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Lancaster principal hails mentoring program

When Ursula Lundgard started teaching in the Lancaster Central School District 20 years ago, she had to ask for a textbook.

"No one thought to give me one," the high school social studies teacher told the Lancaster School Board on Monday night.

She told them how she used to watch how teacher Deborah Bojanowski handled her class. She would listen outside classroom doors and even sat in on Bojanowksi's class, until other teachers found out about it and told her that just wasn't done.

What a difference 20 years makes.

Today, new teachers are mentored by experienced teachers at Lancaster, a practice that started formally in 2003, said Bojanowski, who moved up to principal at Court Street Elementary School.

It's an open, but confidential, relationship between mentor and novice, said first-grade teacher Karen Overhoff. Mentors spend five days during the summer learning how to help new teachers.

"We love the days they're happy, we're heartsick on the days they are not," she said.

The goal of Lancaster's mentoring program is to train teachers to improve their effectiveness, as well as to retain the new teachers. New teachers meet at least two hours a month with their mentors, who are available via e-mail and telephone for questions.

"When you hire new teachers, you make an investment," said Sarah Weidler, director of elementary education."

The mentoring committee hopes to expand new teacher orientation and train all teachers in professional practices.


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