Career Path Dilemmas

Career Path Dilemmas

Traditionally, the career path set for most teachers has been flat. If a teacher wanted to move ahead professionally, he or she generally had to leave the classroom.

In recent years, however, that paradigm has come into question, in part due to evolving teacher expectations and pressures on school systems to leverage "human capital." At various points around the country, new "hybrid" roles have been developed for master teachers, teacher-coaches, or teacher leaders. In these roles, teachers may spend part of the day in their own classroom and the remaining time observing other teachers, analyzing student data, leading professional learning communities, or performing other leadership tasks. Separate tracks for short-term teachers and "career" educators have also been considered.

As a practicing teacher, are you satisfied with the career-advancement opportunities currently available to you? In your view, how could teacher career paths and school-staffing arrangements be transformed to improve learning in the 21st century and to better accommodate the talents and ambitions of educators?

Follow-Up: Time for a Teaching Profession

I must take issue with one of the comments on this Roundtable and clarify some important reasons for multiple career pathways for teachers. On Noah Patel's entry, RHE responded: The problem with career paths for teachers is that the most important job in the system is and always will be the classroom teacher. It is unique in that the entry level position has the same responsibility in year 1 and in year 30. This is not true for most other fields. That is why a salary schedule for a teacher will always be relatively flat. The classroom being at the ...

Follow-Up: Professionally Developing Mentors

Noah Patel In my previous blog, I discussed the importance of creating non-traditional career pathways for teachers by way of a Master Teacher credential earned through demonstrated classroom success. Several colleagues on this blog have joined me in advocating for mentoring as one rung on the career ladder that we hope to strengthen. After some more reflection on this topic, I am positive that meaningful professional development will be the key in taking these additional career opportunities, especially mentoring, to scale nationwide. In the early-stage of my career, it was an expectation at my school that teachers would lead content-specific ...

Follow-Up: Empowering Teacher Leadership

Lori Nazareno I spent the last two evenings watching the film Mitchell 20. It begins as a story about 20 teachers at a high-needs school in Arizona who are working to improve their teaching through the National Board Certification process. When an unexpected series of district-mandated events occurs, the story quickly changes, offering a much more broad statement about teachers and education. One of the film's resounding messages is that teachers have little control over their own profession and even less say-so in the policies that they are charged with carrying out each day. Imagine my surprise to find that ...

Follow-Up: A Day in the Life of a Teacherpreneur

Noah Zeichner It is not always easy explaining to my friends, colleagues, and even family what exactly my hybrid role looks like. I usually say that I teach in the mornings and do "policy-related work" in the afternoons. I currently teach three different classes, one of which meets after school and during study hall periods. My afternoons are often filled with off-campus meetings, writing emails (and blog posts), reviewing research, and making phone calls. I typically stay at school at least two full days each week, working in the library in the afternoons before I either teach or attend meetings ...

Follow-Up: Working in a Hybrid Role: What Does It Take?

Carrie Kamm In my previous post I wrote about a teacher I work with, Jennifer Magiera, who spends part of her day as a 4th/5th grade math teacher and the other part providing STEM coaching to teachers in our school and other teachers in the Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL) network. If hybrid roles for teachers are to become the norm rather than an exception or rarity, we need to study those who are doing this work to learn from their experiences and identify those teachers in our schools who might be good candidates. That candidate may in ...

Follow-Up: Rethinking Tenure and Teacher Careers

David Orphal The myth about tenure is that once a teacher has worked for two or three years of probationary service, he has a job for life, and barring burning down the school or beating random children, there is no way of getting rid of that teacher no matter how lackluster or sub-par he becomes. First of all, this is simply untrue. Currently, in California, a teacher serves two years of probationary status, during which time a school can choose not to renew his contract without having to state a reason. Simply not being a "good fit" is cause enough ...

Follow-Up: Training the Next Generation of Teachers.

