The NCTR Mentor of the Year Award celebrates the commitment, the mastery, and the passion that mentors bring to their work with residents in our Network partner programs. This year’s nominees were selected by their programs with the following criteria in mind:

  • The mentor demonstrates a commitment to resident growth and learning
  • They model and make practice explicit and visible for the resident
  • They promote and practice inquiry and reflection of teaching practices
  • They champion, model and continually seek ways to learn about cultural competence

From the nominees below, NCTR will announce the 2019 Mentor of the Year during our annual Symposium, May 14-16.

This year’s nominees for the 2019 Mentor of the Year:

Alder Graduate School of Education – Aspire Los Angeles

Johanna Zuniga, 4th Grade

Johanna demonstrates a deep commitment to not only her own resident growth and learning, but that of all residents. She thinks deeply about what she is modeling for her resident and how she is modeling her thinking. She makes her thinking visible for her resident to learn from and has promoted her residents’ development professionally, practically, emotionally, developmentally, and instructionally. She is thoughtful about the ways she works and talks about the work with students. Her residents’ success is deeply tied to her own definition of success. She is truly an exemplar mentor teacher in all ways.


Boettcher Teacher Residency

Becky Melecky, 4th Grade

Becky demonstrates flexibility, clarity of practice, and the cognitive coaching skills necessary to ensure that her resident experiences a quality learning experience. Asset-based language comes naturally to Becky. Becky explicitly models the principles of inquiry-based learning and constructivism. Becky uses a “think aloud” approach to her coaching highlighting her reflective thought process as each lesson is taught. Becky is a champion for all students modeling compassion and understanding differentiated upon student needs within a culturally competent classroom. Becky’s mentorship has allowed her resident to flourish.


Clarkson University Master of Arts in Teaching

Leigh Feguer, 9th Grade Biology

Leigh is currently mentoring her sixth full-year biology resident; several of her former residents are now her colleagues in a high-needs urban high school. She maintains a professional learning community comprised of her past residents, and they regularly volunteer for community-based science education opportunities. Leigh is effective, and her residents are successful because of her ability to continuously reflect on and improve her teaching. Leigh demonstrates to our residents that learning never ends. Leigh shows our residents how being culturally responsive and committed to students leads to a fulfilling and purposeful career.


CREATE Teacher Residency

Alice Damian, 1st Grade

Alice is tireless in her effort to enhance resident learning and her own skills as a mentor. Returning to mentorship year after year, she hosts residents, leads summer training, and teaches other mentors – in sum, she anchors our program. She builds trusting relationships and balances patience with an urgency for excellent instruction. She has mastered how to share her reasoning in real-time while making instructional decisions, optimizing opportunities for resident learning. She grapples openly with her identity as a white woman teaching in predominantly black spaces, and seeks ways to connect deeply with students, their families, colleagues and residents.


East Harlem Teaching Residency

Gabrielle McDonald, 2nd Grade

Gabby was a founding resident and the first graduate of the program to become a mentor. Her knowledge of the program has made her invaluable. Her resident says, “She is a phenomenal leader within the school community and the EHTP organization. There has never been a time where I had a question or concern that she did not have an answer. It’s easy for her to put herself in our shoes when we are struggling, because she has been in our position and her guidance through this all has had an immeasurable impact on my confidence and growth.” Not only is Gabby a mentor teacher, but she is also the Grade Team Lead for East Harlem Scholars Academy II’s 1st grade team.


Fresno Teacher Residency Program

Darlene Lee, 5th Grade

Darlene is a year two mentor who has opened her classroom to residents. She consistently uses co-teaching strategies such as parallel teaching, team teaching, and station teaching. Darlene will ask for feedback for herself and her resident on an ongoing basis. She attends mentor training to improve on her craft. Darlene is the first one to reach out to university instructors to ask for support. She embodies what it means to be a life long learner.


Inspired Teaching Residency

Neoka Smith, 2nd Grade

Neoka is a veteran teacher who has the respect and admiration of her peers. She has a wealth of knowledge and is always ready to share any resources she has available. Neoka is very respectful of the voice and presence of her resident. There are occasions when she wants a resident to make an adjustment mid lesson or ask a question to students, but instead of interjecting she will casually pass a post-it or side coach without interrupting the flow of the lesson. Neoka’s classroom runs like a well-oiled machine and is always engaging. There are chants for transitions and songs and cheers for acknowledgment, which have created a safe, caring community. She models clear expectations, leads with grace, and incorporates students’ interests and experiences in her classroom.


