Missouri Mentors Distance Teachers

A creative approach to professional development at a distance

How can distance teachers grow professionally? With every county in the state offering distance education, Missouri’s professional development staff needed to support their distance teachers without requiring them to travel regularly for in-person training. Their solution? A distance mentoring program.
Initiated in 2004, the Missouri Mentor Program provided a unique approach to providing professional development and support for its distance teachers across the state.

The Process

Participants first got to know one another at a face-to-face training and then participate in email and phone communications and activities through the group’s online “teacher work room.” Each group was comprised of new, intermediate, and experienced distance teachers. Each group also included teachers with varying content and technical expertise.

Through their mentor group, new teachers had a built-in support system where they could learn about effective instructional strategies and find answers to content area, state policy and technology questions.  More experienced teachers learned how to mentor others and lead their group’s professional development activities.  As new distance teachers were hired, they were brought into an existing mentoring group and provided with immediate support and technical expertise from a variety of sources.

The Results

The Mentor Program was a huge success. Participants were surveyed to learn about their experiences and opinions of the program. They found much to praise and little to criticize. New teachers appreciated having others who could help them learn how to be good distance teachers, understood the educational software and curricula Missouri used with its students, and figured out solutions to challenging teaching problems.  Mentors enjoyed guiding their groups. Many participants were pleased to make new friends and to feel connected with others in their profession. Distance education became an integral part of Missouri's adult education offerings.