David Orphal Teach For America and New Teaching Project candidates don't get enough training. They make up for receiving only a 5-week crash course on lesson planning and assessment with boat loads of energy and enthusiasm. Many TFA'ers join with the express purpose of teaching for only two years and then moving on to more lucrative careers. More still find their training has not fully prepared them for under-supportive and hovering parents, truant and transient students, and students' non-academic needs. Additionally, most TFA'ers and NTP'ers are white, middle-class college grads who have a difficult time relating to their non-white, working-class ...

An Entryway to Career Growth for Teachers

Noah Patel In September of 2010 at NBC's Education Nation Summit, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said that he wanted to "professionalize the profession" and simultaneously "attract and retain excellent teachers." As a seventh year teacher in the second stage of my career, I have been frustrated by the flat career trajectory that I have experienced. I have worked very hard to master the craft of teaching, but I wonder what will sustain me over the next 30 years? I am passionate about teaching in my middle school math classroom, and have no desire to leave. However, the options that ...

Trying (and Failing) to be Colossus

David Orphal Last year, I was out of the classroom. I was a "teacher on special assignment," coordinating a grant to redesign our school into multiple smaller learning communities. The work was wonderful! It was challenging! I could go to the bathroom whenever I wanted, instead of having to wait for the bell! I was in heaven... except... I missed my kids. I missed planning activities that would help them learn. I missed engaging them in interesting conversations. I missed seeing their eyes light up when they "got it!" In short, I missed teaching. This year, I'm back in the ...

Making Room for Teacher Leaders

Renee Moore The idea of hybrid roles for teachers is not all that new. Some of the happiest moments of my teaching life were spent at Broad Street High School in Shelby, Miss., where some courageous administrators attempted to set up teacher-leader roles within the district. I say attempted because neither my employers nor I were sure what that meant when we first started in 1998. Initially, the administration wanted to simply anoint certain persons to be the Lead Teachers, but later I convinced them to redesign it into a teacher leadership program selected by our peers throughout the district. ...

A New Kind of Hybrid Role: Teacherpreneur

Noah ZeichnerDuring my first seven years of teaching I found many opportunities for leadership in my school. I chaired a department, led a family engagement team, and served as our school's educational technologist. Of course, I taught full time too, often preparing for three different classes each day. But I didn't mind. I loved the work. Looking back, I didn't take on these extracurricular responsibilities with career advancement necessarily in mind. I had no intention of leaving the classroom anytime soon. I did the extra work because I enjoyed having a role in determining the direction of my school. In ...

Teachers Must Lead!

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Lori Nazareno
My career-advancement opportunities have come in spite of the system, not because of it. I have had the opportunity to push school leaders and districts to think differently about how they utilize talent. Not only do I have the good fortune to work in a teacher leadership role, ...

Urban Teacher Residencies: A Space for Hybrid Roles for Teachers

Carrie Kamm Urban teacher residencies are reshaping teacher preparation in cities across the country. They are also providing new professional opportunities for teachers. The Academy for Urban School Leadership's (AUSL) Chicago Teacher Residency program is providing opportunities for teachers to have an impact on teacher preparation while at the same time allowing them to continue teaching in the classroom. As a former mentor teacher with AUSL I have professionally benefited from the opportunity to support teachers new to the profession, while at the same time furthering developing my skills as a classroom teacher. In my current role as a Mentor-Resident ...

The opinions expressed in Teaching Ahead: A Roundtable are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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About the Contributors

  • Jessica Shyu

    Jessica Shyu

    Jessica Shyu is vice president of teacher excellence and leadership at Teach For China where she leads teams to train and develop more than 300 fir...

  • David B. Cohen

    David B. Cohen

    David B. Cohen is associate director of Accomplished California Teachers, and a National Board-certified English teacher at Palo Alto High School (...

  • Patrick Ledesma

    Patrick Ledesma

    Patrick Ledesma is a middle school technology specialist and special education department chair with Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia. A N...

  • Marilyn Rhames

    Marilyn Rhames

    Marilyn Rhames is a middle grades teacher at a charter school in Chicago and runs a nonprofit called Teachers Who Pray. Her Ed Week blog called "Ch...

  • Larry Ferlazzo

    Larry Ferlazzo

    An award-winning English and Social Studies teacher at Luther Burbank High School in Sacramento, Calif., Larry Ferlazzo is the author of Helping St...

