Education Renewal Zone Offers Support to First-Time Elementary Teachers

Elizabeth Smith, from left, Heather Kindall and Angela Elsass created the University of Arkansas New Teacher Academy.
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Elizabeth Smith, from left, Heather Kindall and Angela Elsass created the University of Arkansas New Teacher Academy.

The College of Education and Health Professions will support 10 first-year elementary teachers in the 2015-16 school year through a new program called the University of Arkansas New Teacher Academy.

Elizabeth Smith, director of the college’s Education Renewal Zone, received a $5,000 grant from the Arkansas Department of Education to create the program. Angela Elsass, clinical assistant professor of childhood education, and Heather Kindall, assistant professor of childhood education, helped develop the program and will assist with its operation. It will partner with rural school districts in Northwest Arkansas to equip first-year elementary teachers with the information and skills needed for longevity in the teaching profession.

 “Research indicates that less than 1 percent of all new teachers receive the kind of comprehensive induction support that is most effective in promoting teacher retention and student achievement,” Smith said. “Our pilot program will connect novice teachers with professional development specific to their needs and follow-up with U of A faculty mentors who can assist them with implementing research-based strategies in their classrooms. It’s the kind of in-depth support that many of the districts in our area are not currently equipped to offer.”

The program will provide monthly networking lunches for the new elementary teachers and U of A education faculty, along with monthly four-hour professional development sessions offered at locations throughout Northwest Arkansas.

“Research shows that the classroom teacher is one of the greatest factors in student success,” Kindall said. “With the teaching profession in a constant state of flux, high attrition rates, and added pressure of changing teacher evaluations, we feel that new teachers need more support than ever before. The UA NTA is just one way that we can continue supporting the teachers in Northwest Arkansas.”

The new teachers will be paired with a U of A faculty mentor who will provide continuing support through coaching and access to additional resources.

“As a former teacher and administrator, I have seen the challenges that new teachers face in establishing classroom management,” Elsass said. “The management aspect is of prime importance for student achievement and instructional effectiveness. I have also recognized that collaboration and support from experienced teachers directly parallels with increased confidence, motivation, and a positive mental set. The UA NTA is a wonderful way to provide first-year teachers the experiences that they will need to be successful and have longevity in their chosen profession.”

District officials interested in the program should contact Smith at


Heidi Wells, director of communications
College of Education and Health Professions


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