National theatre company Bell Shakespeare has announced the expansion of its renowned year-long teaching mentorship program to include teachers from urban areas, in addition to teachers from regional and remote areas.
The National Teacher Mentorship (previously known as the Regional Teacher Mentorship) sees 30 teachers from across Australia travel to Bell Shakespeare’s headquarters in Sydney for specialist training, ongoing mentoring and support. The company covers all travel, accommodation and professional learning costs with support from the Australian Government and Teachers Mutual Bank.
Bell Shakespeare’s flagship professional development program is a unique opportunity for teachers to change how they teach Shakespeare and transform their teaching practice. Teachers are trained to introduce active learning into their practice, improving their knowledge and confidence, which improves academic results and positive social outcomes for their students. Mentorship often positively impacts the entire school and the wider community.
Until now, the program has focused solely on teachers from regional and remote areas in recognition of the challenges they often face, such as a lack of resources, training and support due to socio-economic challenges and geographic isolation, as well as student disengagement and other community pressures.
In announcing the program’s expansion, Bell Shakespeare’s Head of Education Joanna Erskine said: “Word has travelled far about the success of the program. For many years, we have been asked if the mentorship might expand so that teachers in urban and metropolitan settings could participate. Because we engage with schools across Australia, we know that teachers in urban settings also experience significant challenges and would benefit greatly from the mentorship. For this reason, we have decided to open it up to teachers nationally.
“However, we will ensure that at least 50% of applicants will continue to come from regional, rural or remote schools. Crucially, we will maintain our entry requirements for applicants, and participants will be selected based on a demonstration of need.
“We look forward to diversifying participants in the National Teacher Mentorship and the richness of community this will foster,” Ms Erskine said.
Teachers Mutual Bank Limited Chief Marketing Officer Nichole Banks said: “Teachers Mutual Bank has a seven-year history of supporting Bell Shakespeare’s Regional Teacher Mentorship and we welcome the expansion of the program to include urban and metropolitan schools in 2024 as the National Teacher Mentorship.
“Regardless of geography, all teachers face challenges in the classroom, so the opportunity for all educators to participate in this rewarding experience is a positive one,” Ms Banks said.
“We know that previous participants have developed renewed enthusiasm for teaching following the program and returned to their classroom invigorated and refreshed. The peer support and encouragement they receive to think differently about active learning extends beyond the teaching of Shakespeare and into all aspects of their teaching practices.
“Additionally, in our fast-paced world, there is increasing pressure on educators to create the right environment for students to become 21st-century citizens with the skills they need to flourish and succeed. A wonderful aspect of this program is that teachers can integrate a traditional syllabus with innovative teaching methods to ensure students have the best possible learning outcomes.”
Applications for the 2024 National Teacher Mentorship are now open and close on Sunday, 26 November. For more information, visit bellshakespeare.com.au.
Images: 2023 Bell Shakespeare Regional Teacher Mentorship participants – by Clare Hawley.