K. Colucci, E. M. Doone

University of South Florida (UNITED STATES)
Special educators, have a unique role in educating students with various learning and behavioral challenges. The role requires using complex and varied skills to meet the learning needs of students with exceptionalities. Schools typically employ a handful of ESE teachers whose duties and functions range from behavior specialist to co-teacher to support facilitator. As a result of this wide range of responsibilities, all of the accompanying paperwork required of special educators, and the challenges involved with teaching diverse and complex students with extensive needs, ESE teachers tend to burnout at a faster rate than other teachers (Billingsley, 2004a; Fore, Martin & Bender, 2002). In large urban districts such factors can create a swinging door effect with special educators moving in and out of positions faster than new teachers can be effectively prepared (Ingersol & Kralik, 2004). Therefore, creating a system of support for retaining new ESE teachers is as critical as ensuring teacher candidates are appropriately educated and trained (Billingsley, 2004b).

The mentoring model for special education programs at USF ensures our mentor teachers are well prepared to support the growth and development of their pre-service teacher candidates. Mentors are provided the sole responsibility for the evaluation and constructive feedback of the teacher candidate. Such teacher empowerment has shown to build our mentors' self-efficacy and increase their skills as teachers and mentors. Providing our pre-service teachers with ongoing support over the course of a year ensures that they are well prepared to meet the challenges of teaching students with exceptionalities. During this session we will share our mentoring model, the support provided to our mentor teachers and lessons learned from years of implementation.