  • Lori Nazareno

    Lori Nazareno

    Lori Nazareno is a dually certified National Board Certified Teacher who is serving as teacher-in residence for the Center for Teaching Quality. A ...

  • Renee Moore

    Renee Moore

    Renee has taught English and journalism for 20 years in the Mississippi Delta region at both high school and community college levels. She is Natio...

  • Carrie Kamm

    Carrie Kamm

    Carrie Kamm is a mentor-resident coach with the Academy for Urban School Leadership's Chicago Teacher Residency Program. She is also a co-author o...

  • Dave Orphal

    Dave Orphal

    Dave Orphal is a teacher and small learning communities coordinator at Skyline High School in Oakland, Calif. In his free time, he serves as a mem...

  • Noah Zeichner

    Noah Zeichner

    Noah Zeichner is a National Board-certified teacher at Chief Sealth International School in Seattle, Wash. He also spends part of his day supportin...

  • Noah Patel

    Noah Patel

    Noah Patel is a 7th-year middle school math teacher in the Boston Public School District and a National Board-certified teacher. He received his ba...

  • Jessica Hahn

    Jessica Hahn

    Jessica Hahn has taught elementary grade children for six years in Phoenix and New York City. She has a master's degree in literacy from Teachers C...

  • Rebecca Schmidt

    Rebecca Schmidt

    Rebecca Schmidt is in her fifth year of teaching in D.C. Public Schools. She is team leader of the 3rd grade at Bancroft Elementary, and also runs ...

  • Bill Farmer

    Bill Farmer

    Bill Farmer has been teaching biology and chemistry for nine years at Evanston Township High School in Evanston, Ill. He is currently serving his t...

  • Ryan Kinser

    Ryan Kinser

    Ryan Kinser is a 2012-13 teacherpreneur at the Center for Teaching Quality. He divides his time between teaching English to sixth graders at Walker...

  • Dan Brown

    Dan Brown

    Dan Brown teaches high school English in Washington, D.C. He is the author of The Great Expectations School: A Rookie Year in the New Blackboard Ju...

  • Sarah Henchey

    Sarah Henchey

    Sarah Henchey is a National Board Certified Teacher and a 2012-13 Teacher in Residence at the Center for Teaching Quality. Sarah has taught middle ...

  • Marsha Ratzel

    Marsha Ratzel

    Marsha Ratzel is a National Board-certified teacher in the Blue Valley School District in Kansas, where she teaches middle school math and science....

  • Jessica Keigan

    Jessica Keigan

    As a teacherpreneur, Jessica divides her time evenly between teaching English at Horizon High School in Denver and supporting results-oriented effo...

  • Michael Moran

    Michael Moran

    Michael Moran is a former sixth grade teacher currently pursuing a Master of Public Administration degree at the University of Washington's Evans S...

  • Ryan Niman

    Ryan Niman

    Ryan Niman teaches English and Social Studies in the Edmonds School District north of Seattle, Washington. Ryan is a member of the Washington New M...

  • Megan Allen

    Megan Allen

    Megan M. Allen is a National Board-certified Teacher in Tampa, Fla. As a 2012-13 teacherpreneur, Megan spends half of her week teaching 5th graders...

  • Ilana Garon

    Ilana Garon

    Ilana Garon has been teaching high school English in the Bronx since she graduated from Barnard College in 2003. Her writing has appeared in The Gu...

  • Anna Martin

    Anna Martin

    Anna L. Martin is the resource teacher at Lee Mathson Middle School, a public school in an urban high-needs district in San Jose, Calif. A National...

  • Kate Mulcahy

    Kate Mulcahy

    Kate Mulcahy, a Boettcher Teachers Program graduate, has taught for five years as an English & English Language Learner teacher at Northglenn High ...

  • Ariel Sacks

    Ariel Sacks

    Ariel Sacks teaches 8th grade English at a middle school in Brooklyn, N.Y. An alumna of Bank Street College of Education, she is a co-author of TEA...

