The dedicated commitment of Teacher Associates/Mentors such as Deb Yanota are vital to the success of the teacher preparation program and ultimately to the profession.
“I always saw taking student teachers as professional development,” says Deb Yanota. “You pick their brains at the same time that you’re hoping you can share something with them.” During her thirty-three year career Yanota (BEd ’77, MEd ‘92) supervised interns as both a teacher associate and an administrator. “You sit and watch them and see yourself in them,” she says. “You pick up things that might work differently with your students. You grow by watching how others respond to them.”
Another benefit she notes is increased collegiality. “Teachers don’t have a lot of chances to sit down with colleagues to talk about curriculum, classroom management, or a particular student in confidence.”
“Student teachers renew you,” says Yanota. She recalls mentoring student, Brenda Bower (an intern who came to her after Yanota had been teaching almost twenty years). “I needed rejuvenation. Bringing Brenda in gave me that fresh set of eyes.”
As an administrator Yanota helped place student teachers in classrooms and met with them weekly. “It was another layer of mentoring. Anytime you can talk about teaching is valuable.” Eventually she was seconded to the University of Lethbridge Faculty of Education to supervise interns. “Again it was incredible professional development, because I had the opportunity to go into so many southern Alberta schools."
Yanota’s experiences as a teacher associate were so gratifying that she hopes to come out of retirement and work with the Faculty of Education, supervising practicum students once more. “To get into those classrooms again and talk with student teachers. It’d be fun.”