Ms. Sarah Mueller, Pittsburgh mentor teacher: On supporting a novice teacher

While enrolled in their master’s program, WW Teaching Fellows work alongside a mentor teacher for the entire school year. Mentor teachers are an integral part of the WW Teaching Fellowship experience—they share their teaching knowledge while simultaneously supporting Fellows’ growth.

We spoke with Sarah Mueller, a teacher in the Pittsburgh Public Schools (PPS) who is currently mentoring a 2020 WW Teaching Fellow. she offers insight into how she is working with her WW Teaching Fellowship mentee, what he’s adding to the classroom, why PPS is a good district for novice teachers to start their teaching career, what remote teaching looks like in the COVID-19 pandemic, and more.

WW Teaching Fellowship: Can you share any successes that you feel you have achieved in your work with your mentee?
Sarah Mueller: My mentee has an intuitive understanding of how to structure his introductions to new topics, and it is so clear that he really enjoys teaching. On a day-to-day level, he has an excellent rapport with our students. I am really proud of his work with talking to our students and helping develop these relationships.

WW Teaching Fellowship: Can you also describe a moment that made you realize s/he might make a great teacher?
Sarah Mueller: I really knew that he was in the right place during one of the first few times he taught a portion of a lesson. We structure classes so he can have several chances to teach the same lesson component, and this instance was the first class he was working with for this piece. Things were going well, and then we had a technical issue. He handled the moment with a smile and without getting visibly stressed or frustrated. The solution for that class was for me to share my screen while he taught, which certainly doesn’t flow as well as when the presenter and visuals are at the same computer. Nonetheless, the lesson continued, and if a person came in after we transitioned, I don’t think they would have known that my screen sharing while he taught was not the plan. I chose this story because it is easy to imagine someone being a good teacher when things are going according to plan. His ability to quickly figure out how to adjust to continue with the lesson showed me that he is going to be great as a teacher.

WW Teaching Fellowship: What do WW Teaching Fellows bring to the classroom?
Sarah Mueller: I am so grateful to have a WW Teaching Fellow in my class this year. In a typical year, I am glad to have an additional knowledgeable adult in my classroom because it gives my students more opportunities for help and makes labs a bit easier. This year, having a Fellow work with me has been invaluable in getting our virtual classroom set up. Our discussions and co-planning sessions have helped me to get acclimated to online teaching more quickly than I would have otherwise. The fact that we were able to work together has allowed us to help students more quickly with tech and content issues. I can’t imagine doing this work alone during this school year!


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