by Linda Barrington
JEA Mentoring Committee co-chair

Mentee participants pose for a group photo after the panel presentation. Front row (with their location and mentor's name): Jennifer Reichert (Rolling Hills Estates, Calif., Jolene Combs), Kate Moore (Portland, Ore., Bill Flechtner), Sharn Matusek (San Francisco, Katharine Swan). Back row: Bob Berrigan (Vancouver, Wash., Bill Flechtner), Steve St. Amand (Milwaukie, Ore., Bill Flechtner), Gary Enoch (Cave Junction, Ore., Patty Turley), and Michael Fell (Portland, Ore., Bill Flechtner). Photo by Linda Barrington

One of the best parts of the JEA/NSPA convention in Portland this April was the mentee panel, a closed session for the JEA mentors, mentees and committee members. This was the first time we had such a gathering, and it was so worthwhile and informative that I think we should do this regularly at conventions.

Eight mentees talked about their experiences in the program. All of them talked about the ways their mentors had helped them and the possibility of on-going mentoring beyond the contracted two years.

Michael Fell (Portland, Ore.) talked about feeling isolated at his school without anyone there who had journalism expertise. He said having Bill Flechtner to go to was fantastic. “If I hadn’t had the mentoring program, I would have felt very alone.”

Several mentees said they thought that two years of mentoring was a good time frame, but that three years would be better. Each mentee’s experiences starting in journalism were different, but still problematic. Some teachers may not need a third year with a mentor while others would benefit.

Gary Enoch (Cave Junction, Ore.) was emphatic. “Three years would be awesome. Having Patty [Turley as my mentor] has been really important to me.”

Kathryn Harmon

Kathryn Harmon (Rockaway Beach, Ore.) said that one of the things mentors are invaluable for is being able to evaluate situations objectively. “Mentors ask us questions we don’t realize we need to ask ourselves,” she said. At the beginning of the mentoring term they don’t even know what questions to ask. “At the end of the first year I was cocky and thought I had learned everything and knew it all. I found I didn’t get it at all and really needed Carla [Harris]. Now at the end of two years I know I need to learn so much more.”

Sharn Matusek (San Francisco) reflected that her needs were different each of the two years. “Katharine [Swan] was very helpful. It was validating as she helped us find our way. In the second year we had different issues.”

The mentee panel was fantastic. I think the mentees liked hearing each other’s stories and comments and I think they appreciated our interest in what they had to say. One mentee was particularly clear about the value of the program: “No way would I have succeeded without a mentor.”