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LTE CUNY students

Grow a Teacher is Blossoming

LEA’s EncourAGEnet group of retired Lutheran educators is launching the Grow a Teacher Mentoring Initiative. This is a program that seeks to match current Lutheran Teacher Education (LTE) church work students in the Concordia University System with Lutheran school teachers who are no longer in the classroom.

What is Grow a Teacher?

The two groups — the retired and the present LTE students—mingled at the lunch tables resulting in animated and interesting dialog. The group decided collectively to make the relationships more intentional. Grow a Teacher has been a high priority of LEA’s leadership for several years. LTE students were invited to attend the 2016 LEA Convocation in Grand Rapids under a special registration arrangement with LEA. A pre-convocation seminar on mentoring led by Dr. Michael Uden of Concordia University Wisconsin attracted several dozen retired teachers and administrators. The two groups— the retired and the present LTE students—mingled at the lunch tables resulting in animated and interesting dialog. The group decided collectively to make the relationships more intentional.

Dr. Ed Grube, LEA’s Director of Publications, summarized it this way: “LEA’s Grow a Teacher initiative began prior to the 2016 LEA convocation as a way of involving teacher education students at the Concordias and Valparaiso in LEA and the convocation. It was funded by several donors and LEA, also receiving programmatic support from EncourAGEnet.”

Initial Mentor Pilot

A pilot Grow a Teacher Mentoring Initiative was launched in the spring of the 2017–2018 academic year. The semester began with students enrolled as Lutheran Teacher Education majors at Concordia University, Nebraska. Dr. Lorinda Sankey, the associate dean at CUNE, identified students who expressed willingness to be matched with a mentor.

And we’re off…

The first mentors were invited to volunteer through an EncourAGEnet e-mail distributed in early February, 2018. Within six hours, eight retired Lutheran educators had expressed an interest in being a mentor. By the end of the month, more had volunteered, resulting in nine matches for the spring semester. More volunteers are welcome to be placed on a waiting list so matches can be made as soon as additional students are identified

By the fall semester, we hope to invite LTE students from one or two more campuses of the Concordia University System.

What’s next?

LEA and the EncourAGEnet leadership will monitor and review this first semester pilot project. By the fall semester, we hope to invite LTE students from one or two more campuses of the Concordia University System.


Q: Who can be a mentor?
A: Mentors can be of any age, as long as they have had experience in Lutheran education and now have the time and desire to serve in this role. Reasons for no longer teaching might be related to age, family, location, or health.

Q: Does a mentor have to be an LEA member?
A: Mentors are encouraged to be LEA members, but that is not a requirement.

Q: How do I volunteer?
A: E-mail Dave Ebeling, the EncourAGEnet volunteer, to get this pilot program started.

Q: What other information helps to make a match?
A: Tell us your name, your present location, and your experiences in Lutheran education (grades, roles). To help achieve a match that is comfortable for you, indicate your preference for a mentee: Gender: male/female/no preference and level of the LTE student’s major: early childhood / primary /elementary /secondary.

Q: How does this communication work?
A: The mentor starts the process with an e-mail to the assigned student. You’ll be provided a template when you receive a name and email address of an LTE student. After that, any means of communication that is practical for the two of you is fine: text- messaging, Skype, Instagram, Facebook, or any combination of media. If the mentor receives the student’s address, you might send cards, notes or small gifts of encouragement as well.

Q: What if I know of an LTE student from another campus who would like to participate?
A: Inform Jonathan Laabs or Ed Grube at the LEA office so a connection can be made with a faculty member at that school to be involved in the future.

Q: How long should the relationship continue?
A: There is no prescribed length. Some may last only one semester; others may continue into the student’s professional career. The mentor, however, makes the effort to keep it going as long as both parties are interested.

Q: What are some topics that might come up in this dialogue?
A: Discussions and encouragement might be related to the student’s current course work assignments, relationships in the student’s early experiences or student teaching class; personal challenges being faced by the student (academic, financial, family, dating…life in general), or talking through quandaries the student is facing.

Q: Will it cost me anything?
A: Just your focus and your time. It’s your gift to another generation of teachers in Lutheran schools. One cost you might consider, however, is to register to attend the 2019 Lutheran Education Association Convocation in St. Louis in October 2019. That would be a great place for the two of you to meet personally.

Q: How will LEA keep track of the effectiveness of this initiative?
A: Mr. Rick Kerr, lifetime Lutheran educator, who recently retired as principal at St. John, Indianapolis, is the volunteer facilitator. Rick will be sending an occasional questionnaire, reminders, or encouragement to the mentors and mentees. He will manage the collection of data to assist LEA leadership in determining the future of this initiative.

Summary: The purpose of LEA’s Grow a Teacher Mentoring Initiative is to encourage through conversation, communication, and prayer an LTE student in his or her journey to become a teacher in a Lutheran school and to enjoy a career as a Lutheran educator.

David Ebeling is assistant to the president of the Indiana District LCMS. He also serves on LEA’s EncourAGEnet leadership team.

Photo by Kathryn Brewer