Researchers have suggested that one way to provide meaningful professional development to veteran teachers is through the use of teacher-mentoring programs, where veteran teachers serve as mentors to novice teachers (Holloway, 2001; Kariuki, Franklin, & Duran, 2001; Kyle, Moore, & Sanders, 1999; Moir & Bloom, 2003; Riggs & Sandlin, 2002; Semeniuk & Worrall, 2000). However, there remains little empirically-based research on the impact of mentoring on the teacher mentors, especially with regard to special education teachers. This study focuses on the perceived impact of mentoring on veteran teachers who are acting as mentors within a university/district graduate special education partnership program.
I used a qualitative research design involving data from multiple interviews of primary and secondary informants as well as program documents and artifacts to perform a thematic analysis regarding the perceived impact of mentoring on special education teacher mentors. The data indicated two primary themes that were related to the collaborative context within which the teacher mentors worked and the growth they perceived as a result of their work.
The first theme, called collaboration, was related to the context within which the teacher mentors worked on an almost daily basis. A highly collaborative process was part of both formal and informal activities for the teacher mentors within the partnership program. This collaborative theme, then, served as the context within which the second theme emerged.
The second primary theme, growth, was related to the personal and professional development that the teacher mentors perceived as a result of their work within the program. This growth was seen in multiple areas by the teacher mentors, including growth in their instructional skills, professional opportunities, and personal recognition.
I conceptualize the interaction of these two themes by drawing comparisons to the process of cell growth within a Petri dish. Just as a Petri dish can contain elements that are more or less supportive to growth for the biological cells, a teacher mentor program can contain elements that are more or less supportive to the growth of the teacher mentors working within the program. This interactive relationship between the environmental context and growth have implications for teacher mentoring programs that have as a part of their goal, the professional development of veteran teachers who act as mentors.