One recent morning, one of my students at Wahlert Catholic High School stood patiently by my classroom door as I signed passes, greeted students, and took attendance. She waited until I had a break and said quietly, “I need to go to the band room, now.” Before I wrote her a pass, I slowed down and looked at her face. It looked different, pained and broken.

I walked with her to my desk and offered her a seat. She started to cry. Her uncle had died and it had been sudden. She needed to talk about it but was afraid to cry in front of her classmates. Once she started talking, she couldn’t stop.

In this case, my student knew she had a trusted adult to turn to because I am her high school mentor. We had already formed a close relationship this year because I meet with her once a week for 10 minutes. And even though 10 minutes might not seem like a lot, that dedicated time helps to create a bond unlike any I have experienced with students before.

Last year, Wahlert Catholic High School introduced mentoring for all our personalized learning students. Mentoring includes 10-minute, weekly meetings with the same teacher. At Wahlert Catholic High School, we take it one step further. Teachers mentor the same students for four years and present them with their diplomas on graduation day.

Mentoring is built into our schedules to help students navigate school and life. We spend time talking about their hobbies, interests and life outside of school. I can see how they are doing on tests, papers and other assignments, and they ask for help if they are struggling. Some students want help with stress management, while others want help learning how to take notes. Some want to talk about an upcoming audition or sports practice. I make sure we check in on academics, and they set goals for their week. When I really listen to my mentees, I learn so much. And my students feel heard in a way that did not happen before mentoring.

Here is how William Herbst, one of my mentees, feels about mentoring:

“Mentoring is a big part of school but it also helps me with my everyday life outside of academics. That 10-minute weekly mentoring session might not seem like much, but it really helps keep me accountable and really gets my head straight on what I want to accomplish each week.

Mentoring has helped me excel this year more than any other year in the past. This is my first year in high school, and mentoring has helped me so much in making a smooth transition with all of the new things I am involved in.”

I hold my mentees accountable for getting their work done, setting goals, and staying academically motivated. But my mentor group also motivates each other.

The same group of students comes together each day in my classroom for mentoring time. When they are not meeting directly with me, mentees are studying for tests, writing papers, and finishing homework. This gives students the opportunity to bond and help each other succeed.

This is only the beginning. We have spent half of one year together as a group, and I can only imagine how our bond will grow as they progress through high school. I cannot wait to see how they develop and mature into young adults, and I am honored to be a part of their lives.

Trees, an English teacher at Wahlert Catholic High School, holds a master’s degree from Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism. An award-

winning television journalist, she worked for ABC, CBS and FOX affiliate stations in Iowa and California. After a time as a stay-at-home mom, Trees became a certified teacher in the state of Iowa. A mentor teacher for the Thriving Young Teachers blog, she chronicles life as a “new” older teacher.