CSULB's mentor teaching program gets boost from SchoolsFirst FCU donation
Reinaldo Caceres has been on both sides of the Cal State Long Beach’s student teacher mentoring program. He worked with a supervisor/mentor while earning his teaching credential at The Beach, and as a teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District, has mentored aspiring Beach student teachers.
Mentoring, he said, can be a rewarding experience for both the mentee and mentor. Last semester, he mentored Claudia Soto ’23, who last year, was hired by Narbonne High School in Harbor City to teach Spanish.
“To see her excitement at the beginning and then to how much she changed by the end was a great experience,” said Caceres ’97, ’04, also a teacher and coach at Narbonne High.
“The student teachers are nervous at first, but they get more comfortable as the semester goes on.”
It can be nerve-wracking to have a mentor looking over your shoulder, but in the end, student teachers use their guidance to learn to how to handle a classroom, create lesson plans and gain confidence. Caceres said a lot of student teaching is trial and error and a mentor can help them avoid many of the pratfalls in the classroom.
“The biggest thing they need to learn is how to manage their time and to learn what works with the students,” Caceres said.
The donation from SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union supports in-person mentor teacher institutes within the College of Education. Most recently, CED administrators earmarked the funds for online activities, including stipends for mentors to complete an online calibration training tool that supports student teachers, who are earning their Multiple Subject Credential, evaluation tools and an online mentor teacher orientation.
“These mentors work with our students all day, every day for the entirety of a semester, and we know that the tasks that we're asking them to do is much greater than the stipend provided from the funding,” said Lisa Isbell, coordinator of the Multiple Subject Credential Program (MSCP) at The Beach.
Through donations, The Beach can continue to attract and support the brightest and most accomplished students and empower them to be amazing and their resumés revered, which is one of the priorities of the comprehensive No Barriers fundraising campaign.
Student teaching comes at the end of their academic programs, taking what they learned from the faculty into K-12 classrooms.
“We couldn’t do what we do without having the partnerships with our districts and our mentor teachers because they are really the ones that are guiding these new teachers on that daily basis, giving them the feedback, giving them the support, giving them the opportunities to actually work with their students,” Isbell said.
Anna Ortiz, dean of the College of Education, said the partnership with Schools First FCU is vital to the mentorship/supervisor program. The credit union has donated to The Beach the past 10 years, enabling student teachers to make an indelible impact on the state’s economic, social, education and scientific workforce, one of the priorities of the CSULB comprehensive No Barriers fundraising campaign.
“Their support helps our ability to reach the supervisors and mentors and find new ways to provide professional development for them,” Ortiz said.
“I think one of the things that folks don't realize is that student teachers face great financial hardship during their student teaching semester, or semesters depending on what program they are in. They can't have a day job, obviously, because they're in school all day and then they can't take a traditional part time job that a lot of college students might have because they are doing prep.”
Ortiz added that the financial burden some students face can prevent them from entering the profession. Previous funding provided by SchoolsFirst FCU alleviated some of the costs of earning their teaching credentials.
“We are proud to support this innovative and impactful program,” said Josh Smith, vice president of school and community relations for SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union. “Our gift honors the dedication and expertise teacher mentors contribute to the success of future educators and our ongoing commitment to supporting and serving all school employees.”
Isbell estimated that the three credential programs graduate roughly 500 student teachers a year. She said that by the time these student teachers leave, they are well prepared to face the challenges of today’s classrooms.
“With the help the mentors, our teachers are highly sought as student teachers because once they graduate, they are ready to go out into the world and teach on their own,” she said.