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Thanks to $2.5 million from the Arizona Department of Education, the Arizona K12 Center is set to expand its reach and support new teachers at 23 sites across the state with comprehensive induction and mentoring.

May 13, 2021

The Arizona K12 Center is set to support more new teachers in Arizona’s schools than ever before. Thanks to $2.5 million from the Arizona Department of Education, the Center’s Arizona New Teacher Support Program will be building a foundation of induction and mentoring in 23 Arizona sites this fall.

The program funds and prepares full-time release mentors to work with teachers during their first three years in the classroom. The Center trains and supports identified mentors at each site with comprehensive and ongoing standards-based training, preparing them to support a new teacher’s growth through coaching, reflection, and inquiry. These teachers just entering their career will have an instructional mentor serving in a non-evaluative role in their classrooms for at least two hours a week while teaching and learning are happening. New teachers will also receive additional professional learning opportunities specific to their career stage.

The Center has supported new teachers through mentorship and professional learning for the past 13 years but was able to expand the program from the budgeted seven  districts because of the Arizona Department of Education’s investment using federal relief and recovery dollars. The 23 participating sites are located across Arizona and represent a range of programs and populations.

“The Arizona K12 Center has a long history in supporting mentors who in turn work with the newest members of the teaching profession,” says Arizona K12 Center Executive Director Dr. Kathy Wiebke. “We have seen first-hand the impact of this program on not only teacher retention but on efficacy.”

An experienced teacher mentors a new teacher at a children's table. They are facing each other, each holding a green piece of paper.

“For too long, districts have had to cobble together mentoring programs with limited resources,” Wiebke explains. “The money provided to the Center will allow these districts to develop a more systemic approach to new teacher support while providing the necessary training for these mentors to excel. In these 23 sites, you will find programs focused on special education and mathematics teachers as well as very rural and urban districts with a great mix of traditional public and charter schools. I am excited about the potential for new teachers in the state of Arizona as well as the students they teach.”

Arizona State Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman credits the Center’s work with new teachers as a stepping stone to increasing recruitment, educator effectiveness, and retention.

“For too long, Arizona students have paid the price for our teacher shortage crisis, not because we lack the talent, but because too many exceptional teachers have burned out from overcrowded classrooms, non-competitive pay, and a lack of essential resources,” Superintendent Hoffman says in a press release. “Some of the best investments we can make in solving our teacher shortage are in proven recruitment and retention strategies like mentorship programs. I’m pleased to partner with the Arizona K12 Center so they can expand capacity to more districts, including rural and remote districts.”

An experienced teacher sits at a table in a school library with two newer teachers. They are all smiling as they converse.

Crystal Wambach is the District Instructional Mentoring and Testing Coordinator at Sierra Vista Unified School District, one of the new sites to host the Center’s New Teacher Support Program. She recognizes the variety of ways mentors support new teachers.

“Teachers take a variety of paths to certification and becoming teachers these days,” she says. “It is important that they feel that they have someone there with them as they transition to becoming fully responsible for an entire classroom. The first few years can be difficult, so we need to have supports in place that are geared specifically towards what these new to the profession teachers will need.”

Christie Olsen is a Professional Learning Coach in Lake Havasu Unified School District (LHUSD) and has seen the impact that comprehensive new teacher support can have. The Arizona K12 Center has partnered with Lake Havasu to establish its induction and mentoring program for the past five years.

“When we support new teachers through quality induction and mentoring, we are demonstrating a commitment to developing teacher efficacy,” Olsen says.

A three-year induction and mentoring program like what the Center’s New Teacher Support Program has established in Lake Havasu provides teachers the time and experience to develop meaningful relationships over those years, resulting in collective efficacy.

“Over the course of three years, LHUSD teachers come to understand that everyone in the group has something to contribute, and they have a high level of confidence that the work they do has a positive impact on students,” Olsen shares. “In our district, induction and mentoring stretches beyond instructional strategies, lesson design, and classroom management. Through a purposeful scope and sequence, we help teachers develop the skills to set goals, gauge their progress, make changes as necessary, and evaluate their progress. Quality induction and mentoring develops reflective self-efficacious teachers.”

A new site for the Arizona K12 Center program, Sierra Vista Unified School District has had its own mentoring program with experienced teachers mentoring new teachers in addition to teaching. Wambach explains that she is excited for the district’s mentors to be able to focus their work solely on mentoring new teachers.

A new teacher stands in front of a class of elementary students, smiling as he speaks to them.

“This guarantees the availability of the mentors when the new teachers need them the most,” she explains. “When a new teacher is in need of support, they need those supports quickly, not when a mentor can find coverage so they can be released from their duties to provide supports. Just like new teachers need a support system as they transition into being teachers, mentors need a support system as they transition into being mentors. We are so excited to be a part of the New Teacher Support Program, so that we can build the support system that Sierra Vista Unified School District needs.”

The participants in the 2021-2023 Arizona New Teacher Support Program include:

  • Alhambra Elementary School District
  • Amphitheater Public Schools
  • Balsz School District
  • Bisbee Unified School District
  • Cartwright Elementary School District
  • Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District
  • Deer Valley Unified School District
  • Harvest Preparatory Academy
  • Isaac Elementary School District
  • Lake Havasu Unified School District
  • Leading Edge Academy 
  • The Leona Group
  • Maricopa Unified School District
  • Mesa Public Schools (Special Education Program)
  • Mesa Public Schools
  • Mohave Valley Elementary School District
  • Pendergast Elementary School District
  • Round Valley Unified School District
  • Sierra Vista Unified School District
  • Scottsdale Unified School District
  • Tolleson Elementary School District
  • Tolleson Union High School District
  • Wilson Elementary School District


In addition to the Arizona New Teacher Support Program, the Arizona K12 Center provides other induction and mentoring services, including providing all graduates of the Arizona Teachers Academy at Northern Arizona University with one year of induction support at no charge to the teacher or school. If the new teacher opts-in, they also have access to the same high-quality mentorship.

The Arizona K12 Center’s mentor training and beginning teacher support events are available to all Arizona teachers. Learn more about those offerings at azk12.org/mentoring-and-coaching/overview and register for specific events at azk12.org/events.

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