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Why do VI professionals need a mentor program?

When and for how long is a VI professional assigned a mentor?

Who can be a mentor?

What is the application process to become a mentor?

How are mentors and proteges matched?

How will a protege benefit from having a mentor?

How do experienced VI professionals benefit from being a mentor?

What support does a school district need to provide to mentors and proteges?

Why do VI professionals need a mentor program?

Pre-service training for VI and O&M certification provides a strong background in theory and practice. The mentor program is designed to support that training by introducing the participants to the unique intricacies and challenges of being an itinerant VI professional and to assist in the transition from learner to VI professional. For example:

  • VI professionals work with students with a wide range of both cognitive and visual abilities as well as ages from birth to 21.
  • VI teachers or O&M specialists are often the only VI professionals employed by small and rural districts. Consequently, they may be isolated from peers who could provide knowledgeable support.
  • VI professionals must also be able to interact frequently and successfully with parents, other teachers, and professionals serving their students and administrators in numerous buildings.
  • In order to successfully serve students and meet the demands of the job, well-developed organizational and people skills are a must.

In the past people have completed the course work necessary to become a VI teacher or O&M specialist only to discover that they do not like the varied and demanding role of working with a diverse population of students scattered over a large service area. Some found that they had the necessary skills to work with students, but wanted more assistance gaining skills in the consultative and/or assessment responsibilities of the job. The mentor program was designed to provide support to new VI professionals so that they would feel less isolated and also have an opportunity to learn how experienced VI teachers and O&M specialists handle the many challenges inherent in their jobs.

The Texas Legislature and the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) are currently considering plans to provide mentors to all new educators in Texas. The mentor program for VI professionals is at the forefront of this progressive development in education.

When and for how long is a VI professional assigned a mentor?

A student entering one of the training options to become a VI professional is assigned a mentor during the first semester of coursework or as soon as one is available. The mentor relationship continues through the protege's training and extends through the protege's first year of employment as a VI professional in Texas schools. In general, the commitment to act as a mentor is for two years.

Who can be a mentor?

  • General personal qualifications include good communication skills, a solid understanding of professional knowledge, high standards for self and others, a desire for continued professional growth and an ability to nurture the growth of others.
  • Mentors for VI teachers must have a minimum of four years of experience and written administrative approval and support.
  • O&M mentors must be ACVREP certified and have a minimum of three years of experience providing O&M instruction to children with varying levels of visual impairment and cognitive abilities.
  • Applications are reviewed and approved by Outreach staff and appropriate ESC consultants.

What is the application process to become a mentor?

Those who meet the minimum number of years' experience can begin the application process. This process includes:

  • completing an application (which includes information about the applicant and a recommendation and statement of support from the supervisor or director)
  • securing letters of support from the ESC and other knowledgeable professionals
  • submitting a resume (required for O&M specialists only)
  • attending a 1.5 day training (at no expense to the mentor or district).
  • Completing the TSBVI on-line Mentor Training Course

How are mentors and proteges matched?

Prior to completing the match, various parties are consulted, including the mentor and the vision consultants at the ESC. If no preference exists, the mentor coordinator will make the match. Once a match is identified, all parties involved need to agree to the pairing of the mentor/protege team.

Ideally, the mentor will be from a district that is geographically close to the protege's home district as this facilitates interaction between the pair. However, if a nearby mentor is not available, the protege may be assigned to a statewide mentor who will travel to the protege's district for regular visits, provided the protégé is assigned a VI caseload.

In rare instances the only VI professional available to the protégé is their mentor. In this situation the mentor may also assume the role of the intern supervisor, provided both the protégé (intern) and the mentor are comfortable with this arrangement. Prior approval by the mentor coordinator for this type of arrangement is required.

How will a protege benefit from having a mentor?

A mentor is a source of information and support for a protege-UCSC4a guide to a new profession. Some activities a mentor may provide include:

  • Opportunities for the protege to observe the mentor in situations such as conducting evaluations, attending ARD meetings, providing direct instruction and consultations, writing IEP goals, scheduling daily plans, and keeping records
  • Introductions to sources for VI-related professional development such as workshops, conferences, web sites, and publications
  • Informal observations of the protege working with students during the first year of employment for the purpose of providing supportive feedback
  • Networking opportunities with other professionals in the field of visual impairment.

How do experienced VI professionals benefit from being a mentor?

Tangible benefits include two days of all-expense-paid training to learn how to support a protege's professional growth. Additional training and opportunities for networking will be offered at professional conferences. In recognition of their time, travel, and expenses, a small stipend is paid to all mentors assigned to proteges. Serving as a mentor can provide the benefits listed below.

  • A unique opportunity for professional development and a recognized activity for the Professional Development and Appraisal System (PDAS) and ACVREP recertification credit for O&M specialists
  • An excellent contribution to the field by helping to ensure the continued quality of VI teachers and O&M specialists
  • A profound sense of personal satisfaction and professional renewal
  • Opportunities for new bonds and connections with professionals at various levels of professional development.

What support does a school district need to provide to mentors and proteges?

Upon application to the mentor program, all mentors must complete a TSBVI Mentor Training course online and attend a one-time face-to-face training that lasts 1.5 days. Training sessions are conducted once a year, in Austin. All expenses for the training are paid for by the mentor program. Professional release time to attend the training would be helpful.

Once a mentor has been assigned to a protege, regular contact between the mentor and protege is needed to foster a supportive relationship. Contact can be made by phone, e-mail, letters, videotape exchange and face-to-face visits.

For the purposes of onsite observations or shadowing, occasional release time may be needed by either the mentor or the protege. If it will be necessary for the protégé's school to hire a substitute for time spent observing the mentor, there are limited funds available for this purpose. Prior approval by the mentor coordinator for using these funds will be required. If the mentor and protégé are not employed in the same district, it may be possible for observation days to be scheduled when one district has a professional development day. Since districts often do not have VI-related workshops available for O&M specialists and VI teachers and since mentoring is a recognized activity for the PDAS teacher evaluation process, the time spent mentoring can provide for professional growth and meet criteria for PDAS. Using professional development days also eliminates the problem of not providing scheduled services for VI students on regular school days.

For additional information or to relay comments or ideas, please contact:

Chrissy Cowan, TSBVI Outreach Services
Mentor Coordinator
1100 W. 45 th Street
Austin, Texas 78756
(512) 206-9367