Aukeem Ballard, a teacher at Summit Preparatory Charter High School, discusses the power of mentors in his life and career, comparing having a mentor to standing on the shoulders of giants—“and I’ve had some giants in my life.” Research suggests that mentors may play a role in teacher retention, especially for first-year teachers, and a recent study went further: Students of teachers who have mentors may benefit as well, making small but measurable gains in reading and math.
Ballard’s Habits, Community, and Culture class teaches social-emotional skills and what his school calls Habits of Success—promoting qualities like positive academic mindsets and emotional intelligence that are linked to college readiness. The goal of his mentoring is to “get out of my kids’ way more” as they become independent learners—just as his mentors did for him.
Alexis Molina, a recent graduate of Summit Preparatory Charter High School, can attest to the power of a good mentor in a teen’s life. When he was a freshman, he was “on the road to failing,” but one of his teachers convinced him to take a different path. Citing the risks that Molina’s immigrant parents had taken to give him a better life, the teacher convinced Molina that finishing high school was a risk that he should be brave enough to take.
Molina is about to start college at Marymount California University, and it seems that his assessment of his mentor is correct: The teacher’s challenge “really changed my life,” he says. “I want to succeed.”