  • Linda Yaron

    Linda Yaron

    As an English teacher in an inner-city high school in Los Angeles, Linda Yaron has spent the last nine years working to increase opportunities for ...

  • Bill Ferriter

    Bill Ferriter

    Bill Ferriter (@plugusin on Twitter) carries about a dozen different titles around with him each day. He's a member of the Teacher Leaders Network,...

  • Robert Pronovost

    Robert Pronovost

    Robert Pronovost is a 2nd grade teacher and MOUSE Squad student tech advisor at Belle Haven Elementary in Menlo Park, CA. Robert has been a teacher...

  • Nancy S. Gardner

    Nancy S. Gardner

    A renewed National Board Certified Teacher, Nancy Gardner teaches senior English at Mooresville High School in Mooresville, N.C. She is also chair ...

  • Karl Ochsner

    Karl Ochsner

    Karl Ochsner is a 7th and 8th grade science teacher at Blessed Pope John XXIII Catholic School in Scottsdale, Arizona, and teaches classes on K-12 ...

  • Joel Malley

    Joel Malley

    Joel Malley teaches AP literature, along with mass media and film production, at Cheektowaga Central High School outside Buffalo, NY. He is an acti...

  • Jennie Magiera

    Jennie Magiera

    Jennie Magiera is a 4th and 5th grade math teacher and a technology and mathematics curriculum coach in Chicago Public Schools. A Teacher Leaders N...

  • Lauren Hill

    Lauren Hill

    Lauren Hill teaches AP Language and Composition and 9th grade English at Western Hills High School in Frankfort, Kentucky. A National Board Certif...

  • Todd Rackowitz

    Todd Rackowitz

    Todd Rackowitz has been teaching math for 21 years in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system in North Carolina. A National Board-certified teacher...

  • Alison Wright

    Alison Wright

    Ali Wright teaches Algebra 2 and AP Calculus at Lafayette High School in Lexington, Ky. A National Board-certified teacher with 11 years of experie...

  • David Ruenzel

    David Ruenzel

    David Ruenzel is an English teacher at the Athenian School in Danville, Calif. From 1992-2001 he was a senior writer at Teacher Magazine and contri...

  • Bill Ivey

    Bill Ivey

    Bill Ivey teaches 7th grade Humanities, French, and music at Stoneleigh-Burnham School in Western Massachusetts. He is a member of the Teacher Lead...

  • Cheryl Suliteanu

    Cheryl Suliteanu

    Cheryl Suliteanu has taught elementary school students in Oceanside, Calif. for 15 years. She is a National Board-certified teacher with certificat...

  • José Vilson

    José Vilson

    Jos Vilson is a math teacher, coach, and data analyst for a middle school in the Inwood/Washington Heights neighborhood of New York. A poet, web d...

  • Jennifer Barnett

    Jennifer Barnett

    Jennifer Barnett is an English and social studies teacher and technology specialist in Talladega County, Ala. She is a co-author of Teaching 2030: ...

  • Delonna Halliday

    Delonna Halliday

    Delonna Halliday is a Literacy Coach at First Creek Middle School in Tacoma, Wash. She has a background in TV/movie production, spent a year teachi...

  • Meenoo Rami

    Meenoo Rami

    Meenoo Rami, founder of the #engchat weekly Twitter chat for English teachers, teaches her students English at Science Leadership Academy in Philad...

  • Sarah Brown Wessling

    Sarah Brown Wessling

    Sarah Brown Wessling is a high school English teacher at Johnston High School in Johnston, Iowa. She is also serving as TCHr Laureate for the Teac...

  • Paul Barnwell

    Paul Barnwell

    A New Hampshire native, Paul is in his 11th year teaching in Kentucky public schools. He’s currently an English III and Digital Media teacher at ...

  • Dedy Fauntleroy

    Dedy Fauntleroy

    Dedy Fauntleroy is an ELL instructional coach in Seattle Public Schools. In her previous life, she served as an ELD specialist, mentor teacher, and...

  • Shannon C'de Baca

    Shannon C'de Baca

    Shannon C'de Baca has been a science teacher for the last 34 years. She currently teaches a blended online chemistry course. Shannon has written le...

