T2-E2: A Project Supporting Early Educators Through Mentorship and Encouragement by Gloria Gonzales, Zeta Omicron Chapter
I was barely 22 years old when I began my education career. It was a very exciting time. The dream to become a teacher and follow in the footsteps of Mrs. Glena Curtis (First Grade) and Mrs. Ruth Sorensen (Sixth Grade) was finally realized.
The stage was set. My classroom was organized and inviting. My lesson plans were not only written, but typed out. I was prepared and my heart filled with joy and optimism. I even had a new wardrobe of lovely dresses, a pair of comfy shoes for recess and a nice pair of jeans to wear with the school spirit shirt on Fridays. It was official! I was certified and ready! Or was I?
Fast forward twenty-seven years. I am now meeting with my Zeta Omicron Sisters. Beautiful key women educators full of wisdom, passion and motivation. The new biennium was upon us so this proved to be an opportune time for our chapter to plan and ponder new and meaningful projects. The brainstorming discussion that took place soon narrowed to a specific topic. The topic of low teacher retention, especially in the first five years.
As we searched for data to support our discussion, we immediately came upon disheartening information. In 2015, the U.S. Department of Education reported that nationally, 22% of all new teachers left the profession in their first three years because of lack of support and a “sink or swim” approach to the induction. The question “How can we as a chapter help decrease this statistic and support early educators?” was then posed.
It did not take long for our chapter to collectively agree that encouragement and mentorship given to current and early educators was a key factor and perhaps a way that we could help support them in our community. The brainstorming continued and excitement increased among our members. An outline of our mission and purpose was created and additional questions were asked. What will this look like? Where do we start? How do we fund this? Our chapter then reached out to the Texas Tech University Education Department and proposed a partnership to address this concerning statistic by offering to serve individuals in the following categories:
Teacher Mentors-educators who supervise undergraduate students completing their student teaching.
Teacher Candidates-undergraduate students completing student teaching.
Early Educators-former participants of the T2-E2 project and recently hired to teach in the Lubbock and surrounding area.
The proposal was received with excitement from the site supervisor at Texas Tech University and the partnership ensued. In addition, instructors from their department presented at one of our fall chapter meetings. They provided information that helped our chapter better comprehend the new requirements and expectations placed upon the teacher candidates. Also, to stay in true educator fashion, our chapter chose to abbreviate the lengthy name. The Tech Teach-Early Educator Project is now referred to as the T2-E2 Project.
Our chapter funded the T2-E2 project by utilizing funds raised in a silent auction the previous year along with in kind donations from several chapter members. It did not take long to realize that sustaining such a worthy project in the manner that we planned would require additional revenue. That is when we decided to seek additional funding from Alpha State Texas Educational Foundation (ASTEF) for the 2017-2018 project year. An application was completed, and with fingers crossed, submitted. It would be an understatement to say we were beyond elated to learn that our chapter was awarded funding that June of 2017. This provided our chapter with a great sense of support from the state level as our momentum increased here locally.
Do you remember the question I asked earlier? Was I really ready to teach twenty-seven years ago? Technically, we could answer yes. However, there is so much more to being a successful educator than being organized, prepared and excited? There are intangibles like encouragement and mentorship that are vital to our profession and sometimes inadvertently overlooked. Those “needs” were no different for me then or now. I cannot imagine being where I am today, still passionate about teaching and education, without the support of so many wonderful educators. There are “tough days” and sometimes even “tough years”. Zeta Omicron has personally guided, inspired, listened and responded to my needs as an educator for the last twenty-one years. It only makes sense for me to commit at the same level and do the same for others through T2-E2.
The sisters of Zeta Omicron continue to be excited to be a part of a project that specifically supports fellow educators both in the early and later years. This project stimulates greater fellowship and social time among members during our meetings and ignites a fire fueled by the interaction and impact gained from serving this way. The assembling of gifts and tokens of appreciation scheduled immediately after chapter meetings gives everyone in attendance the opportunity to contribute their time as well as stay informed on project progress. The financial support received from ASTEF has fostered this growth while also allowing us to expand our reach.
An unsolicited response to the project came our way just last week as we gathered project photos for the report. Allene Gilliam has been a Delta Kappa Gamma member for over forty years. She attached a note to the eight photos she sent us. It reads, “These photos do tell the story rather well. Glad they can be used. I think this project is the best I have seen from a DKG chapter in all my years as a member since the 70’s. You should all be proud of it. It reaches the group that need to know about Delta Kappa Gamma.” The ongoing efforts of the project nurtures relationships, encourages professional growth and aims to build an environment to successfully retain educators on the path to becoming “key women educators”. .