Program pairing retirees with student teachers is expanding

In the union, we often say that we stand on the shoulders of those who came before us. Student teachers are no different. Retired MEA members (MEA-R) have partnered with Aspiring Educators of Michigan (AEM) and serve as mentors to AEM members who are undergoing the rigors of student teaching.

Any AEM member who is student teaching in a public school can access this great benefit. MEA-R members are matched by teaching discipline with student teachers to offer guidance in classroom management, instructional strategies, lesson planning, and even emotional support.

MEA-R mentors meet with student teachers in whatever way works best for the student teachers: phone, text, email, Zoom, etc.

“My mentor was helpful with questions that I did not want to ask my classroom teacher and always gave me good suggestions on so many things,” said Jay Fernelius, an Eastern Michigan University graduate who student taught at Elk Rapids High School and now teaches art in Alaska. 

AEM member Inga Kamis, who student taught at both Morgan Elementary in Utica Community Schools and Pierce Middle School in Grosse Pointe Public Schools, said her mentor was wonderful and she would recommend the program to any student teacher.

“It was easy to communicate with my mentor usually through phone calls but also emails and some texts,”  said Kamis, a Wayne State University graduate who is now beginning her first year teaching art at Lake Shore High School. “I was able to test ideas with him before presenting to a class full of students. He had lots of very useful suggestions and help in dealing with challenging students.”

The program benefits both the mentor and mentee, said Mike Gillis, who mentored Fernelius and Kamis. A 32-year veteran of Troy Public Schools, Gillis joined the East Oakland County Chapter of MEA-Retired when he retired in 2009 and began mentoring in 2017.

“I really enjoy the ongoing personal connection to educators in the fine arts,” Gillis said. “Two of my most recent art mentees have gone on to be hired as full-time art teachers!  I feel I made a positive difference.”

The mentoring committee, chaired by retired Waterford teacher Peg Schroder, each semester pairs mentors with mentees. While some MEA-R mentors aren’t interested in serving every semester, others are disappointed if they are not paired with a student teacher, Schroder says.

“We are working to grow the program to engage more AEM members and more MEA-R mentors and  continue to support the professional excellence of all of our members,” Schroder said.

Any retired MEA member wishing to become a mentor should contact Lisa Fox at or call Fox at MEA 517/333-6264.


Click here to get a mentor for your student teaching.

Click here to join AEM or renew your membership


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