BEST Tips for Mentors: April 2023


Beginning Educator Support Team (BEST)


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BEST Events

Using Instructional Frameworks in Observation & Feedback

May 4, 8am-3pm

June 1, 8am-3pm

Mentor Academy 101 

May 3, 10, 17, 24, 4pm-7pm

May 6 & 13, 8am-3pm

May 9 & 11, 8am-3pm

May 16 & 23, 8am-3pm

June 6 & 13, 8am-3pm

June 7, 14, 21, 28, 4pm-7pm

June 27 & 28, 8am-3pm

Mentor Academy 201

June 20 & 22, 8am-3pm

Mentoring Teachers of Special Education

Academies are concluded for this school year. Stay tuned for next year's academy dates.

NAKIA Academy

NAKIA Academy is concluded for this year. It runs from Oct-Feb. Applications will open late summer/early fall.

Mentor Roundtables 

There are many different roundtables at different times of day and days of the week. There are roundtables for mentors of color (BIPOC), mentors of special education teachers, mentors experiencing compassion fatigue/burnout, mentors in small or rural districts, mentors of ESAs, and mentors looking for a roundtable experience that utilizes the circle way protocol. We also offer a specialty Roundtable for School Nurses.

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, Administrative Program Specialist

Kati Casto de Ventura, Lead Program Supervisor

Bawaajigekwe Boulley, Program Supervisor 

Contact us:


P: (360) 725-6430

Tips for Mentors
April 2023

Symposium Theme

Thank You Attendees

Our virtual conference was on March 8th and 9th, and our virtual grantee convening was on March 15th.

Thank you to all who attended. We appreciate the time, effort, and energy you invested to be there. Learning is time released, and so we hope the connections to knowledge and any inspirations gained grow and deepen throughout the months to come.

Thank You Presenters

Thank you to every person and team who presented at this year's symposium. You helped create an experience that exemplified the outstanding and transformational work happening in education in Washington regarding mentoring and induction for novice educators. 

Recorded Keynotes

If you registered for the symposium, all keynotes are recorded and available to watch on the event platform for 90 days.

Symposium Keynotes

Conference Keynote, Day 1

Lori Cohen was our opening keynote speaker at the BEST Mentor/Coach Equity in Action Conference. Lori has been a pivotal source of knowledge for BEST this year as we have been engaging our thinking with her new book she co-authored with Elena Aguilar, The PD Book; 7 Habits that Transform Professional Development. A number of BEST Mentor Faculty and program staff have also been taking a class with Lori Cohen offered to us by our partners at WEA called the Transformational Design and Facilitation Lab, which spanned over 6 sessions. It started last fall and concluded mid-March. So with all this thinking and learning influenced by Lori Cohen, it was only fitting we ask her to be our conference opening keynote. We were honored and delighted she accepted! 

Lori's keynote title was "Mentoring at the Pace of Relationships." She explained, "Transformation happens when we center humanity in the learning process. We honor the dignity of our mentees and their growth when we acknowledge strengths, meet our mentees where they are, and affirm the totality of their identity and experiences."

Lori Cohen

 "Mentoring with a relational and reciprocal focus has the power to keep us together and keep us whole." -Lori Cohen

NAKIA Panel at the Conference

Following Lori Cohen's opening keynote, eight NAKIA Academy Facilitators took the stage and shared responses to two questions:

  1. Why NAKIA?
  2. What makes you hopeful about the work?

NAKIA Academy is one of BEST’s Mentor Foundational Opportunities. It is by and for BIPOC educators to learn in community about mentoring and leadership.

NAKIA Academy is named for a fictional unsung hero and a humanitarian whose philosophy includes lifting others up. The purpose of this academy is to build a community that is in continuous growth. ​​

As planning took place for this panel, a great deal of thought and intention was given. Panelists asked themselves a critical question: Why have a panel about a BIPOC PLC in a space that is not exclusively for BIPOC? 

