Today we are highlighting one of our wonderful Mentor Teachers, Michelle Culpepper! She teaches 5th grade at our partner school, Kansas City International Academy and has been a Mentor Teacher for The Educator Academy for the past 2 years.
Mentor Teachers are the backbone of the Residency. Each Resident is placed with a Mentor Teacher for the entire school year. Teaching responsibilities are gradually released from the Mentor Teacher to the Resident. At the beginning of the school year, the Resident is able to own small tasks, but by the end of the year, the Resident is able to lead entire days of instruction.
Mentor Teacher Spotlight: Michelle Culpepper
This blog was transcribed and edited from an interview done with Michelle Culpepper on September 6th, 2019.
I first got into teaching in Jr. High. We had a career day where we were able to go check out a field we were interested in. My cousin was a kindergarten teacher in Kansas City, KS at the time so I decided to spend the day with her. I loved it. I loved the kids, and I loved seeing their faces every day. My interest was sparked. I started thinking about teaching from that instant on. My Dad, my Aunt, and my Cousin were also teachers so it was kind of running in our family as well.
I knew from a young age I wanted to be in education, and now the kids are what have kept me in the field. It’s so exciting when you’ve been working on a certain concept or skill and whenever the light bulb comes on for a kid. I just think “YAY! It worked!” It makes you want to keep going. All the little things like the hugs and the nice notes remind me that I’m in the right place.
What has been your experience as a Mentor Teacher?
I first learned about The Educator Academy from another Teacher here at KCIA. She reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in being a Mentor Teacher for The Educator Academy. I was really honored to be considered. I’ve had many years of experience and I’m glad that I get to share that with somebody else. Last year was my first year as a The Educator Academy Mentor Teacher and I enjoyed it. I was sharing my understanding of the craft and she was sharing what she knew. It felt like we were learning from each other.
The Resident and I plan together at the beginning of the school year. At the very beginning, I do the majority of the teaching while the Resident owns small things like transitions. As we go along the year the Resident takes on more and more responsibilities. As that happens, I take on more of a coaching role as opposed to a teaching role. By the end of last year, we were working so well together we felt like we were in a co-teaching relationship. Now I see her every day because she teaches right across the hall from me. I can see how she’s picked up on some of those things she learned last year. It is wonderful to see her remembering what I taught her and taking those skills into her own classroom.
Why The Educator Academy?
I think The Educator Academy is a wonderful way for someone to bridge from the business world into the education world. You get to spend the entire year working with that teacher. When I student taught, I student taught in the spring so all the classroom procedures and rules were laid in place by the time I got there midyear. I was just supposed to carry them on which was a difficult position to be in. However, with The Educator Academy a Resident comes in and they spend the entire year from the beginning of the year Professional Development days all the way to the end of the school year. This way they get to see and learn how the whole school year functions as opposed to just seeing the end of the school year. I think that is really important. I’m glad that this program is available. I think it will help a lot of people see what a school year looks like.
Teaching is a lot of work. It’s not a 9am-5pm job. It’s almost a 24/7 job. You are always thinking about what you could do to be better. If you have an issue with student behavior, you bring that home and are thinking through how to make that better for tomorrow. Or if it is something that goes well, you can celebrate those things too. There is a lot to education.