INTC Offers Support, Resources for New Teachers & Education Leaders
by Tom Hanlon / Jun 17, 2021
The Illinois New Teacher Collaborative has a long history of providing resources to attract and retain new teachers and enhance their ability to promote student learning. The collaborative is a consortium of P-20 educators, state agencies, and business partners, and is based in the University of Illinois’ College of Education.
Last summer, it was a bit of a scramble to put on the Illinois New Teacher Collaborative (INTC) Beginning Teacher Conference. It was the first conference hosted by INTC, which provides service to beginning teachers and induction program leaders, since the pandemic hit, and it was held virtually.
“We just dove right in,” says INTC director Karla McAdam. “We couldn’t cancel it. Support for new teachers is just too important.” The support the INTC received from the College of Education, McAdam says, made it all possible.
This year, the virtual conference, offered for free and held June 21-22 (you can register here), is focusing on what new teachers experienced this past academic year, teaching—and embarking on new careers—in the midst of a pandemic.
“If you’re a first-year teacher and you were 100 percent online, and your student teaching in the spring of 2020 was online, you’ve yet to have a face-to-face classroom,” McAdam says. “So, in a way, you’re going into your second year as a first-year teacher. We’re focusing this conference more heavily on the social and emotional aspects of where teachers might be in regard to this, and hoping they will walk away feeling more renewed and supported.”
A big part of that support can be gained in networking with colleagues as they move forward, she adds.
This is the 12th Beginning Teacher Conference hosted by INTC. The two-day conference will focus on four strands: instructional strategies, personal growth, professional growth, and collaboration.
“All the pieces that a new teacher has to juggle fits into one or more of those areas,” McAdam says. “We’ll also provide opportunities to share resources and give them many opportunities to connect with others, to develop and build relationships that go well beyond the conference.”
By “beginning teacher,” she says, she means anyone new to the field up through just finishing their third year. But she adds a caveat: “We also encourage induction and mentoring for anyone who’s new to a system,” she says. “You could be a 20-year veteran, but you move to a new school district where you don’t know the policies, the practices, the systems and culture. It helps to have some type of collaborator on the side who can support you at least in that first year.”
The induction and mentoring experience for new teachers, McAdam says, is vital. “This may be the first full-time job they’ve ever had, so they’re not only juggling education and being a teacher, but the whole sense of work,” she says. “Teaching is a very demanding field. It doesn’t stop when the school bell rings. There’s lots of after-school work and evening and weekend work, and teachers need support in navigating through that and in creating a work-life balance.”
New teachers need more than just support, McAdam adds. “They need that sense of belonging. They want to know that what they’re doing matters, that they’re able to make a difference in the lives of the children they’re teaching. That’s why they go into this field.”
They also need to be heard, McAdam notes. “Many of them have great ideas and we have to give them voice and choice,” she says. “A lot of new teachers are very innovative and they’re bringing a new lens and perspective to the field. People need to listen to that.”
The INTC also hosts a Leadership Conference in the winter; the last one was this past February. That two-day conference brings together education leaders—from the state board of education, regional offices of education, district administrators and superintendents, and others—from throughout the state. “A whole group of stakeholders come together, centered around induction and mentoring in some way,” McAdam says. “We put people together where they share some commonality and can discuss key issues around induction and mentoring, as well as sharing strategies and resources and networking with each other.”
The INTC provides additional services beyond the two conferences. “We’re doing a major overhaul of our resources,” McAdam says. Those resources include research, reports, and instructional strategies for education leaders about induction and mentoring programs, and webinars for people in career and technical education and in regional offices of education.
“We also hope at some point we can start putting together podcasts around key topics critical to teaching, but also for leaders who might be talking about some successful pieces to their induction and mentoring program that they might want to share with others,” she notes.
In addition, the INTC offers consulting services to districts on an inquiry basis. “They’ll come to us and ask for help in providing professional learning sessions for new mentors in their system,” McAdam says. “We’ll customize a program for that particular district or school, tailoring it directly to their needs.”
One of the key points the INTC drives home to all educators is the importance of establishing an ongoing program to support teachers. “Induction and mentoring aren’t standalones,” she says. “It’s not what happens on Mondays and Thursdays. It’s ongoing, and it should dovetail into other initiatives in the district and be established well enough that teachers can create those networks where they receive support beyond the formal induction and mentoring program once they become tenured.”