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Peer Consultants provide support and insight for new teachers

Peer Consultants provide support and insight for new teachers

Peer consultants New teachers in WPS know they don’t have to face their first year of teaching by themselves, thanks in part to Peer Consultants. The Peer Consultant program, a collaboration between United Teachers of Wichita and the district, provides new college-to-classroom and Transition to Teaching teachers extra support during their first year. This year’s UTW contract added two additional Peer Consultants positions. There are 6 Peer Consultants supporting 90 new teachers.

“Our goal is to retain high quality teachers which will greatly impact student achievement,” said Tammy Martin, Curriculum and Instructional Support Executive Coordinator. “We have a much higher percentage of teachers that stay in the profession if they’ve had a Peer Consultant compared to those who didn’t.”

Peer Consultants observe teachers in their classroom and collect data on their lessons, including how students are interacting or engaged in the lesson or how students follow classroom expectations.

“It’s not an evaluation, we’re looking at the data we collected and help them process what they are doing and work through next steps,” said secondary Peer Consultant Katie Harmon. “We are coming in as a peer to help them be successful.” 

“We are making sure they are getting the support they need and where they feel they need it most,” said elementary Peer Consultant Libby Long.

“I will be your biggest cheerleader and advocate, but I will also be the first to tell you if I see an issue that needs improving so we can take care of it early. It’s the relationship we have with them that builds trust and makes a difference,” Long added.

The Peer Consultants offer help to create and evaluate lesson plans and arrange to take new teachers to observe veteran teachers in their building and at other schools to learn new strategies. The Peer Consultants say teachers often ask them questions about topics the teachers may not feel comfortable asking someone in their building.

“Every new teacher deserves that kind of support,” said Harmon.

“She’s made my life so much easier,” Abbi Kretzschmar, science teacher at South High School, said about Harmon’s support. “Every time I’ve had a question or an issue, no matter how small, she’s always had such good advice that I can implement immediately.”

“She tells me everything that I could do in my classroom, and when I use those suggestions, the lesson goes exactly the way I wanted it to go. It was amazing,” Kretzschmar added.

Peer Consultants need to have at least 5 years of teaching experience and come directly from the classroom. There is a time limit on how long they can be a consultant because it builds credibility if they have been teaching recently.

The Peer Consultant program has been in place for 18 years.