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A Message From the President

Making the Difference

Barbara Matteson


When colleagues talk to me about the work they’re doing with NEA-Retired’s Intergenerational Mentoring Program, the word I hear most often is “gratifying.” I’m pleased to hear that retirees are enjoying becoming mentors to beginning teachers. And I encourage more of you to do so. There is an urgent need.

If you haven’t heard the current statistics, prepare to be shocked. Nearly 50 percent of new teachers leave the profession in the first five years, and 20 percent after just the first year. Why? We know that low pay is a factor. And so is being overwhelmed by the realities of teaching in today’s classrooms. These newcomers are confronted with the mandates of No Child Left Behind, which only adds to their anxieties about job performance.

That’s where we come in. Retired teachers can help support fledgling teachers in those crucial beginning years. We can serve as a resource and a sounding board. We can advise or just listen. Sometimes that makes all the difference. As Janet Kilgus from Illinois-Retired said, “Just because you don’t go to work every day doesn’t mean you’re not an educator with experience, information, and fantastic ideas.... You still got it, so share it.”

Our Intergenerational Mentoring Program is one of the key ways that we can support the NEA Student Program. These are the new members who will keep NEA strong and determine its future.

States that don’t yet have intergenerational mentoring should look into the NEA-Retired grant program, which offers up to $5,000 for start-up money. That’s how most of the existing programs got off the ground. The mentoring program in Arizona is only three years old, but we’re already seeing the benefits and working to expand to Tucson.

You can help a teacher through those first five years. Remember what Janet Kilgus said: You still got it, so share it!

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