Newton Public School
F.A. Day Middle School Mentor Facilitator
Jenna Monahan began her career working as a special education aide right after graduating from Skidmore College in 2004 with her degree in English and Anthropology. She always knew she wanted to teach, but wanted to have real life experience before making the commitment. While attending Lesley University for her masters in Middle School English, she continued to work as a special education aide for a total of 3 years in 5th and 7th grade in the Newton Public Schools.
After completing her student teaching at her current school, in her current grade, with a current GLD member, she headed to Curtis Ephraim Middle School to cover a six-month leave of absence by a 6th grade English/Social Studies teacher. The students she taught had spent the first few months of school being taught by sub after sub after sub, due to unexpected departure of a veteran teacher. As a result, Jenna walked into a classroom that had no structure, set of routines and expectations, or real sense of purpose. She decided that if she could make it through “this” she could do anything. And she did! While she did not have a formal mentor, she learned so much from her veteran teammate, a teacher with more than 30 years of experience. While she was asked to remain on the staff for the following year, she knew she wanted to return to Newton, and was offered a position back at her old school in the 7th grade. 7th grade is her happy place. She loves the fact that her kids are all over the place academically, physically and developmentally; it keeps it interesting and challenging!
Her interest in mentoring initially started in her third year of teaching. She was finally able to look back and reflect on her first 2 years and realized that there were so many aspects of teaching that she had to figure out on her own. While she had a formal mentor in her first year, the work was not part of any real system or curriculum. They met randomly, mostly because Jenna had questions and the mentor had answers. There was no real facilitator, so one’s experience was very hit-or-miss depending on who the mentor was. She said to herself, “I could make this better.” Her principal was apparently thinking the same thing, because at the end of that year, he asked her to take on the program. She was pumped! Reading resources, scouring neighboring towns’ websites and talking with the other middle school facilitators in the city, helped her to push the program, with baby steps, forward.
Two years in, the district decided to send the facilitators from across the city to a class called Project SUCCESS. That is where she met Carol! Through the class, she learned so much more about mentoring and decided to take part in mentoring courses as an MME to pay it forward. She truly enjoys the added benefit of connecting with and supporting mentoring teachers and leaders from around the state. She has learned so much about other programs and different schools’ concerns which she has been able to translate into changes to her school’s program. In her 6th year as the Mentor Facilitator, she organizes building orientation, helps to pair new teachers with mentors and works throughout the year with the pairs to facilitate smooth transitions and growth. Next year, she is excited to take a break from mentoring to focus on two important tasks: renovating her house and creating a pilot 2-year program that seeks to revamp how her district approaches mentoring first and second year teachers!