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This is my ninth year teaching, and I am fortunate to have worked with students in many different types of schools. Having the opportunity to help students connect the skills they are learning in class with what they want to achieve after graduation is my favorite part of being an educator. To truly connect with students, a teacher must put in the time to get to know them. This can be difficult if teachers don’t have dedicated time to meet with their kids. At Bear Lake High School, our teachers have created a dedicated mentoring program in order to support our students’ needs and build a powerful community of learning.

Creating a mentor program didn’t happen overnight. The Bear Lake faculty put in a ton of effort to identify a research-backed mentoring approach that would work best for our teachers and students. We landed on the mentoring program that is a component of the Summit Learning teaching approach, and we started practicing it during the fall of 2018.

In addition to teaching students the curriculum they need to be successful, each teacher takes on the role of being a mentor. Our students are paired with a dedicated teacher, and we set time aside to discuss the academic and professional goals of our mentees. It is clear to me that having structured time to meet one-on-one with our students is positively shaping our school by increasing student engagement and trust with teachers.

I love being able to get to know my students and being able to help them beyond math class. While the Summit Learning teaching style is more than just a mentoring program, the emphasis on building student and teacher connections is my favorite part of the approach.

Mentor class takes place at the end of each school day. Every week, I have the opportunity to meet individually with my student mentees. We talk about life, school, projects, struggles, and victories. It’s a time for us to make goals and to and see what progress has been made.

Mentoring is bigger than just one teacher and one student. It builds a culture of learning with students in the driver’s seat. Students now are more open and honest with each other, and it is clear to me that they are more fully engaged in the classroom. My mentee group includes students across all four high school grade levels. They have grown so close that my mentees even chose to host a Thanksgiving dinner together this year. My students are a team, and they’re supporting each other more now than ever before. They cheer each other on when they receive awards, and are consistently trying to help one another. How often do you see freshmen and seniors talking and interacting with each other on a more personal level?

Mentoring has allowed me to help every student reach their full potential. I believe our mentor program provides educators a powerful time to connect with students and help them find joy in their journey of being a lifelong learner.

Tarl Vickers teaches math at Bear Lake High School. Vickers has taught at multiple schools across the state of Idaho, and has taught at Bear Lake High School since 2015.

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