By Matt Delaney, Director of Academic Design & Integration

WHEN THINKING SPECIFICALLY ABOUT FACULTY members new to Eastside Prep, support is vital to their success as teachers.
Our Head of School, Dr. Terry Macaluso, often says that the two most important decisions that we make at EPS are: (1) the people we admit and (2) the people we hire. In both instances, student admission and faculty hiring are only the first steps in a process; equally important are the next steps that support the development and success of both students and faculty members. A fitting analog is EPS’s approach to college counseling where the focus is not solely on college admission, but on a student’s ability to succeed once they are in college.


Before new faculty are hired, they complete an application, a series of interviews, and a visit-day experience. Once hired, they enter EPS’s onboarding process. In the winter and spring before the start of the next academic year, new faculty receive resources that introduce them to EPS’s school culture, academic program, and campus. They are also paired with an experienced EPS faculty member as a mentor, who is generally a member of their Academic Discipline Team.

At the close of the school year, new faculty are connected with other colleagues in academic discipline teams; the most important connection being with current EPS faculty who have previously taught courses that new teachers are going to teach in the coming school year. In mid-August, new faculty members participate in an orientation that includes primers on how we think about student development, our professional community/ecosystem, the EPS philosophy of curricular design, availabilityand use of technological resources, and the nuance of EPS policies and practices.

While each new faculty member has a primary mentor through their first year at EPS, we know that healthy membership in the community takes a village; a village in which each EPS employee plays the role of mentor at some moment in some fashion. Early success in teaching at EPS is dependent on a supportive professional community and culture where a new faculty member: (1) understands what resources they have at their disposal; (2) knows that any colleague can either answer their questions or direct them to another colleague who can; and (3) feels comfortable asking for help when they need it.

Over the course of the year, mentors and mentees are asked to share a meal at least once a month. There are also periodic check-ins with both mentors and the new faculty cohort as distinct groups. New faculty are briefed on upcoming commitments like Fall Conferences, Fall Harvest, and comments on Midterm Progress Reports. At the close of the first term, mentors, mentees, and school leadership attend a dinner event to continue integration into the professional community.

At the close of the academic year, another event is held where we check in on how the first year went, asking new faculty members questions like: How have you changed in your thinking and practice this year? How does your experience this year have you thinking about changes you want to make for next year?; all in a focused effort to more tightly weave our new faculty into the fabric of our professional community and culture.

In an effort to illustrate the impact of our mentoring program, we asked some of our newer faculty to reflect on being mentored, and some EPS veterans to share some insights on mentoring.

New Faculty Member (2022-23)

“Walking into a new place and meeting people in a whirlwind interview is overwhelming, so having a person guide you especially in opening meeting days has been appreciated and helpful. Jeff Bandel has been great about letting me know what’s important to pay attention to right now, and what can wait to discuss later; a triage of sorts.”

Faculty Mentor (2022-23)

“One of the reasons that I was so quick to accept the mentor role is because I strongly believe the mentor plays a crucial role in ensuring that the first year at EPS goes as smoothly as possible in order to keep new faculty around. Teaching is a difficult job. EPS attracts high-flying teachers, so having a support system in place is imperative to maintaining faculty for the long haul. In the end, this makes everyone’s job easier and more productive and benefits student learning. Sometimes it can take years to fully know the culture of school and the ins and outs of its processes and practices. Having a strong support system is so important, and I attribute much of my positive, early experience at EPS to the mentor-mentee relationship I had with David Fierce.”

New Faculty Member (2022-23)

“The mentor-mentee relationship has been emotionally supportive as much as it has been institutionally crucial. Caitlin McLane and I have a slightly different mentor-mentee relationship because we do not teach in the same academic discipline, but we are still a great match. Caitlin has been wonderful in helping me adjust and adapt to EPS culture and the stress associated with teaching a different age group of students as I transition from the college classroom to the upper school classroom. The mentor role at EPS provides valuable emotional support and that is fundamental to surviving and thriving this first year. You have a shared experience and you know you are not alone. The mentor is there not only to listen, but also to give advice for moving forward or handling something in the moment.
Sitting in on a colleague’s classes has been one of the most beneficial experiences for me as I start at EPS. Classroom observations are encouraged, which has helped me see all the different ways that EPS instructors navigate their classrooms in terms of content delivery and classroom management. To faculty who have been teaching for a long time at this age level, it may seem common sense, but for someone new to this age and learning group, it can be hard to figure out. It’s been great to watch the ways in which other faculty members handle classroom dynamics, and even the smallest of things that they do to promote a positive classroom culture.”

