The Merrimack Institute for New Teacher Support (MINTS) Goes Virtual
The MINTS program, part of the College’s School of Education and Social Policy, is using virtual platforms to provide guidance and professional opportunities to new teachers.
New teachers have one of the toughest jobs in America. The Merrimack Institute for New Teacher Support (MINTS) has been offering workshops and mentoring for new teachers since 2016, and has brought experts to campus to work with new teachers on the issues they find most challenging.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created additional challenges for new teachers. They have had to transition to remote instruction and have been unable to see their students and colleagues in person. Knowing support for new teachers has become even more critical, MINTS has retooled its program to reach them through videos, webinars, social media and more.
“MINTS has notably been an on-ground, in-person professional development workshop program at Merrimack College,” said MINTS director, Amanda Alcox. “We wanted to continue to support our education community so we transitioned to an online platform.”
Alcox surveyed district leaders and teachers about topics they were interested in, then recruited Merrimack College experts to address these issues.
“We created a social media presence on Facebook and YouTube, and a strategy and resource packet that we shared with over 80 school districts,” said Alcox. “We also offered live professional development opportunities on Zoom utilizing Merrimack faculty members.”
To premiere MINTS’ online program, a series of informational videos were created. Assistant professor of practice, education and community studies, Kathy Welby, recorded an episode about meeting the needs of students with learning challenges, one of the most critical issues of remote instruction this spring. To follow up, associate dean Russ Olwell, recorded an episode for the series on how mentoring changes when you shift to doing more contact by Zoom.
In the latest episode, Alcox talked to education professor Anne Gatling about ways to engage students in longer-term projects that take advantage of teaching from home.
School counseling faculty, professors Christine Shaw and James Howland hosted live Zoom sessions on social-emotional learning, and how teachers can respond to a crisis. Howland and Shaw plan to follow up with more programming to help teachers address their own needs, and those of their students.
Over the past year, MINTS has hosted 327 participants, including new teachers, seasoned veterans and Merrimack graduate and undergraduate students. Committed to the continuation of support for teachers and MINTS programming, Alcox said she has many plans for the summer and upcoming school year.