Kansas City Teacher Residency

Kyrie Manchion, 7th grade English Language Arts

Kyrie is a first year mentor teacher who has worked from day one to go above and beyond to support her resident’s development as a teacher and content leader. Kyrie collaborates with KCTR staff to provide aligned feedback to her resident. She has extremely high expectations for herself, her resident, and her students. We are grateful for her work and determination to help shape the next generation of teachers!


Kern Urban Teacher Residency

Matthew Rotherham , Kindergarten

Matthew’s dedication to the program, and most importantly to his craft as an educator, is exemplified by the amount of success he has experienced as a mentor. He promotes an equitable, collaborative and just culture at all times. An environment of inclusion, facilitation and coaching helps accelerate the residents and the students throughout the year. Matthew signifies an exemplar mentor at any residency program; especially the Kern Urban Teacher Residency.


Nashville Teacher Residency

Edwinna Carr, 6th Grade Math

Edwinna is so strong in her mentoring that the Nashville Teacher Residency chose to highlight her practice in a mentor training so that all of its other mentors could learn from her skills and approach.  Always a teacher, for residents or students, she watches every detail of her classroom, uses every tool judiciously. She prepares her residents for a career in teaching in the same way that she prepares her student for success–by giving them both rigorous practice with specific feedback. She epitomizes what a mentor should be.


Old Dominion University Teacher in Residence

Tamu Crisden, Secondary Science

Tamu exemplifies what it means to be a mentor and coach. She is a masterful teacher with a command of content and pedagogy, serving as a model for not only our residents but also for fellow mentors. Tamu has a talent for making connections in learning at all levels. Her guidance and support for residents and colleagues makes her a critical cog in our program. She is not only a champion for the ODU/TIR she is a champion for all learners and schools. Tamu is our partner, but more importantly our colleague, making a difference in preparing educators for today and tomorrow.


Partnerships to Uplift Communities Alumni Teach Project

Joe Garza, 6th Grade Humanities

Joe has served as a mentor teacher for the past four years. Despite his many years of experience, he continues to hone his skills by engaging in every opportunity for professional development in both mentoring and teaching practices. He has been a role model for other mentors by hosting them in his classroom for a huddling mentor lab and by offering to share his practice via video and self-reflection. He goes above and beyond to develop his residents, meeting with them on weekends, providing extra planning supports, and being open to taking risks in the classroom. He has maintained strong relationships with all of his previous residents and the community; he provided emotional and logistical support for the family of a former resident who passed away last year.  


Philadelphia Teacher Residency

Richardson Guerrier, Science

Richardson is an incredibly thoughtful mentor teacher. He provides feedback that is detailed and objective. He is able to cite examples through his observations and provide his residents with guidance to consider for different outcomes. He demonstrates an authentic respect for his resident’s contribution to the success of the classroom. His ability to thoughtfully mentor and share autonomy with a resident has been impressive to watch. He should be commended for his talents and his efforts.


Project Inspire

Bria Sibley, 1st Grade

Bria exemplifies a commitment to resident growth and learning through her intentional stance as a learner alongside her resident. In her communication about her work with residents, she always focuses on seeing the innate strengths in another and tries to build her input/coaching around those assets. Like a great coach, she does not impose a way upon her resident, she instead collaborates with him to draw out the way that will work best for him and the students in the classroom. She helps teaching to feel more like a family and less like an individual, competitive sport.


RTR (Richmond Teacher Residency)

Matthew Wester, Science

Humble and introspective, Matt is an indispensable coach/leader at his diverse school site, supporting a cadre of new coaches while piloting a two-to-one resident-to-coach model. A biology field trip with a student service opportunity to a sustainable farm growing food for people of Richmond living in food deserts typifies Matt’s cultural competence. As a teacher, Matt promotes and practices inquiry and reflection of his instructional practice while as coach he skillfully facilitates the use of data collection tools to provide nonjudgmental input that informs and enhances resident instructional practice.


St. Paul Urban Teacher Residency

Kelly Blomquist, Special Education

As a veteran teacher, Kelly has continually shown a dedication and commitment to the residents she works with as well as the residents in her building. She practices co-planning, co-teaching and regular feedback sessions to her residents. She is passionate about her ability to be a successful teacher for all students, and she mentors her residents to be the same way. She allows residents to be independent while providing a safe space for them to practice and never feel alone. She shows up with 100 percent dedication to improving the resident experience, while always putting the needs of students first. She practices using the “courageous conversations” protocol with residents and always includes realness, relevance, rigor, and relationships in her lessons for all kids.