Mentoring is Not Just for Teachers

Gina Yonts
Apr 27, 2020


AWSP introduced me to mentoring about five years ago after AWSP teamed up with OSPI in an effort to boost principal mentoring. I was a principal in a mid-size school district in Eastern Washington at the time. The opportunity to participate in a 2-day mentor training was a great professional opportunity. 

I had always been appreciative of the love and support of other caring teaching mentors and leaders in my system. They looked out for me, mentored my blossoming teacher leadership skills, and encouraged me to pursue school leadership and my passion for supporting students and families in my community. This support and encouragement put me on a path to school leadership and eventually, an AWSP-trained principal mentor in my district. 

Flash forward to a few months beyond my training and the opportunity presented itself to mentor an elementary principal in a smaller, more rural school district 45 minutes from town. I wasn’t completely sure what I was getting myself into, but in retrospect, the assignment was one of the most rewarding and fun leadership experiences I have had in my leadership career. 

The chance to practice deep listening, with a new leader hearing about “other” systems and their unique opportunities and challenges was revitalizing…I could be a help and support to another new leader. Through mentoring, I could support, influence, and encourage a new school leader, breaking the cycle of “Principal Churn” we know exists. 

As an existing school leader, the training honed my listening skills through the use of Lipton & Wellman’s Learning Focused Supervision tools. It allowed me valuable time to collaborate and practice with colleagues in the training. Providing time to “pause” and “practice” skills to grow as a leader and mentor allowed me to hit the ground running supporting my new mentee.  

The mentor training framed my view of what it could look like to walk alongside a new leader and to be an active listener, colleague, collaborator, and collegial problem solver. I appreciated time to think about connecting with the cycle of inquiry,  the intensity of a leadership school year, and how to anticipate and support the mentee throughout their first years. 

Finding a professional bestie was the most special and unintended result of all! I certainly didn’t have an expectation this mentor/mentee pairing would be so mutually beneficial. When we talk about the challenges of school leadership, we support one another. Our formal mentoring relationship ends this spring, but I know we will be connected for years to come. The relationship is the beautiful benefit of walking alongside someone.  

We should ensure every new school leader has a mentor. It should be a given. Are you hiring a new leader? Are YOU the new leader? As the African proverb states: 

“If you want to go fast, go alone…want to go far? GO TOGETHER!”

Let’s work together to ensure our leaders are supported with mentoring. Let’s give them the kind of professional supports that will keep them in their school beyond the statistics. Only then can we truly move the needle and make the impact on student achievement principals train for. 

 AWSP is here to support ALL of you. Email me for more information.

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  • Mentoring
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