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Spotlight: Members as Mentors

Christine Montano, a former Teacher of the Year in Bridgeport, has taught mathematics at West Haven High School since 1999. In 2009 she was paired with English teacher Abby Goodwin to lead the schoo’s Peer Advocacy Program. The program’s “advocates” are a select group of West Haven High’s “best and brightest” seniors, chosen both for their academic success and willingness to dedicate their time to community service.
Projects and events that peer advocates have volunteered for include high school freshmen orientation and weekly bowling with local Autism and parent support groups. They have also supported the West Haven Emergency Assistance Taskforce (WHEAT) help tackle food insecurity. This year alone, the advocates have volunteered almost 2,000 hours of community services and have raised over $10,000 in cash and donated items.
For Montano and Goodwin, both members of our AFT Connecticut-affiliated West Haven Federation of Teachers, “a mentor is a person who guides others in becoming the best they can be for their own well-being and the good of others.” As co-advisors, they say they hope advisors explore their inner selves and channel their strengths to be the best they can for their community. 
“One of our goals is that our peer advocates will perpetuate this way of being throughout the rest of their life,” Montano and Goodwin said.
Click here for commentary on the value of mentoring from legendary basketball champion Bill Russell.
Many of our members also take on similar mentorship roles outside the workplace, providing guidance to both professional colleagues and other young people.
Sheila Skahan is the Early Childhood Education Program Coordinator at Three Rivers Community College (TRCC) where she has taught for 12 years. Skahan, a member of our Federation of Technical College Teachers, has spent 25 years in the field in Southern Connecticut, at TRCC Mitchell College and the Regional Educational Service Center (RESC). Skahan mentors by giving advice to fellow educators, as well as young people, serving as “a change agent for former students.”
Skahan’s mentoring includes advising teachers so they stay in the field, by perhaps changing the way they view their work. Skahan finds her advising rewarding and hopes that the work for her students, “has added to the sustainability of a centered life.”
The 2016 theme for National Mentoring Month, “In Real Life,” highlights the positive impact on the lives of the millions of young people across the nation who benefit from a mentor. Each January, the National Mentoring Partnership seeks to raise awareness of recruit individuals, and promote the growth of mentorship across the country. We’re proud to spotlight these three union members going above and beyond to provide its benefits both inside and outside of their classrooms and lecture halls.
Click here to learn more about National Mentoring Month from the partnership.

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