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Mentor Teachers Honored for Vital Role in U of A Educator Prep Program

This article originally appeared on the University of Arkansas website and is reprinted with permission.

Three University of Arkansas teacher candidates recently surprised their public school mentor teachers with banners lauding them as a Mentor Teacher of the Year for 2018-19.

U of A students in the teacher-education program spend either a full semester or year as interns in public schools across Northwest Arkansas for hands-on training before they have their own classrooms to manage.

“The internship is the most crucial aspect of our teacher preparation programs and mentor teachers are the lifeblood of the experience,” said Jake Ayo, director of field placement for the Office of Teacher Education in the College of Education and Health Professions. “They go above and beyond in an already demanding profession as they pour their time and energy into crafting our interns into teacher leaders.”

Being paired with a great mentor educator in local schools is vital to a student teacher’s success. Every year, public school teachers are named Mentor Teacher of the Year and are chosen based on their U of A intern’s nomination. The university recognizes the teachers who demonstrate a positive impact on teacher candidates’ development and P-12 student learning and development.

The U of A’s Office of Teacher Education places approximately 900 students in nearly 15 school districts every year and also serves as the central source of information on Arkansas educator licensure requirements and regulations for U of A students and constituents.

The three winning mentor teachers this year are: English teacher Casey Bazyk, Family & Consumer Sciences teacher Ashley Coston, and sixth-grade teacher Ansley Webb.

Student teacher Auburn Peters nominated Bazyk, who teachers at Rogers New Technology High School.

In the nomination letter, Peters said her mentor teacher, Casey Bazyk, has given her the opportunity to offer input, to plan units and projects, and to bring her own ideas into the classroom.

“She has supported me in every way possible, from giving advice and feedback, to granting me grace and understanding when I have had a rough week or things don’t go as planned,” Peters wrote. “As I move forward in my teaching career, I will continually think to myself, ‘What would Casey do?'”

Peters said being placed with Bazyk in the spring semester of earning a Masters in the Art of Teaching renewed and refreshed her love for the field. “I have gained a colleague, mentor, and friend in Casey, and I cannot imagine someone better from which to learn from in this last semester,” she added.

Peters said Bazyk is a constant advocate and champion of and for her students, continually seeks to improve as an educator, demonstrates her commitment to excellence and school involvement by actively planning and working with her fellow facilitators by planning lessons and instruction.

Student teacher Colton Watson nominated Coston, an 8th and 9th-grade teacher at Lakeside Junior High School.

He said Coston has had a positive impact on each of her students through engaging lessons, interactive assignments, and empathy. He said she’s always prepared and the students go to her with exciting news or stressful situations. “They trust her so much,” Watson added in his nomination letter.

Watson said he could not have asked for a better mentor teacher. “Mrs. Coston has helped me in more ways than one,” he noted. “She was always trying to improve my teaching skills, behavior management skills, organized skills, and so much more. There were times when I got off track and she made sure to get me back on so I could continue to grow as a future teacher.”

Watson said his mentor teacher is well known around the school as a leader and someone who goes out of her way to help others. “During my internship, Mrs. Coston started a Google Document of my Grows and Glows for each week of my internship,” he wrote. “Throughout the week, we would take a moment and she would say things I did well with and things I might need to work on some more. This ranged from classroom management, planning, and interacting with students. I would not be the future teacher I am today without the amazing influence Mrs. Coston has had on me!”

Student teacher Maddie Tober nominated Webb, who teaches at Ruth Barker Middle School.

Tober said Webb is the first teacher she’s seen who meets the needs of each student who walks into her classroom.

“Within the very first days of the school year, Mrs. Webb had found out things about the students’ lives that made it difficult to learn and began to figure out ways to address their needs,” Tober wrote in her nomination. “She strives to make her students feel valued through the giving of praise, creating a tight-knit classroom community, and encouraging laughter within the walls of her classroom.”

Tober noted that Webb deeply connects while simultaneously cultivating a desire for learning among her students through integration of multimedia, relevant interests, and differentiation strategies.

 “Problem solving and a growth mindset are constantly encouraged in her classroom and her students have gained important 21st-century skills because of her,” Tober wrote. “I would encourage anyone to go and observe the incredible teacher that Mrs. Webb is.”

Tober noted that she had no intentions of teaching middle school after graduation, but being in Webb’s class changed her mind. “

She instilled in me the purpose of teachers and how we get to live that purpose out each and every day inside and outside of the classroom. She showed me how to communicate effectively with parents and remind them their child is valued,” Tober wrote. “She prepared me for so many things I would never have expected to encounter in a classroom.”

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