WILLIAMSBURG — Williamsburg-James City County Schools (WJCC Schools) has introduced a new educator onboarding program called Launch that is intended to nurture the division’s new teachers.
The program consists of multiple phases designed to make new educators feel connected and supported by the professional learning community at WJCC. Including personalized mentorship and professional learning, the program hopes to inspire new educators to launch a strengths-based career with WJCC Schools.
“We know that our new teachers need support, they need systems in place to feel belonging, and have the competencies to be successful in the classroom, and begin to develop some autonomous skill sets as educators,” said Alaina C. Trott, the Supervisor for Organizational Development & Equity at Williamsburg-James City County Schools.
“We really want to make sure that our educators here are successful,” Trott added.
The three-year program was designed by teachers — and for teachers — at WJCC Schools. This year, WJCC Schools is welcoming more than 180 new teachers to staff. All are now part of the pioneering program to create a nurturing environment fostering their retention and development.
The program focuses on four educator needs: instructional, institutional, physical, and emotional. Each of the schools has a lead mentor with specialized training and support to understand and address the needs of new educators. They run the Launch Program at the school level, and every month the district holds a “Pull Into Port” session with activities designed to anticipate the needs of WJCC teachers at that point in the year.
“A program like Launch makes me feel supported and valued as a new teacher. It makes me feel like the district is making an effort to retain teachers, support and keep us in the long run,” said Victoria Dunn who has been a teacher at Jamestown High School for three years and just completed her Master of Arts in Teacher: Special Education.
“With a shortage of teachers, this is so important. Having a designated mentor gives me someone to go to with questions and to find support to help me feel comfortable at my school,” Dunn continued.
“Lead mentors did a live design thinking and looked at the research to really look at what are the new teachers needs at various points in the year,” Trott explained about the “Pull Into Port” sessions. “Those sessions have been designed to keep the four needs in mind and kind of anticipate some of the milestones that happen at various points in the school year.”
All of the new teachers are also completing reflection exercises with their mentors and “My Journey Journals” to help them pause and reflect on where they are currently, while also taking into account the lives and backgrounds of the incoming educators.
Each teacher receives two professionalized learning days during the year when the school will supply substitute coverage so that they can receive professional learning to meet their own personal goals — from technology, to small group reading, to observing senior teachers.
The program is being phased in so as to not overwhelm new educators with new information.
“This has really been a collaborative effort and is a multilevel and multi-tiered support,” Trott said. “It’s not on one person to make sure one teacher is successful, it really is a team-based approach to creating a web of support for [new teachers.]”