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Mesa County Valley 51 designs robust teacher mentor program using ESSER III funds

Author: Jeremy Meyer

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Photo of a teacher for Mesa 51 Teacher Mentor Grant blog post

Mesa County Valley 51 School District is using ESSER III funds for teacher mentoring.


Mesa County Valley 51 School District, which comprises the Grand Junction area, is using ESSER funding to develop a robust teacher mentoring program that includes a curriculum-based professional learning framework to help out its new teachers.

The U.S. government provided states $2 trillion from the Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief funds to help school districts recover from the impacts of the pandemic. 

Colorado earmarked a portion of the third round of ESSER funding, known as ESSER III, for a Mentor Program Grant to help ensure that novice teachers receive critical mentorship and coaching support so that they could better navigate the transition into the in-person classroom. 

Mesa 51 was one of 26 Colorado school districts to be awarded money from the state’s $9.5 million Mentor Grant Program. Mesa, specifically, received $520,284 for the two-year grant, said Danny Medved, director of professional learning for Mesa Valley 51 and the lead designer, with three others, on the district’s new teacher induction team.

“Our program is really three overarching parts, with the first being a targeted focus on alternative licensure and pre-licensure, and the second is using curriculum-based professional learning,” Medved said. “But that’s especially true for new educators. We’ve got to equip them to manage a classroom, but that’s only part of the challenge when you’re talking about long-term student engagement and teacher advocacy and success.”

Mesa 51 has identified 120 novice or first-year teachers, 35 of whom are on the alternative licensure track, and put what they are calling “lead content mentors” in place to work with them at all levels of education, including special education. The content mentors create a digital bank of content that can be used throughout the district for years to come. 

“That includes videos of themselves teaching and using high-leverage instructional practices, and then really like unpacking things like, ‘Here's what I've learned as a veteran teacher,’ sort of the tips and tricks of the things a new teacher does or doesn’t want to do,” Medved said. “Then we look at how do we use these videos to better plan and engage students?”

The third prong for Mesa 51 has been working with the New Teacher Center, a national nonprofit based in California that partners with school districts to support and amplify educator effectiveness. 

“We’re having them evaluate our overall program, and especially our various mentorship roles,” Medved said. “They will consult with us this year and next, showing us the kinds of mentoring models that are out there, and mostly helping us improve and enhance what we have in place. The big piece with them is, we want to tap into their expertise on program evaluation and assessing impact.”

In addition to the three primary components of its program, Medved said that Mesa 51 is also developing a guiding coalition to support new teachers and their mentors -- a Teacher Mentorship and Induction Programming Advisory Committee that starts this year and runs through the next. 

“We have our local university on that committee, as well as our professional learning and induction team, and then the New Teacher Center will actually help us facilitate that process as an outside partner,” Medved said. “Just to say, you know, where are we headed, what really works, what doesn't, what's redundant, and what and when do we need to add things to improve upon what we’ve started?”