How My Mentor Gave Me the Confidence to Advance My Career and Make a Difference
At New Teacher Center, we are working to change the odds for students by providing educators at every level with the support necessary to succeed with students from their first day to their last. Here’s a story of how one woman changed careers to become a teacher, and gained confidence from her NTC mentor to stretch out of her comfort zone and make a difference for kids.
By Sara Chapin
Compared to others entering the profession straight out of college, I guess I might be considered a “later in life” teacher. I have a degree in English, and worked as a legal writer and a paralegal before a turn of events brought me to teaching. I worked in the legal profession for about three years before I came to the conclusion that it wasn’t for me and that I needed a change. I discovered I enjoyed working with children and started volunteering at 826 Valencia, a non-profit where I tutored under-resourced children.
While working on my Master’s degree in the second year of the UCLA’s Teachers Education Program, the university was encouraging people to teach in early education, so I ended up subbing for LAUSD as an early education teacher and was lucky enough that September to get a longer-term position (30 days) in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles. That substitute position turned into a three year job.
This particular position was unique in that I was running the daycare on the Roosevelt High School campus for the children of the high school students. Towards the end of my second year at the Roosevelt Infant Center I began to worry about how to clear my multiple subject credential. Luckily my supportive principal worked with me to put me in another center one day a week so I could teach pre-K and I was able to begin LAUSD’s induction program through New Teacher Center which really helped me to grow in my practice. My mentor Leonor, was incredibly supportive and helped me gain confidence as a teacher. After three years of working at the infant center I had certainly become comfortable in the early education setting but under Leonor’s mentorship I began to feel that I could grow as a teacher and became increasingly curious about working at the elementary level.
Leonor immediately recognized that I was struggling to leave my comfort zone and encouraged me to take a new chance. One day, Leonor said to me: “I know you love what you’re doing and if a permanent job would open up you would take it, but you should really apply for elementary positions, the district is hiring.” I was nervous, but with Leonor’s encouragement, I summoned the courage to apply to the first positions that had opened up in four years. I’m now in my third year as a kindergarten teacher and leaned heavily on my mentor Leonor during my first year in the classroom. I continue to use the tools and knowledge she imparted on me during our time together as I grow in my practice and confidence as an educator.
My school is a Los Angeles Unified pilot school located in the Koreatown neighborhood of Los Angeles, where we work an 8-hour day as opposed to the standard 6-hour day union contract. Even with this unusual schedule, Leonor was able to make herself available to me for mentoring sessions during my first year teaching. She was a confident and a friend who was always on my side. She encouraged and helped me to not only learn what I needed to lead my classroom and grow as an educator, but she knew that I needed guidance and support to help me take chances and succeed. She helped me push past my comfort zone and offered the support I needed in order to advance my career and make a difference for kids.