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Mentoring without a Program: Joe Cardenas on Teaching the Whole Person

At the heart of teaching is the desire to make an impact on the lives of one’s students. Beyond conveying useful information or training them in resume-building skills, great teachers wish to help their students live well—to be fully alive. Such a task, difficult as it may be, is what mentoring is all about.

Yet most schools may not have a formal mentoring program. In these circumstances, how can teachers, who wish to help their students in ways that go beyond math or language arts, mentor students?

To help us answer this question, we welcome back to HeightsCast our Head of Mentoring, Joe Cardenas, for a discussion on how teachers can mentor in schools without a formal mentoring program. In the episode, Joe explains what mentoring is and why it matters, offering guidance on how to be intentional, humble, and patient as teachers seek to help students not only see the good to be done but come to want to do the good they have seen.

Register for Joe’s Mentoring Workshop here.

For lyrics, translation, and history of Regina Caeli, please visit:


  • 0:35 Introduction
  • 2:27 What is mentoring?
  • 4:25 Who can be a mentor?
  • 7:40 Getting started
  • 11:26 Being intentional
  • 12:15 Being humble
  • 13:55 Respecting the agency of mentees
  • 15:40 Vale la pena: it is worth it
  • 17:40 Advice for conversations with mentees
  • 22:00 An example of mentoring
  • 23:50 Encouraging without increasing anxiety
  • 28:20 Parents as mentors
  • 30:15 Mentoring: important, though rarely urgent

Also on the Forum

Foundations for Mentoring Struggling Students: On Fighting the Right Fires with David Maxham

Mentoring Sons to a Successful Summer with Joe Cardenas

Finding Mentors After Graduation: On Find Your Six with Pat Kilner

On Addressing Character Defects: Thoughts on Tough Love with Joe Cardenas

Why Boys Need Mentors with Joe Cardenas and Alex Berthe

About the Guest

Joe Cardenas

Head of Mentoring, The Heights School

Joe Cardenas is the Head of Mentoring at The Heights. Mr. Cardenas also teaches AP Art History, English Literature, and Freshman Theology.  Since coming to The Heights in 1994, he has organized cultural trips to Europe and service projects in South America. Mr. Cardenas completed his undergraduate work at the University of California, Berkeley, where he earned a degree in American history; he received his M.A. in Private School Management from Columbia University in Manhattan. He taught at The Head-Royce School, an independent school in California, and at inner-city programs in Chicago and the Bronx before joining The Heights faculty.

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