Teaching the teachers
A teacher’s first years in education are so overwhelming that half of all new teachers quit within the first five years.
Veteran educator Gina Tucker hopes that her new business, EduCoach, will turn this tide by providing online mentoring support to teachers in Bermuda and around the world.
“Most teachers come in thinking that they will stay for ever,” she said. “So what are we going to do to ensure that they do stay long term? I believe that EduCoach is one of those resources. EduCoach is a real gift for teachers.”
Dr Tucker said her own early years as a teacher at West Pembroke Primary in the late 1980s were “crazy”.
“I was well prepared,” she said. “I trained through a progressive programme. But as a first-year teacher, you are trying to manage 100 things, of which 95 are unrelated to instruction. You are trying to manage how the school operates. You are trying to manage the discipline, and you are trying to manage how to fulfil all of your duties.”
The other teachers at West Pembroke saved her from becoming a statistic.
“It would have been a different journey had I not had those colleagues in the building,” she said.
Older colleagues sometimes giggled at her “progressive” ideas, like getting children to work collaboratively in class.
“But their support allowed me to try things,” she said. “Otherwise I would have been too busy trying to figure out everything else.”
Later, working as a primary school principal for eight years, she often mentored teachers who worked under her. But she said in today’s world where principals are so busy, that is not always feasible.
“EduCoach supports principals as much as it does the teachers,” she said.
It’s about making professional coaching accessible, affordable and convenient so that any teacher who wants to improve can get the help needed anytime, anywhere.
Helpful to new teachers, it also provides mentors for all experience levels.
A teacher might choose a mentor to help her with primary three mathematics, for example.
Dr Tucker said that right now popular topics are mindfulness, classroom management and formative assessment.
Interest in EduCoach is growing, even overseas.
“We went away to the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development in Chicago in March,” she said. “The interest was overwhelming. This is a revolution in the way that we think about support for teachers. Having people shift to this model takes time. We do see the uptick in interest in the last couple of months.”
She started working on EduCoach during lockdown in April 2020 while serving as director for fintech education at FinTech Bermuda.
“Every morning for about a week I woke up thinking, what can I do? I have to do something,” she said.
She knew she wanted to create something that involved technology and education that would be a job maker.
“I knew I wanted to support teachers,” she said. “I know the work of teachers is very hard, and I know that everyone does not get the support they need when they need it.”
EduCoach started taking on coaches a year ago. They now have 50 and hope to eventually have 75 to 100 people working for them.
“You should have at least five years of teaching and coaching experience,” she said. “You should have a master’s degree in teaching. But certain areas have different types of certification. It is important for EduCoach to be progressive in its thinking about experience and expertise. People come with a variety of expertise that requires different types of certification.”
Teachers can purchase mentoring sessions and there are packages for schools who want to make EduCoach available to their teachers.