Leveraging Partnerships To Strengthen New Teachers

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Summit : Denver, CO

District : Harrison School District Two

State : Colorado

Level : K-12

Team Lead : Dawn-Antoinette Thomas

Topics: Mentoring, Pre-Service Teachers/Teacher Prep, Teacher Leadership Positions/Roles

Colorado Springs, CO Instructional Coordinator Dawn-Antoinette Thomas recognized that  increasing numbers of new hires to Harrison School District Two each year were straining the district’s available resources for new staff training. She and her team proposed that they make strategic use of existing resources by using teacher leaders to expand their New Staff Institute (NSI). Leveraging partnerships between new teachers, instructional coordinators, and coaches, Colorado Springs’ NSI has been revamped to better support new teachers as they enter the classroom.

Problem and Solution

From 2007 to 2012, Harrison School District Two hired an average of 21-33% new teachers annually. This rising percentage put a strain on existing resources at the district level to train new teachers, and presented an opportunity to utilize strong teacher leaders in an innovative way.

Dawn-Antoinette and her team designed a system to identify strong teacher leaders and train them to become building-level peer mentors, filling the gap left by the district. The revamped NSI combines mentorship resources from the district as well as at individual school sites, and focuses new staff training on content, pedagogy and relationships.


Through their work at the Teach to Lead Summit, Dawn-Antoinette and her team were able to create a program that has increased staff retention, fostered continual professional growth, and created an environment of trust among colleagues. Additionally, the revamped New Staff Institute has collaborated with other departments and is working with outside partners to develop high-quality professional development around its three core strands (content, pedagogy, and relationships).

Teachers have responded well to the new structure of pre-service training, as Dawn-Antoinette notes, “We have found that although new teachers are exhausted after this experience, they are excited that they have found a support system within their new district.”

Teacher Leadership Tips

Dawn-Antoinette describes her team’s work toward enhancing the New Staff Institute to grow and retain quality teachers as “difficult and rewarding.” She credits the Teach to Lead Summit as a great opportunity for her team to clarify their problem statement and desired outcomes, as well as gain support and encouragement for their project.

“We learned the value and importance of expanding our collaboration efforts in and outside of our district,” she said. “Our number one takeaway would be the importance of systematic professional development for growing teacher leaders.”

Interested in learning more about this project? Contact Dawn-Antoinette Thomas at dathomas@hsd2.org.