Teaching Mentor Guide

Are you an Atlanta University Center (AUC) faculty member interested in becoming a Teaching Mentor? See the "Teaching Mentor Resource Guide" below.



What is FIRST?

Fellowships in Research and Science Teaching (FIRST) is a model for post-doctoral education.  It is designed to provide postdoctoral fellows with rich experiences in intensive laboratory research and in-depth pedagogical training.  This NIH-funded, 3-year fellowship combines the faculties of Emory and the Atlanta University Center to increase the quantity and quality of post-doctoral fellows pursuing careers in biological/biomedical sciences.  The program provides the foundation for investigating basic and clinical sciences and a teaching mentorship that includes instruction in pedagogy, classroom technologies, guidance of undergraduates, and course development and implementation.


Each year a class of 10-14 fellows enters the program.  The NIH expects them to have a ‘traditional’ post-doctoral experience in the laboratory, publishing at competitive levels.  In addition, fellows have a mentored teaching experience following this outline:

Spring of Year 1:

Fellows take a weekly 90-minute “How To Teach” seminar led by the FIRST Teaching Coordinator.  This seminar emphasizes issues in teaching, education and pedagogy.

Fellows select a Teaching Mentor from the AUC.

Year 2:

Fellows work with Teaching Mentors on a regular basis developing their eventual 3rd year project.

Year 3:

Fellows take on a significant leadership role in one course for one semester at the AUC.

FIRST fellows also attend formal and informal teaching development workshops offered at Emory and other institutions.


The goal of FIRST is to train the next generation of professors, especially those from under-represented groups. Minority Serving Institutions (MSI) have traditionally placed a high value on teaching.  This has led to the development of excellent teachers, many of whom are ideal mentors for FIRST fellows.  It is our hope that the FIRST fellows’ mentoring experience with AUC faculty will result in FIRST fellows who have a deep understanding of the educational needs of undergraduate students, as well as the tools to enhance their teaching effectiveness.  The AUC institutions benefit from the involvement of FIRST fellows in their instructional program, especially in the development and implementation of cutting-edge research techniques-based courses.  FIRST and other programs like it contribute significantly to increasing the number of college and university faculty who excel at both teaching and research. 


FIRST benefits both the AUC departments and the fellows.  Teaching Mentors develop a diversity of project types, including:

Fellows teaching or co-teaching a course the Mentor has previously taught;

Fellows developing and teaching a new lab or lecture course;

Fellows redesigning and teaching a current course, which otherwise might not be offered;

Fellows partnering to develop a new course across institutions;

Fellows teaching a course developed or taught previously by other FIRST fellows.


FIRST Teaching Mentors are selected annually by their department chairs.  Mentors are exemplars of teaching and mentoring excellence and are at a point in their careers amenable to such an opportunity.

New FIRST fellows are given a list of all potential Teaching Mentors each year.  Fellows meet Mentors through formal and informal FIRST events and by directly contacting individual mentors.

Fellows and Teaching Mentors, with input from department chairs and FIRST administrators, together make the final decision on fellow/mentor pairs.  The decision will be based on:

Personal comfort level between fellow and mentor;

A clear understanding of which course/project the fellow and mentor will focus on, especially which course the fellow will help lead in Year 3, with the realization that course loads, departmental needs, and the interests of fellows may change.

Section 6

A FIRST mentorship project is a significant commitment, so a special effort must be made to maintain communication between the fellow and the mentor as well as between them, their chairs and FIRST administrators.  To support such productive engagement:

FIRST hosts a contract-building workshop for the Teaching Mentors and 2nd-year fellows.

FIRST sponsors regular meetings with all FIRST mentors and fellows;

FIRST Executive Committee members meet periodically with the chairs of relevant departments.

In addition to the usual expectations of any successful mentoring relationship, FIRST mentors are specifically expected to:

Work with their fellows to develop meaningful projects;

Interact with fellows during Year 2 to develop their Year 3 project;

Monitor the fellow ’s Year 3 course-leading experience;

Evaluate the fellows’ teaching and general progress periodically;

Complete formal FIRST evaluation forms annually.

Teaching and Research Mentors are also invited to join the fellows at the annual meeting of FIRST and the other similar NIH-sponsored programs.


Each department receives a monetary allotment for each FIRST fellow mentored by its faculty.  Finally, in special circumstances, FIRST may request funds from the NIH for development of specific projects, such as laboratories or for other types of course development.