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A Message from NEA-Retired President: November 2009

An Educator's Legacy is Anything but Finite

NEA-Retired President, Barbara Matteson
Readers of this magazine share a special common bond: As a retired educator, you take pride in remembering all the lives you’ve touched over the years—the promising students you guided, the wayward ones you encouraged, and those with special needs that you helped meet. It’s always heartwarming to hear from a former student how you influenced them in some way.

But our reach doesn’t have to end there. Part of the beauty of being a retired educator is that we are uniquely positioned to help another group of people that really needs us—today’s new teachers. We’ve all seen the devastating teacher attrition statistics: More than 45 percent of new teachers leave the profession within the first five years.

And the top complaints of those who leave aren’t the salary or the long hours (although those are factors, too); they report feeling unsupported and overwhelmed. It’s a shame to think of all the talented teachers we’ve lost because they didn’t know where to turn for help.

As the mentors featured in this issue’s cover story point out, what so many new educators need is a sounding board—someone who will listen to their questions, ideas, and struggles, then offer advice and share stories from their own experience. So maybe you never dealt with cell phones in class, or teaching with SmartBoards, or parents who bombard you with emails. But what you know about maintaining classroom discipline, bringing lessons to life, and communicating with parents could help a new teacher immensely. So often the best ideas are the tried and true.

There are many ways you can become a mentor to a new educator. One of the best is NEA’s Intergenerational Mentoring Program, through which NEA Student and Retired members are paired for two years as the students transition into the classroom. Read more about it in the cover story.

Just think—by keeping great educators in our schools, you’re also helping a whole new generation of students. And isn’t that why we all got into this in the first place?

—Barbara Matteson

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