Miami University Answers the Call to Support Young Career Teachers

James M. Loy, Miami University

It’s not easy to navigate a brand new career, especially for first-year teachers.

Teaching, as a profession, is often said to be one of the most rewarding and simultaneously one of the most challenging. It usually requires an ability to design effective lessons, manage large classrooms, increase test scores, build student relationships, meet administrative expectations, and more.  

Those who are newer can sometimes struggle to find a proper balance. And not only because the work can be dynamic, intense, and highly personal. “Research [also] points to how many new teachers describe the isolation they feel when they have a classroom of their own in the first years of teaching,” says, Brian Schultz, Miami University professor of teacher education.people talking

But strong mentorship and guidance early on can make all the difference. And Miami University has answered the call to provide the support that many young career teachers are requesting.

“As teacher candidates became first-year teachers, we were barraged with texts, emails and phone calls asking for guidance, support, reassurance, which we were happy to provide,” says Sheri Leafgren, associate professor of teacher education at Miami. “We learned so much from these young teachers. But we realized that others must need similar supports.” 

So Miami’s Department of Teacher Education (EDT) partnered with the university’s development and alumni office to launch a new monthly series specifically to provide young career teacher support.

Designed along with EDT faculty Tammy Schwartz and Kim Wachenheim, the program is about “puzzling through the complications of teaching,” Leafgren says, while also serving as a way to build and maintain ongoing relationships with EDT graduates as they continue to flourish in the field.

“We want our former students -- our FUTURE in the field -- to know we still care about them and to feel that we are there for them, not only as individuals, but as an institution,” Leafgren continues. “And the benefits are reciprocal. We learn from them more specifically what teachers need and we can use that to constantly re-think our program efforts.”

During the first event, Professor Schultz and Dr. Michael E. Dantley, Dean of Miami’s College of Education, Health and Society, were both on hand to engage directly with alumni.people talking

“The event was powerful,” Schultz says. “Our graduates are doing such good work, but shared their frustrations and concerns in facing what new teachers often face: problematic educational policy and practices that truncate both philosophical and practical underpinnings of what is possible with curriculum in classrooms today.”  

Forthcoming events will feature additional educational experts from Miami and area school districts, as well as grant-writing workshops, professional development opportunities, and more.

Plans are also in progress to make each event as accessible as possible to alumni across the region.

“The alumni association is sending out invitations to graduates who are currently teaching in a 50-mile radius, and who are in their first few years of teaching,” Leafgren says. “Faculty are also contacting former students individually to let them know they are welcome and needed. We’ve only just begun, so the format is going to be ever-evolving -- bringing in experts as requested, allowing time for small group conversations, providing tangible supports, shifting locations and days of the week to best accommodate individual teacher needs.”

For more information regarding upcoming events, contact Tammy Schwartz: