Why We Invest in BEST
Governor Inslee Visits Federal Way to Discuss Funding for Beginning Teacher Assistance Programs
The task of educating our students requires a sophisticated skill set. Part of developing a new teacher’s toolbox includes on-the-job mentorship. One such tool, the Beginning Teacher Assistance Program (BEST), provides robust support for novice teachers to optimize student learning through a two-year mentorship program with more experienced educators. Recently, Superintendent Dr. Tammy Campbell, Beginning Teacher Assistance Program Coordinator Francine Oishi and Principal Sarah Gill greeted Governor Inslee at Lake Dolloff Elementary along with BEST teachers and mentors to discuss funding possibilities to better equip new teachers.
Designed to demonstrate how Beginning Educator Support Team Grant funds are being utilized from practitioners on the “front lines,” FWPS was specifically selected as an exemplar in the state in providing support to beginning teachers through the BEST Program. Federal Way is the only district in Washington that has won this state grant three times.
The BEST program is not new in Federal Way, and has been in place since 2009, as a primarily grant-based program. BEST was designed to meet the Washington State Induction Standards, Professional Teaching Standards, the 2010 Washington Legislation E2SSB 6696 teacher evaluation standards, and the 2013 Early Career Performance Expectations. Currently, FWPS has 100 teachers in the first year of the program, 95 in the second year, and 44 BEST mentors.
In a round table discussion, Oishi explained how Federal Way selects mentors and supports their skill development. Mentors participate in OSPI’s Mentor Academy and in professional development opportunities to expand their skill set, ensuring differentiated support of individual growth areas for each teacher. Supports such as these allow new teachers to examine their process and improve alongside more experienced teacher-mentors. “We all need coaches,” remarked Oishi. Mentorships allow teachers to collaborate and examine their experiences in the classroom, and is a highly sought-after program for a new teacher looking for support in their early teaching years. According to BEST Coordinator Francine Oishi, candidates often ask about the types of supports available to new teachers.
“We want to give our beginning teachers a really strong start; we know the teacher is the single most important factor in the classroom,” Oishi said of the district’s commitment to supporting early-career teachers as a means of ensuring continued student success. “We want out students to have the best educators.” BEST not only provides that strong start for novice teachers, but helps the district retain excellent educators – keeping them involved in the FWPS community. “It is important that we are good stewards of [our resources],” said Oishi in relation to making the most of district funds to benefit students.
BEST mentor and former teacher Anthony Blake, spoke about his role as a mentor and the important supports the program provides to enhance teacher practice and student learning. His unique perspective from being in both roles as a mentee and mentor, before and after significant funding of the program, allowed him to elaborate on the difference this program makes in developing teachers. While the first year mentorship focused on more practical skills, “[the second year] delves into the deeper dimensions of teaching, and how to be more effective in the classroom,” said Blake.
In addition to providing mentors and coaching, Dr. Campbell referenced the critical role of the principal as an instructional leader and PLC work, particularly in the first years of teaching. “The key is giving ongoing support to teachers through professional development and giving time for teachers to meet in Professional Learning Communities.”
During the visit, beginning teacher Jessica Garman and mentor Jamie Schneider demonstrated a coaching debrief of an observation, illustrating how mentoring improves teacher and student growth and facilitates reflective practice.
“This was extremely insightful,” Inslee said of the observation. “It is rewarding to watch firsthand how mentors provide feedback to help meet the challenges first year teachers face.” The Governor also remarked that teacher assistance programs, such as the one in Federal Way Public Schools, are bright spots that state and education leaders should continue to support.
For more information on the district's BEST program, please visit the program's page here