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Letter from the Secretary
SD Department of Education Nov. 2016  
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Photo of Melody Schopp, SD Secretary of Education Letter from the Secretary

Much of the attention surrounding the 2016 education package has understandably focused on teacher pay increases. It’s important to remember, though, that the Blue Ribbon Task Force identified a number of factors beyond pay that affect teacher retention, which also figured into the full package.

Another valuable component of the legislation—the statewide mentoring program—kicks off later this month, with mentors and mentees coming together for the first time at one-day events across the state.

At the Department of Education, we often have summer interns who are pre-service teachers from South Dakota public universities’ schools of education. Their optimism and excitement about their future profession are infectious.

On the flip side, I’ve talked with new teachers who by November of their first year on the job are frazzled and questioning what they’ve signed up for.

The learning curve when starting a career in the classroom is steep, and it can feel overwhelming, but I believe we’re making important strides in South Dakota. More of our public universities are offering full-year student teaching experiences. That, in conjunction with this new statewide mentoring program, presents a tremendous opportunity to maintain the enthusiasm of pre-service teachers as they embark on their careers.

Of course the program has pluses for mentors as well. As in all fields, veteran professionals have wisdom to offer, but can also benefit from ideas that early-career employees bring with them. Through a national mentoring program focused on up and coming women in leadership positions, I have recently had the good fortune to mentor two women who aspire to school superintendent positions. Some days I think I am learning more than they are. It is always good to get perspectives from others.


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