Here are some of the thoughts that generated:

  • For professional learning communities such as NAKIA Academy to be successful in Washington and beyond, white colleagues must understand they are a vital component to the success of People of Color staying in positions. Supporting and retaining educators of color impacts the success of all students. 
  • NAKIA Academy is about changing old structures and ways of doing things—it’s about transformation for education in Washington and moving forward. It’s about the visibility and sustainability of Educators of Color.
  • The theme of this year's conference is Transformational Mentoring, and NAKIA Academy is a powerful example. Our hope is to uplift NAKIA Academy, increase understanding and appreciation of what it is and what it does for BIPOC educators, and continue to grow it throughout the state.
  • Supporting BIPOC Educators is a movement, and facilitators and participants have expressed extreme and heartfelt gratitude to be part of NAKIA Academy. 
  • Everyone in the room here today, everyone at the conference—white and BIPOC—are the wave to carry this forward. 
  • For our white colleagues, consider what might be something you can do in your role and district to affect change, so all our teachers are supported, and our students are excelling. Examine your beliefs, behaviors, and ways of being and check in with BIPOC colleagues as you seek to grow and exist more in alignment with educational equity.
  • As you engage in your positions and within your districts, consider your commitments, action steps, and outcomes. 

Thank You

A special thank you is extended to our BEST Mentor Faculty and NAKIA Academy Facilitator Panelists:

Patricia Beuke, Francine Oishi, Dr. Tanisha Brandon-Felder, Sonia Barry, Shelly Hurley, Dr. Demetricia Hodges

An additional offering of gratitude is extended to the panel moderator who is the 2021 Washington Teacher of the Year, one of our BEST Mentor Faculty, and a NAKIA Academy Facilitator: Brooke Brown. 

Each and all of you are part of validating experiences of BIPOC Educators, growing spaces of belonging, and centering pedagogy that works for everyone. This is transformational work, and we thank you!

NAKIA logo

Nakia Academy is a collaboration between WEA and OSPI.​ It was created to honor the talents and gifts of BIPOC educators. Special acknowledgement is extended to Torian Hodges-Finch of WEA for his vision and dedication to collaborative, relational, and transformational education across systems in Washington. Thank you, Torian, for daring to dream and for sharing your dreams which have become NAKIA Academy as we know it today--a place to share experiences, to learn, to heal, and to grow in a community that centers the humanity and joy of BIPOC educators.  

Conference Keynote, Day 2

Roger Fernandes was our keynote on day 2 of the conference and gifted the BEST community with so many gems.

“You have the answer inside you – the story isn’t the answer it is the way to find your own answer.”

Roger's message is powerful and helps support a clear connection to the power and purpose of mentoring and story as the pedagogy. Storytelling helps us see things, understand, and find meaning through our own experiences. Stories teach us about problems, resistance, healing, overcoming, and transformation--which is precisely what we hope are some of the teachings of mentoring. When sharing story, each person brings themselves through the story making the experience relational and meaningful. Roger demonstrated that again and again with each story and explanation he offered. 

Through Roger's incredible stories and keynote address, he helped us understand Indigenous worldview and how our elders have so much to teach us about mentoring.

"The elders know you have the answer inside of you. We are all smart people. Story helps us access who we are in our hearts and spirit." ​

Roger gently reminded us that in this brain centered culture, we can miss what is in our hearts. He repeated the message that stories don't tell us how to do it. They offer a way of engaging with our multiple intelligences, and allows freedom and permission to connect in the ways we need.

"Stories don't tell us how to do it. It's a story, and meaning making is up to us."

Roger Fernandes

Roger Fernandes is a lecturer in the American Indian Studies Department at the University of Washington. He is a Native American artist, storyteller, and educator whose work focuses on the culture and arts of the Coast Salish tribes of Western Washington. He is a member of the Lower Elwha S’Klallam Tribe.

Conference Closing Keynote

The BEST community was blessed again by Christian Paige and his impeccable ability to activate and inspire in ways that align with BEST's values of Respect, Responsibility, Reciprocity, and Relationship. Christian appeared on our virtual conference stage directly after our racial caucus closing and shared several poems speaking in ways that touched our hearts. Many of us were moved to tears. Have you ever cried in community? I highly recommend it. #healing    

One of the poems Christian shared during his keynote is called "The Eyes of Your Enemy." A YouTube video recording of this poem along with a few others can be found on his website. Take a listen and consider deeply the impact mentoring has on new teachers, students, and community as we seek to interrupt educational inequities meant to silence and disempower. Christian's poem urges us to dream, hope, and work collectively for more than the desires of our enemy.    

