The challenges of this year
At the onset of the 2020-21 school year, the Great Beginnings (GB) team in Fairfax understood where the program needed to be nimble to meet the needs of new teachers and their mentors. A few things stood out based on teachers' experiences in spring 2020: teachers’ lack of time, a need to rely on the team/colleagues for planning virtual instruction, and the overwhelming stress all teachers felt.
To address these needs, the development and delivery of asynchronous modules for FCPS Foundations (Instructional model: Plan, Teach, Assess, Reflect), we leveraged professional development programs to allow for a reframing of the after-school seminars attended by new teacher cohorts during the school year. A shift in the balance of the follow-on support from the after-school seminar to the school-based mentors would allow learning to be supported and applied closer to the classroom and free up the after-school seminar synchronous time to meet the immediate social-emotional needs of new teachers.
Cohort coaches delivered professional development to build the capacity and efficacy of the new teachers on self-care and resiliency. Mentors were provided opportunities to deepen their learning on building efficacy and resiliency to feel equipped to tailor their 1:1 support of individual teachers. Attendance at these cohort sessions remains higher than in previous years. The GB team is looking forward to both year-end feedback from remaining after-school seminars and the redesigned surveys from the REACH VA network.
Drivers that will impact our planning to support the 2021-22 new teacher cohort include our understanding of the impact we made this year around letting go of structural and programmatic traditions that no longer serve the needs of new teachers.
Annie Dipert is a third-generation educator and proud mom, mother-in-law, and aunt of a fourth-generation! Annie’s experience opening the first high school based pre-school at West Springfield High School solidified the desire to pursue education as a career. As the daughter of a career Air Force officer, moving and adapting to new environments and schools and a love of travel drove her early career opportunities. Annie spent more than 13 years overseas educating military youth as an elementary teacher and early childhood site administrator in Panama, Spain, and Germany. Finally, settling down in Northern Virginia after her husband’s retirement from the Navy allowed Annie the time and opportunity to grow as an education professional in Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS).
Since joining FCPS in 2008, Annie received her master’s degree in Education Leadership from George Mason University and has been a 5th-grade teacher, Instructional Coach, Educational Specialist for Leadership Development, and now leads Systemwide Professional Development as its Coordinator. Annie credits the success of the Great Beginnings New Teacher Induction Program to a team of very talented and committed specialists—Jackie Bell, Katie Eustis, Jenna Reeder, and Sara Royer. Collaborating with the members of the REACH Virginia network for the last 4 ½ years has been instrumental in the transformation of the GB program and supports provided to new teachers in FCPS.
Annie lives for the summer, which provides more time with her four children and extended family for boating and enjoying lake life at Lake Anna or in Michigan. In the off-season (any season, really, 😊) Annie and her husband enjoy exploring Virginia’s wineries, breweries, and mountains. They are looking forward to resuming bucket list traveling post-pandemic and post out-of-state college tuition (Purdue class of 2021, woo-hoo!). Annie hates gardening and exercise and has ceased trying to be a crafter and instead buys ready-made stuff off Etsy to make her house look ok.