Cultivating Teacher leaders

Last week I had a very engaging conversation with one of my teachers. After just two years in the classroom, she was at a point where she was looking for ways to take on leadership roles. Our school, like many around the country, is transforming the way we look at teaching and learning. Our conversation really got me thinking. Through our transformation process I need to cultivate teacher leaders more than ever before. Teacher leaders are the backbone of our work, and we as school administrators can’t do it alone.

In a recent Education Week article, Westport Middle School 8th grade Language Arts teacher Sarah Yost discussed A New Model of Instructional Leadership. Having reached a point in her career where she was trying to decide if she should move from teacher to administrator, she instead was offered the opportunity to take a more blended approach to play both roles for her school. As a master teacher, in additional to a reduced teaching load, she is charged with the task to do progress monitoring for the school’s Response to Intervention (RTI) program. She works on literacy initiatives, professional development, and keeping the line of communication open between teachers and administrators. In her article she went on discussion the benefits of this model to both administrators and teachers.

Recently, Denver Public Schools Superintendent Tom Boasberg announced plans to introduce a similar approach in their system. Called the Differentiated Roles pilot, Boasberg explains that “Expanding teacher leadership in our schools is critical to strengthening teacher teams, improving peer-to-peer learning opportunities and attracting and retaining talented teachers in our schools. I am very excited by the promise of this opportunity.” The benefit for teachers in the DPS system is already showing promise, providing teachers with real-time feedback that is resulting in more effective teaching practices across their schools.

Cultivating teachers for shared leadership roles can have a lasting impact on a school community and its climate. It allows school administrators to tap into the expertise and experience of some of its most dynamic teachers and give them a way to share their skills with their colleagues. Teachers who serve as instructional coaches and mentors to their peers can have a far greater positive impact on changing instructional practice in a school.

The Marshalltown Community School District in Iowa recently announced plans to develop a mentoring program staffed by teacher leaders. Through a grant, twelve teachers will receive a $5,000.00 annual stipend to serve roles as instructional coaches and curriculum/professional development leaders. Funds for the initiative came from a State grant outlined by Governor Terry Branstad.

If the school administrators reading this article are still not convinced at just how powerful it is to cultivate teacher leaders, consider these videos that were prepared as a campaign by the National Network of State Teachers of the Year (NNSTOY). Separated into various strands and domains, the videos highlight just how influential these teacher leaders have been in supporting quality instruction in their schools. The only question left to be answered is this: Now that you can see the benefits, what can you as a school administrator do to cultivate teacher leadership in your school?

This article was originally written for MultiBriefs.


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