Sean Theriault

Sean Theriault

Department of Government
Teaching Fellow

Teaching Fellow Sean Theriault is developing a teaching mentorship program within the College of Liberal Arts for new faculty. The program aims to ease the new teachers' transitions into the classroom and to integrate them more quickly into the UT community. The program matches each new teacher with a member from the Academy of Distinguished Teachers. The ADT member observe the new teacher in the classroom and the new teacher observes the award winning teacher. Afterward, they have a conversation about improving their teaching. Should the program prove successful, it may become a standard component of new-teacher orientation, and also a mechanism to reinforce the good practices shared at that forum.

How's it going?

Great! I have matched 12 new teachers with 12 members of the Academy. As I type this, we have new teachers visiting the classroom of experienced teachers and vice versa. The early reviews have been quite positive.

What has differed from your inital expectations?

I would have thought that the experienced teachers would have been stingier with their time. Wow, was I wrong! When I sent out one email to the ADT members in the College, my email in box began to overflow with people who were eager to help out the new teachers.

What response have you received from potential mentors/mentees?

The only response I’ve gotten thus far have been along the logistic lines. After both classroom visits and the conversation have happened, I asked the participants to send me an email. I suspect I’ll start receiving those emails in a few weeks.

How have you overcome any challenges?

Initially, the new teachers were a bit resistant to take on something—anything!—else. The more that they thought about it, however, the more emails I got from them. After four or five new teachers initially graciously declined to be a part of the program, I got emails back a few days later saying that they had reconsidered and were eager to get a teaching mentor. I think these were wise decisions. The wisdom of an experienced teacher can save them much time and frustration.

Where do you see this headed in the next year or so?

The beauty of the program is that with each new school year, there is a new crop of new teachers! Next year, I hope to integrate the second-year teachers into it. Just because you have a year under your belt doesn’t mean that you’ve learned all the tricks of the trade!

For more on Dr. Theriault's work, please visit his homepage or email him at seant@mail.utexas.edu.

Dr. Theriault is part of the Provost Teaching Fellows program. Find out more about this Faculty Initiative here.