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Palm Beach County schools to launch new mentorship training for teachers

Posted at 8:07 PM, Mar 06, 2017
and last updated 2019-03-26 15:49:52-04

There's new information on a story that still has many people talking nearly a week after it aired on WPTV.

Last week, Samantha Major -- a Boca Raton teacher -- spoke to WPTV about facing arrest and nearly losing her job, after a mentoring experience with a student turned into a nightmare.

There were a number of things that lead to the problem but ultimately, she believes teachers aren't getting enough mentorship coaching. Now, the superintendent hopes to do something about it.

"You do all sorts of jobs in a classroom, you're not just a teacher," said Dr. Kathryn Gundlach, president of the Classroom Teachers Association of Palm Beach County.

The Palm Beach County School District is working with the CTA to create a brand new training program for educators.

"So, what we've proposed is a teacher that will work with other teachers to train them to be mentors," said Gundlach.

It's an idea Gundlach said she and her colleagues have worked on for years.

"We are coming to a teacher shortage. It's already here. So the concern of losing a good teacher, we can't afford it," she said.

But the real reason this training is happening now is the controversy that almost cost Major -- a first year world history teacher at the time -- her job.

The district was contemplating firing Major for the events that took place while she mentored a student with mental health problems.

One of the allegations was that Major did not report the student's claims of abuse quick enough, even though it turned out the student lied. She also shared Bible quotes with the student, who had shared a common belief in the Christian faith with Major.

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After a lengthy investigation, Major will soon return to the classroom, surviving her ordeal that almost cost her her career.

"I hope teachers aren't discouraged from helping students," she said.

Major's experience prompted the district to implement new training to better support their teachers.

"I wish it happened for different reasons but I do believe it will helpful for teachers in the future," said Gundlach. "Dr. Avossa and I in talking last week, both saw a need for teachers to have some assistance, especially in their first three years. "

Superintendent Dr. Robert Avossa said of all the support they provide for teachers, mentorship training is one area that needs attention.

"We know that kids who come to school that aren't doing well, that may be dealing with social/emotional issues, need help, but that's where we need to be able to train them on how to manage those things," he said. "Our kids are coming to us with much greater needs than they ever have before and it's important that teachers know their boundaries and their limits."

Details are still being hashed out but the CTA hopes to incorporate mental health, dos and don'ts of mentoring, and other important aspects into training.

"And also to work on what should my boundaries be? What should I expect of families and students," she noted. "We don't always understand what is needed of us to help somebody else. Is it just to help and listen or should I be aware of other resources? That's kind of what we're looking at."

The district is looking at their budget and is hoping to launch the new training position as early as next school year.

"We just want to be able to make it as clear as possible so we can continue to attract and retain great teachers," said Avossa.

Other school districts in Florida, including Broward County, have training like this already in place.

The CTA is also applying for a grant with the American Federation of Teachers to train 15 local teachers this summer in mentorship.

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