BEST Tips for Mentors: July 2022


Beginning Educator Support Team (BEST)


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BEST Events

Mentor Academy 101 

August 2 & 4, 8am-3pm

August 8 & 10, 8am-3pm

August 9 & 11, 8am-3pm

August 15 & 22, 8am-3pm

August 16 & 18, 8am-3pm

Mentor Academy 201

August 3 & 5, 8am-3pm

August 23 & 25, 8am-3pm

Mentoring ESAs *NEW!

Dates TBD for upcoming school year

Check out the BEST Events & Trainings page to register for open opportunities! BEST will continue to provide all events online until further notice.

BEST Contacts

Lan Le, Program Administrator

Kati Casto de Ventura, Program Supervisor

Bawaajigekwe Boulley, Program Supervisor 

Contact us:


P: (360) 725-6430

Tips for Mentors
July 2022

fiddlehead fern

Photo Credit: Bawaajigekwe

Image Description: The color green fills the image. It is a sunny morning in spring in Squaxin Park. There is a fiddlehead fern growing amongst other ferns in the forest. It has a tightly coiled head getting ready to unroll into a new frond. 

Thinking Relationally through use of Metaphors from Nature  

by Bawaajigekwe

Spring and summer in Washington is full of wonder, beauty, renewal, and regrowth in the natural world.

Pause for a moment with the following prompts: What about this place brings you joy, peace, security, and/or curiosity?

Is it the breathtaking mountains? How about the babbling brooks nestled in the woods? What about the skyscraper evergreens all around us or the giant cedar forests? Perhaps you have an appreciation for the frequent refreshing rains that keep everything so lush and robust.

What do you connect with meaningfully from nature and why?

Encouragement is offered to further engage with your thinking. Go deeper and consider the intricacies and nourishing or medicinal properties of the thing from nature that resonates well with you.

What purpose does it serve? Why do you have a connection and how can that become a metaphor for mentoring? 

Our BEST Mentor Faculty have been engaging in relational thinking like this in our professional co-learning community. From January to June, we have studied, wondered, examined, and engaged in the practice of making metaphors for mentoring. We have been learning with and from each other and sharing experiences from nature as a way to express the mentor-mentee relationship.

Why Nature?

Nature is our teacher. As we pursue accessible and inclusive education for our children, we must also consider how systems are all interconnected and support one another. Strengthening our connection and balance with nature will deepen our appreciation and understanding for community, process, relationships, reciprocity, alignment, and on-going support--all key components of effective mentoring.   

An Example

Ms. Tara Van Loo, BEST Mentor Faculty, has graciously and generously agreed to share her metaphoric thinking. We hope this metaphor supports your own professional growth and engagement with equity by encouraging relational thinking.

If you have a metaphor from nature for mentoring, please share with us! We would love to hear from you. 


Indigenous Evaluation Framework: Telling Our Story in Our Place and Time by Dr. Joan LaFrance 

American Indian Higher Education Consortium Webinar with Dr. LaFrance 

Why Metaphors Matter in Education by Elaine Botha

High Quality Mentoring & Instructional Coaching Practices by New Teacher Center

Opening the Doors of Perception Through Storytelling by BEST Mentor Faculty Sonia Barry and Hilari Anderson

Why The Best Mentors Use Storytelling by Brian Mertins

A Metaphor for Mentoring

by Tara Van Loo

Everything in our nut orchard is interconnected. The health of one species is directly connected to the health of others. Right there, we have so much we can learn as we consider mentoring individuals within systems. We are richly connected, and we need each other. 

TVL nut tree metaphor

Photo Credit: Tara Van Loo

Image Description: There is a blue sky and green trees and grass. A new chestnut tree stands in the orchard surrounded by mature chestnut trees.

"Long before planting, great care is taken to ensure the ecosystem is ready to welcome the new trees."

As farmers striving to practice regenerative agriculture, our guiding question is: How do we create an ecosystem-including soil, animals, trees, cover crops, insects, birds, and all living beings- that creates the healthiest environment for each tree to thrive, reach their potential within and contribute to the community?

Reciprocal Relationships

Effective induction programs tend to the health of the entire learning ecosystem in order to create the best possible conditions for new teacher success, knowing that each new teacher also brings rich gifts to the learning community. The relationship is reciprocal and keeps generating new life. 

With a healthy ecosystem in the works, we plant new trees. Upon transplanting, we add compost to the hole, offering an extra boost of support to feed them during the transition as their roots are established. This is for their general health. This could represent August induction- professional learning that’s general to all new teachers, and critical for beginning their teaching. Then we dip the tree roots in an inoculant of mycorrhizal fungi, which establishes and feeds their connections with the soil ecosystem and the other established trees in the orchard. We mentors do this in our first interactions with our mentees. We support and feed their connections within the learning community to help them get established in our systems. We sit with them at lunch, introduce them to colleagues, and accompany them to PLCs or team meetings.

Responsibility of Ongoing Support

Our attentive engagement is ongoing, as all mentors know. As new trees grow, we take assessments via sap analysis. This tells us their nutrient deficiencies. From there, we give them “just in time” foliar applications of the nutrients they need, sprayed onto their leaves. So many factors influence what nutrients are needed, from the soil health, to whether the pasture has been grazed and who left their urine and feces there (sheep), to what the weather has been like to what the soil/community is lacking or unable to give. Quite often the micronutrients are present in the soil but aren’t in the right chemical form for the plant to access, so by spoon feeding these needed micronutrients with a foliar spray it allows the plant to flourish for a short time and have the extra energy to make the connections with the soil micro-organisms that can then help the plant access these micronutrients around it. In mentoring we are continually listening, gathering data, and using this data to support the teacher in finding their next best steps, whether through observation and feedback or coaching conversations. In our orchard, as in our school communities, the health of the individuals is interconnected to the health of the whole. As mentors we have the gift and responsibility of tending these relationships.

Meet Tara Van Loo

Tara Van Loo is an educator, farmer, and former mentor in the Burlington-Edison School District. Together with her husband, a biology teacher and BEST mentor, and two small children, they tend nut orchards, sheep, and a community kitchen garden on the traditional homeland of the Coast Salish, including the Samish Indian Nation. Tara is BEST Mentor Faculty and Roundtable Facilitator for Small and Rural Districts. Her heart’s work is supporting equitable practices that sustain primary language and culture as students acquire English as a new language.