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Using IRIS to Mentor First-Year Teachers

Using IRIS to Mentor First-Year Teachers

How should I set up my classroom?
How will I implement my classroom behavior management plan?
How can I best support all of my students?
What is my role during an IEP meeting?

As they face unique challenges and unfamiliar situations each day, many first-year teachers ask these same questions. As post-doctoral scholar Angelica Fulchini Scruggs understands, ongoing support and mentorship is critical to their success.

Through the UCP Charter Schools Teacher Mentorship Program, Angelica was able to mentor and support 32 first-year teachers in special education classrooms, grades K–12. Located in Central Florida, UCP is a nonprofit organization that operates seven inclusive charter schools, giving students access to a rigorous and rewarding curriculum customized to their individual potential. It’s clear UCP Charter Schools is not only invested in the success of its students but also values deeply the success of its first-year teachers.

Working with these teachers, I chose to use IRIS Modules in order to give them the extra information they needed to be successful in their classrooms.

Angelica Fulchini Scruggs

In addition to visiting her teachers in their classrooms twice a month, Angelica conducted virtual visits to provide them with information and guidance to address any challenges they faced. In search of high-quality resources to support her teachers, she turned to the IRIS Center for help.

Angelica determined that one of the best ways to provide high-quality resources to support her teachers was to post links to IRIS Modules and other resources in an online platform each week. Depending on the common challenges teachers were facing, Angelica linked to resources on behavior management, collaborating with families, and other specific subject area matter. Throughout the semester, Angelica’s teachers were then able to access the self-guided, self-paced materials on their own time and in a way that was in-depth but approachable.

Many of the first-year teachers devoured the content in the IRIS Modules and successfully applied their new knowledge to their classrooms. In addition to this, Angelica found that some of her teachers also used IRIS Modules to study for their Florida teaching certification exams, noting that the resources helped one specific teacher pass her certification exam the first time around.

As many states face critical teacher shortages, IRIS is honored to play a role in helping UCP Charter Schools to help prepare, mentor, and retain first-year teachers in Florida. We’re excited about the ways that Angelica used IRIS with this particular group, and we’re sharing her story to give others ideas about ways to use IRIS that they might not have thought of and to do our part to stem the loss of new special education teachers within the first three years of their career. Good preparation is key, as is strong mentoring.

In the video below, Angelica shares more about why she chose IRIS and how she used our resources to support UCP’s 32 first-year teachers (time: 2:16).

Transcript: Angelica Scruggs

Hello, my name is Angelica Fulchini Scruggs, and I’m a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Central Florida working with the IRIS Center.

One project that I worked on recently is a teacher mentorship project working with the UCP Schools here in Central Florida and all of their first-year teachers. While working on this project, I created a platform on the Seesaw application that allowed my teachers to have constant communication with each other and with me, able to share and post videos of their classroom, ask questions, and constantly have conversations that are helping them grow as teachers all in their first year.

One of the things that I offered on Seesaw was adding IRIS Modules weekly for my teachers to have access to in order to help them with things like family communication and conversations, behavior management, or even working specifically in subject-area matter. While working with my teachers, they said that using the IRIS Modules actually helped them and benefited when they took their teacher certification examinations here in Florida. They used the materials that they found on our Seesaw app through the modules to make sure they really understand certain parts of being a teacher that were on the test.

One specific teacher gave me an example of how the IRIS Modules really helped her. She used the behavior management and classroom setup modules in order to completely revamp her classroom. And then said she was able to have conversations with her administration based on research-supported evidence and information that she could discuss while she was talking about why she made the changes.

So my teachers really, really utilized the IRIS Modules in order to become the next level of an educator that they felt like they needed to be while also having constant conversations and communications about the research that they were reading.