Mentor Teacher Spotlight: Rory Hatchel

Madeleine Gibson (Class of 2020) received this note from her mentor, Rory Hatchel (Class of 2014) on the first day of her lead teach in their 11th grade English classroom at Kingsbury High School.

Many positive experiences have already defined my MTR experience thus far, but one of the absolute highlights has been working my mentor, Rory Hatchel. He likes teaching, and if any of you were to visit his classroom, you’d be able to figure that out simply from how he’s set up the space: curtains, shelves full of books, scented plug-ins, and posters on the wall make it an inviting, personal space. Watch him teach, and his energy and relationships with his students will confirm that he is committed to teaching well. But over the past two months, I’ve discovered that, not only does my mentor like teaching…he also really likes mentoring. He’s passionate about good instructional practice and he’s committed to helping me develop my own teaching practice.

Professionally, my mentor is a positive and honest guide. After any time I spend leading in the classroom, I know I can count on him to ask me, “So, how do you think that went?” before offering me specific feedback. One reason I appreciate his feedback is that he offers just as much reflection after his own teaching as he offers after mine. Without waiting for me to ask, he’ll clarify his decision-making process and share his motives behind seating charts, lesson sequence, grading systems, and much more. He creates a classroom culture where discussion and curiosity are rewarded, and one of the reasons I really admire this is because in order to promote student thinking, teachers have to let go of control and step back to let students think harder! His Socratic seminars are an excellent example of this release of control. My mentor is famed throughout MTR for his seminars. When former ELA residents find out who my mentor is, they typically say something like, “I heard that guy runs some awesome seminars!” Truthfully, that’s how I’d describe them, too. In these seminars, students discuss texts in groups of six to eight, independently offering their opinions and responding to guiding questions. Those moments—when students are arguing about a character’s motivations, or comparing personal reactions to a text—are pure English teacher magic, and I love it!

My mentor’s investment in his teaching practice extends beyond the professional, which is what makes it so effective. As his resident, I know he cares about my well-being as a whole person, and recognizes that I am not a teaching robot. We discuss what’s going on in my master’s classes, nerd out over the texts we’re reading in class (currently Hamlet), and trade stories of surprising moments with students. Ultimately, my mentor understands that the professional is personal, and I see that in the way he treats his students – as interesting young adults who have dignity and value. I know that students see this and respond to it, because when he and his wife invited me over for dinner a week before school began, I found myself sitting across the table from a young man he used to teach. A couple of days later, during the week before school, his former students helped us hang posters and organize desks. Watching him interact with these young people gives me a vision of a teacher as a life-long mentor and friend, not just an instructor.

I already know that my classroom next year won’t look exactly like my mentor’s – we’re different people, and we lead and operate differently. But seeing him with his former students reminds me that, in the long run, I want to do what he’s doing. I want to form the types of relationships with students that last beyond the four years of high school, and I count myself blessed to be in a classroom where those relationships are modeled for me.

-Madeleine Gibson, Class of 2020