Teacher Appreciation: Supporting our teachers through mentorship

October 5, 2021

There are many ways to show our teachers that we appreciate the work they do. As part of World Teachers’ Day, we are sharing this Q & A session with Gwen Thornburn, the coordinator for our Teacher Mentorship Program.

Gwen has been teaching for 21 years, mainly as a high school math and science teacher. She also spent time as a high school vice-principal at an independent school. She came to the Langley School District six years ago and has worked in alternate programs such as FOCUS, supporting students with anxiety, depression, trauma, and addiction.

She joined the Mentorship Program first as a mentor and has become a better educator because of the work she did alongside her mentees. This year she has stepped into the role of District Teacher for the Mentorship Program and hopes to provide support, encouragement, and opportunities for growth for those teachers in the program.

Tell us about the mentorship program. What does it do?

The mentorship program is a structured program which enables early career teachers to learn and grow in a supportive, collaborative culture. Mentors, while gaining new insights into themselves as teachers and learners, are provided an opportunity to assume a leadership role within their communities and the district.

Why is this program so important?

It is so important because when teachers thrive, their students thrive.

What effect does this program have on your teachers? How do they grow?

The program offers mentor and mentee learning sessions, support and development of individualized growth plans, networking opportunities, access to additional relevant workshops, access to resources, including a free resource book of their choosing and leadership opportunities.

Both mentors and mentees are working and learning together and trying new things, it is a safe place to grow professionally. As a mentor, I have learned so much and improved my own practice because I had time to reflect and change alongside my mentee. I have greatly appreciated the new and fresh perspectives that my mentees brought to our conversations.

How is this growth reflected in the classroom?

As teachers grow and develop, teaching becomes enriched. With rich teaching and learning opportunities our students’ engagement and learning also increases. We all love to see students thriving in our classrooms; this is one of the greatest joys of teaching.

How does it make you feel to be working with the program now?

I am honoured that I get to work with and learn from so many wonderful educators. Mentorship is a reciprocal learning relationship where both the mentee and mentor work together to achieve mutually defined goals that focus on developing skills, abilities, knowledge and thinking.