Kimberly Rackliffe

I have always known I would be a teacher. Teaching was the perfect way to combine my love of learning and passion for helping others. Over the past thirteen years, my professional and personal growth has been shaped by the support and guidance of mentors. While earning my bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and Human Development at Boston College, I gained teaching experience in a variety of classroom settings and learned the importance of reflective practices. I worked with amazing cooperating teachers who generously shared their knowledge and expertise, but most importantly their time. I felt a calling to work with students with learning differences, and pursued my Master’s degree in Moderate Disabilities at Boston College.

My first year teaching in Boston was the most rewarding and most challenging year of my teaching career. I soon felt overwhelmed and burnt out, and considered leaving the teaching professional altogether. My mentor was my lifeline and helped me persevere when I felt like I was struggling to stay afloat. As part of the New Teacher Development Program, my mentor was a veteran teacher who stepped out of the classroom to mentor novice teachers full-time. I participated in a variety of professional development seminars with my peers and spent hours with my mentor in and out of the classroom reflecting and developing strategies. This experience revealed the powerful impact of mentoring and I hope to pay it forward and support novice teachers in the same way.

I went on to teach in the North Attleboro school district for eight years. First, as a special education teacher in substantially separate and inclusion programs. I received specialized training and certification in the Wilson Reading System and was awarded grants for integrating technology using podcasts and student blogs. Then, I accepted a leadership position as a Special Education Team Chairperson for three elementary schools. I collaborated with teachers and staff, as well as the special education leadership team, to develop programs to support student achievement and development. While in this leadership role, I earned my licensure in Educational Leadership at Bridgewater State University.

With young children at home, I chose to move to a school district closer to my home in Rhode Island. I returned to the classroom in 2015 as a special education teacher at Palmer River Elementary School in Rehoboth, Massachusetts. I have a renewed passion for working with students in the inclusion classroom, while utilizing my leadership skills as a member of various teams and school initiatives. I am currently collaborating with administration and teachers as part of the MTSS Tiered Literacy Academy, focusing on developing a literacy plan to improve instructional practices and student outcomes.

In pre-service training and in each of the three districts in which I’ve taught, induction and mentoring programs have provided me with important support and guidance. The diversity of my mentoring experiences gives me a unique perspective on the impact of mentoring on teachers at various points in their career. I strongly believe that mentoring programs should be tailored to meet the specific needs of the developing teacher. Effective mentors indirectly impact student achievement through the support of classroom teachers. I believe that utilizing teachers as leaders is a key component of creating a sustainable mentoring program. We need to tap into teachers’ unique strengths and passions and empowering teachers as leaders. This will help move the district forward by allowing teachers’ voices to be heard and by giving them the ability to create change in their school or district. I am looking forward to gaining more experience in supporting novice teachers and mentors in my district as a Mentor Leader.