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Danforth Educational Leadership Program

Mentors & Advocates

Danforth students often cite the strong support they receive from their on-site mentors and UW advocates during their internship as an essential component of their leadership development.

The intern, mentor and advocate form a cohesive team with the common goal of designing, enacting and evaluating an instructional leadership-focused internship plan based on the authentic work of principals and program administrators.

This page offers guidance on the specific roles of mentors and advocates, along with links to associated resources that help support this work. Click on the name of the role to see more information.

Danforth Mentors

Since Danforth began at the University of Washington in 1988, the faculty have been committed to offering an integrated curriculum and field-based learning built on a solid foundation of values-based principles that define what it means to be an educational leader in a democratic society. The Danforth program seeks mentors who share a commitment to these core principles.

Facilitating Leadership Development

Mentor principals and program administrators are role models and thought partners for interns and, as such, must possess strong and effective leadership skills that Danforth students can learn from. Mentors support the work of Danforth interns by providing ongoing experience in the following instructional leadership areas:

  • Participating in, facilitating and/or leading learning walks, lesson study cycles and learning studio models
  • Conducting informal observation cycles to gain practice in pre-observation conferences, scripting and analysis, and guiding post-observation conversations with teacher candidates or volunteer in-service teachers
  • Facilitating or leading teams in data analysis, equity audits and/or program evaluation
  • Facilitating or leading teams in developing common assessments, examining student work or creating team or department learning products
  • Developing and delivering culturally responsive professional learning experiences aligned to identified district and/or building-level needs
  • Facilitating or leading a cycle of inquiry team to identify a learning-centered problem and explore and shape practices to improve student learning outcomes
  • Partnering with families, students and community groups to explore learning through different lenses and perspectives

The internship experience closely follows the public school calendar. Interns begin their internship in May by getting permission to shadow school-level or district-level administrators from May to July. Next, interns assist with the opening of a school year at a district level, building level or combined internship beginning in August. Students are expected to expand their experience, skills and knowledge throughout the internship, to thoughtfully and intentionally move from the role of observer to participant, and finally to serve as a facilitator and/or leader whenever appropriate. Internships typically conclude in June of the following year or for students participating in multiple internships, at an earlier time agreed on by the intern and on-site mentor.

UW Advocates

The role of the mentor is supplemented with guidance from a university-appointed internship advocate who has a record of excellence in leadership positions. Danforth UW Advocates are experienced school and/or district-level leaders; some are retired and others serve in the advocate role while working in districts and schools. Joint planning and evaluation meetings are held with the mentor principal or program administrator, the UW advocate and the intern at least three times during each internship. All parties participate in developing internship plans, monitoring progress and meeting regularly at the internship site.

UW Advocate Responsibilities

  1. Arrange meetings. The UW Advocate arranges at least three meetings between the mentor and intern during the internship. Ideally, the first meeting will take place before the fourth week of September.
  2. Meet individually with the intern. This is an opportunity to discover how the intern is managing to balance all aspects of the Danforth program. Advocates might ask the intern to give a tour of their school site to observe how well they know and relate to students, staff and teachers.
  3. Meet with the intern and mentor. UW Advocates meet on an intermediate basis with intern mentors to review the internship plan in detail, discuss the current program assignments, answer questions and encourage connections between the modules and the internship. 
  4. Write a follow-up letter to the mentor summarizing the discussion. UW Advocates are asked to send a copy to both the intern and the Danforth office for inclusion in the intern's file.
  5. Email Danforth Director Ann O'Doherty to let her know about any concerns raised during visits.
  6. Arrange monthly intern visits. Since the internship experience is tailored to the needs of the intern, UW Advocates schedule at least one visit per month, with periodic follow up via phone calls, texts or emails.
  7. Conduct a final visit. Ideally, the final visit should be a review of the internship summary and the mentor's evaluation of the intern. The final visit is an opportunity to check on general progress, ask the mentor principal to share their program suggestions or concerns, as well as an opportunity for the mentor to tell the intern what they did well and to share suggestions for personal growth.