There was another poem Christian shared. It is about forgiveness of self, staying consistent to the process of self-healing, and embracing the blooms that come after transformational growth. The performance of this poem offered a beautiful moment to pause and appreciate the journey. There was a reminder to be intentional about the process and the choice to strive for educational justice and to do so in ways we arrive well and whole.    

Christian Paige

"It's our right to have joy!! Joy belongs to us!!" -Christian Paige

Christian is a soul-ful artist, educator, poet, and speaker. He shares more than words, he shares energy, spirit, and heart.  

Grantee Convening Keynotes

Over the past seven years, Dr. Plecki's and Dr. Elfer's research has examined early career teachers and Washington’s Beginning Educator Support Team (BEST) program.

In addition to statewide quantitative analyses of teacher retention and mobility and whether induction matters for retention, they also investigated how retention and mobility rates differ for teachers of color.

Most recently, they conducted a qualitative study that focused on ways in which districts and schools can create a sustainable, multi-layered system of induction support, with attention to equitable practices and teachers of color. This study gave them the opportunity to speak with early career teachers, mentors, school leaders and district staff from across the state.

You can find these studies on our BEST website.​​

Marge Plecki

Dr. Plecki's research and teaching expertise includes: school finance, education policy, the economics of education, educational leadership, the allocation of resources for school improvement, teaching quality, and mixed methods research design. Dr. Plecki is the Director of the Center for the Study of Teaching and Policy.


Dr. Elfers presently researches issues of teaching quality and the teacher workforce, particularly within the context of Washington state.  She is interested in research and analyses that can help sharpen the questions that state and district policymakers need as they consider ways to improve the equity of access to a high quality education for Washington’s school children. 

Additional Resource: yung pueblo

As we consider all the knowledge shared by this year's symposium keynotes, here is one more resource to consider adding as a compliment. 

yung pueblo is an award winning writer whose latest book, Lighter, offers "A radically compassionate plan for turning inward and lifting the heaviness that prevents us from healing ourselves and the world..." You can find more about yung pueblo on his website

Educational Equity and Mentoring has a heavy emphasis on beliefs, behavior, and ways of being. It is rigorous work to be in such as position of service, support, and personal growth and transformation. YP's most recent newsletter reminds us time is a valuable tool and asset. "There is nothing wrong with saying, 'I actually want to learn more about what is going on before I give my opinion.'"

This spring, as the soil is cultivated for seeds that will produce fruit next school year, allow yourself moments to reconnect and engage with what makes you feel lighter. 

YP Journal Prompt for April:

What are you excited to put your time into? How do you deal with how fast the world changes? What do you want April to feel like for you? 

Lighter, YP

New Teacher Spotlight



Full Name: Bilen Yitbarek

Pronouns: she/her

Year: 1st year Family Consumer Science Educator

School: Kentridge High School in the Kent School District

Advice for Mentors: At this point in the year it feels like I have a million things on my to-do list (that all seem time sensitive) but not enough drive to check them off. As a first year teacher, I am finally understanding what the month of March feels like on the educator side of things.

"My advice to mentors would be to check in on us as a human beings, not just as educators."

I have found it very easy this year to put the educator side of me first by dedicating all my time and efforts to my students and my classroom environment. I have often found myself being asked “how are you?” and my response is always along the lines of “I’m tired I have to grade my student’s assignments this weekend” or “I just got back from grocery shopping for our lab this week and forgot to eat lunch.” I keep answering check in questions from the educator side of me, completely forgetting to check in on how I, Bilen Yitbarek, and not Ms. B is doing.

I want mentors to meet us outside of the classroom and maybe walk outside while we do our 1:1’s or maybe talk about something outside of school during our check ins so that it doesn’t feel like all we are is educators. Please don’t misunderstand, I love teaching and there is a reason I chose to work in the classroom. But this year has felt like all I do is exist inside my classroom and it would be nice to have a change of scenery sometimes and connect with my mentors in a different capacity.

Thank you,

Bilen Yitbarek (she/her) “Ms. B”

B classroom