InClass

In some districts, having a teacher dedicated to coaching others 100 percent of the time is uncommon. This mentor would have it no other way. Imagine trading in equations, formulas, and unknown values for cognitive coaching and teachable moments. Liza Lawson Risoldi, a full-time mentor in the Tolle

Dec 19, 2016

In some districts, having a teacher dedicated to coaching others 100 percent of the time is uncommon. This mentor would have it no other way.


Imagine trading in equations, formulas, and unknown values for cognitive coaching and teachable moments. Liza Lawson Risoldi, a full-time mentor in the Tolleson Union High School District, did just that. The former high school math teacher says when educators are given an opportunity to work with a coach, the landscape within a school and district can change immensely.

“I have met some teachers who decided to teach in our district because of the mentor program, and there are teachers who say that they have returned another year because they know they have support from a mentor,” the Randolph-Macon College and Arizona State University alumna says.

It’s clear: Mentors matter.

“I truly believe that in our current state of education, where more responsibilities and expectations are placed on teachers, having a mentor program is crucial,” she says, “not only for the development of teachers, but also for their ability to create sustainable practices that will allow them to make teaching a career.”

Currently, Risoldi has 31 mentees, 27 of which are first-year teachers and four in their second-year. While her caseload is heavy, she says it’s well worth it because the tasks of a mentor ebb and flow. Sometimes she may spend two hours a week with a handful of teachers, but she’ll spend 30 minutes or less with others. Regardless of which week or month it is her schedule is filled to the brim.

If fluctuation is what you seek in a career — mentoring might be for you.

But most importantly, Risoldi says she must be incredibly perceptive to the needs of her colleagues.

“Teaching can be such a personal experience and art. I believe, once someone knows the basics of teaching, like management, lesson planning, etc., their training needs to be more personalized,” she explains.

Mentoring is not one-size-fits-all and it looks different from year to year. Because teacher turnover is all too frequent in Arizona, Risoldi is committed to doing all she can to ensure her mentees remain in the profession.

“Teacher quality and retention are the most critical factors in teaching our students and mentoring is one of the best ways to address both. My goal is to help teachers improve their practice quickly, create sustainable habits, and for them to return into their third year. Additionally, a big goal of mine is to help create structures and traditions within my school and district that attract, support, and retain highly effective and happy teachers.” Happiness seems to be the key ingredient.

While she strives to ensure her coaching strategies are tailor-made, it’s clear Risoldi, who has served as a mentor since 2014, is committed to the larger mission: strong teaching for the betterment of student learning. As she focuses on her mentees, she emphasizes the importance of professional development for all educators.

Currently, Risoldi is participating in the Professional Learning Series: Mentor Academy Year One and is registered for two supplemental Cognitive Coaching trainings, all of which are offered at the Arizona K12 Center. We call Risoldi a shining example of an all-star teacher mentor, who aims to better herself as a mentor, in order to best serve mentees across the board.

Looking to further your profession? Visit the website for more information about leadership training offered through the Arizona K12 Center.

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