Mentoring Programs in Colorado for Future Teachers

By Monte Whaley 

Leah Silverstone doesn’t hold back when talking to her high-energy protege, Arvada West senior Amanda Erholm, about the rigors and pitfalls of teaching.

“I am honest as I can be about teaching,” said Silverstone, who is starting her ninth year in the classroom, seven of those at Fremont Elementary School in Jefferson County. “I feel I have to be. It’s tough some days and there is so much burnout in teaching. I try to give her the big picture, which is a lot of good and sometimes some bad.”

Silverstone’s tough love is not deterring Erholm, at least not yet. “I like working with kids and working with Leah,” a smiling Erholm said. “I have just always wanted to work with kids, and be a teacher.”

Colorado hopes Erholm follows through with her intent to get a teaching degree as the state struggles with a massive shortage of qualified teachers. As many as 3,000 teaching slots are open in the state’s classrooms, with rural schools suffering the most.

Erholm is part of Colorado’s Teacher Cadet program, which pairs high school juniors and seniors with veteran teachers to get them prepared for a career in the classroom. Erholm also is likely to take advantage of a new University of Colorado Boulder initiative that guarantees admission to qualified high schoolers interested in becoming teachers.

CU’s move is part of an overall effort by lawmakers and universities in Colorado to stem the tide of young teachers streaming away from the classroom, mostly because of low salaries and inexperience working with classrooms of 30 young, squirming kids.

“We wanted to get creative in solving this problem, and CU’s proposal is one more tool we can use,” said Michelle Dennis, director of the Teacher Cadet program.

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