For 10 years, the Chicago Teacher Education Pipeline (CTEP) has empowered aspiring urban educators through immersive experiences across the city’s diverse cultural and educational landscape. While urban teacher preparation remains its hallmark, the Pipeline has responded to the call to serve Illinois State graduates after they are hired by Chicago Public Schools (CPS).

The In-Service Induction and Mentoring Program assists alumni during the first few years of their teaching career in CPS. The program provides support by facilitating mentor-mentee relationships and offering professional development workshops.

In the months after their initial hire, the Pipeline helps new teachers find an exemplary veteran educator within their school to serve as their mentor. Through these professional relationships, mentees are able to learn more about the intricacies of their school’s culture and improve their practice.

“Having a mentor who you can talk to about anything—from what goes on in your classroom to balancing work and life outside of school—is an invaluable resource,” said Kevin Templin ’10, a ninth grade science teacher at Farragut Career Academy in Chicago. “It has also helped me to gain an understanding of how the school runs and who I need to go to in order to get work accomplished, even if that person is not an administrator or dean.”

Templin’s mentor, Jenny Sarna, is an experienced science teacher who has taught grades nine through 12. Through their almost daily interactions, they set long- and short-term goals for Templin. Among their priorities were improving student engagement, curriculum planning, and understanding of the Danielson Framework for Teaching.

Mentorships are intended to be mutually beneficial for the educators. Sarna said her work with Templin has served as a model partnership at Farragut and has resulted in her becoming a more thoughtful teacher.

“This has been a great way to spend more time working with a colleague, and I believe it has strengthened the level of camaraderie in our department,” she said. “The Pipeline program has allowed both of us to set goals, reflect on improving ourselves and our teams, and consider how to utilize best practices in our teaching.”

Templin regularly attends the Pipeline’s professional development sessions, which are geared toward the needs of participants. Maria Owens, the coordinator of the induction and mentoring program, selects topics based on feedback from the teachers. In 2013–2014, she organized presentations on topics such as educational technology, strategies for working with English learners, the Common Core, and the Danielson Framework for Teaching. Templin said a session on serving learners with disabilities enhanced his teaching practices.

“(The presenter) covered exactly what a classroom teacher would need to know about working with special education students as well as special education teachers,” Templin said. “After that learning experience, I was able to be more creative and effective in the way I teach and modify my curriculum for special education students.”

As of spring 2014, more than 1,100 Illinois State graduates live and work in Chicago’s public and charter schools from Auburn Gresham to Belmont-Craigin. Owens encourages new and veteran teachers alike to contact the Pipeline to support and connect with their fellow alumni through the induction and mentoring program and by attending the Pipeline’s social events, including its group dinners.

The next professional development opportunity for Illinois State University alumni working in CPS is Saturday, May 3. Those interested in attending or learning more about the program can email Owens or call her at (773) 522-1780.