out what the year looks like for the first years; we know when to step in and when to back off helping them. Recognising that every year is different and finding the points of need for each of them individually.”
Integral to success
TFA State Manager Philippa Williams said Cobram Secondary College was an exemplar of in-school support for Associates.
“This level of in-school support – complemented by our Teaching and Leadership Advisors – is integral to Associate success and makes the difference,” she said.
“Many of our partner schools offer this high level of support and we know that where schools consider the individual Associate and how to help them grow as a teacher and a leader, we see even greater success.”
Cobram Secondary College’s support of TFA Associates doesn’t end with its dedicated School Mentor role. The college has hosted school practicum for incoming Associates from across Victoria – with 10 completing their practicum requirements there during Term 4 of 2022.
The school also supports new incoming teachers with housing to help ensure the move to a regional area is a smooth transition.
Building the future workforce
Ms Tempest said these investments were paying off.
“Previous alumni of the program could have left but are turning down financial incentives at other schools or closer to home, to stay and take on leadership opportunities. We offer the opportunity to test out a leadership role here,” she said.
“There are high demands, but there are also high rewards. This is about building the teacher workforce for the future.”