New Faculty Member (2022-23)

“I was really lucky to get Elena Olsen as my mentor! We taught different sections of the same class first trimester, so working with her on that class helped me navigate the various tech platforms, learn more about the school culture, and just have a go-to person for all of my random questions. The mentor program makes a big difference with productive and supported onboarding.
The tech support was probably the most beneficial: seeing how the various platforms integrated and understanding how students use those programs. It’s been very easy to go to Elena for support, particularly when we shared a class and there was more need for collaborating, which also helped to apply a lot of the new info in context, which is always helpful. Other faculty are also helpful and accessible, so I rely on my office mates as well to answer questions or kick ideas around.”

Faculty Mentor (2022-23)

“The transition to a new school is always overwhelming. When you join a new school, you are not only learning the new systems and technology but learning the culture of the people who operate those systems, the culture of the discipline you are teaching in, and the culture of the students and school. The EPS Mentor Program has come a long way in terms of structure and the preplanning that has gone into the program this year—including the addition of extra social events.

Jen is a wonderful and easy mentee to work with since she brings so much experience, dedication, and drive to jump into all aspects of EPS! Jen has a lot of teaching experience so she really hasn’t needed much from me recently. I worked more with Jen in the fall trimester as she was learning OneNote and our EPS conventions. For Halloween, Jen went all out dressing up in our faculty and staff theme this year: rainbows and unicorns, so I put more effort into my costume than usual. We picked up unicorn headbands at Goodwill, and as we were sitting at a table bouncing ideas off each other, which has been a highlight of this partnership, someone took a photo. It captured a great moment in our relationship, diving into EPS culture, sharing teacher ideas, enjoying being silly, and connecting.”

Faculty Mentor (2022-23)

“I believe my relationship with Brandon Smith has been going well this year. I feel like he is comfortable asking me questions about the school or seeking my advice. I found some of the mentor meetings with the school’s leadership to be helpful; flagging a couple of things that I wouldn’t have thought of on my own but absolutely are needed, like context on events like Fall Harvest for new faculty. Sharing a free period with Brandon has also been helpful, as it gives us a potential time to talk if needed. I remember my first year I did not have a shared free period with my mentor and it made it harder to discuss things with him if I needed. Brandon got everyone in our office a postcard and monster finger puppet before the winter break. For some reason, he decided on a postcard of Shaun Cassidy for me that says ‘With love, Shaun.’ He just gets me.”

Cultivating Mentor/Mentee Relationships


The first year of teaching is hard. In fact, the first year in a new school is hard for even the most seasoned professional in any area of the school’s operations. Independent schools have their own unique way of doing things, and one must learn to navigate a complex system of policies, procedures, personalities, and cultural values that guide the institution. There is simply so much to learn, that no amount of up-front training and orientation could cover it all, and even if it could, the new employee would likely struggle to remember the lesson by the
time they were pressed to apply it. While we do our best to equip new employees with enough basic information to succeed in the first few weeks or months on the job, Eastside Prep has also developed a robust mentorship program for new employees.

The relationship that emerges between a mentor and mentee over the course of the entire year thus outlives the initial period of orientation
and onboarding. The mentor is there in the winter, when a new teacher has questions about capturing student progress and communicating that growth through narrative comments on the Midterm Progress Report. The mentor can help their mentee ramp up for the intense end-of-year experience that includes a whole slew of special events designed to wrap up the year and celebrate a class of graduating seniors.
And beyond the first year, mentors and mentees continue to share a bond that grows out of their initial relationship and transforms into one of trusted colleagues. All the while, this relationship transmits, recreates, and maintains a culture of collegiality and shared values. The collaborative spirit that informs Eastside Prep’s distinctive school culture becomes part of the new employee’s experience, and hopefully, when the time comes to invite another new employee into our community, they are ready to share the lessons they have learned in that first year, and beyond.