  • Mark Sass

    Mark Sass

    Mark Sass has been teaching high school social sciences for 16 years, for the past 12 years at Legacy High School in Broomfield, Colorado. Mark is ...

  • Brooke Peters

    Brooke Peters

    Brooke Peters has taught kindergarten and 1st grade in Los Angeles and New York City for 10 years. As co-founder of The Odyssey Initiative, Brooke ...

  • Lillie Marshall

    Lillie Marshall

    Lillie Marshall (@WorldLillie on Twitter) has been a teacher in the Boston Public Schools since 2003, and is passionate about creative forms of tea...

  • Jessica Cuthbertson

    Jessica Cuthbertson

    Jessica Cuthbertson, a Colorado educator with 10 years' experience, teaches middle school literacy and has served as a literacy instructional coach...

  • Justin Minkel

    Justin Minkel

    Justin Minkel teaches second and third grade in northwest Arkansas at Jones Elementary, where 97 percent of students live in poverty and 85 percent...

  • Jane Fung

    Jane Fung

    Jane Fung is a National Board-certified teacher in urban Los Angeles, where she currently teaches 1st grade. She serves on the board of the Nationa...

  • Sandy Merz

    Sandy Merz

    August (Sandy) Merz III, a National Board-certified teacher in Career and Technical Education, teaches engineering and algebra at Safford K-8 Inter...

  • Silvestre Arcos

    Silvestre Arcos

    Silvestre Arcos is the founding 5th grade math teacher at KIPP: Washington Heights Middle School in New York City. He studied human development and...

  • Matthew Holland

    Matthew Holland

    Matthew Holland is a native of Alexandria, Va., and a product of the city's public school system, where he is currently an elementary school teache...

  • Jody Passanisi

    Jody Passanisi

    Jody Passanisi is a middle school teacher at an independent school in the Los Angeles area and a clinical educator for DeLeT's teacher induction pr...

  • Bud Hunt

    Bud Hunt

    Bud Hunt is an instructional technology coordinator for the St. Vrain Valley Schools in northern Colorado. He works with teachers and technologists...

  • Elizabeth Duffey

    Elizabeth Duffey

    After 37 years as a high school English teacher, Elizabeth Duffey took a position as facilitator of instruction in literacy in the Tacoma Public Sc...

  • Lhisa Almashy

    Lhisa Almashy

    Lhisa Almashy is an ESOL teacher at Park Vista High School in Lake Worth, Fla. A 2012 winner of Teaching Tolerance's Cultural Responsive Teaching A...

  • Darnell Fine

    Darnell Fine

    Darnell Fine is a multicultural thinker who facilitates education and creative writing seminars, as well as social justice workshops, around the co...

  • Ben Curran

    Ben Curran

    Ben Curran is a K-5 instructional coach at a charter school in Detroit. He is also co-founder of Engaging Educators, co-author of Learning in the 2...

  • Jennifer Martin

    Jennifer Martin

    Jennifer Martin is an English teacher at Wootton High School in Rockville, Md. During her 12 years in the classroom, Jennifer has taught nearly eve...

  • Casie Jones

    Casie Jones

    Casie Jones is an English teacher at Martin Luther King Jr. Student Transition Academy in Memphis. She is a Teach Plus Teaching Policy Fellow and a...

  • Ryan Prosser

    Ryan Prosser

    Ryan Prosser is an National Board-certified teacher in early adolescent english language arts and currently works as an instructional facilitator i...

  • Rod Powell

    Rod Powell

    Rod Powell, a National Board-certified teacher (social studies), has been teaching for 26 years. A CTQ Collaboratory member, Rod loves the challeng...

  • Pernille Ripp

    Pernille Ripp

    Pernille Ripp (@PernilleRipp) is a 5th grade teacher in Wisconsin, a proud techy geek, creator of the GlobalRead Aloud Project, co-founder of EdCam...

  • Elizabeth Stein

    Elizabeth Stein

    Elizabeth Stein has been teaching more than 20 years and is currently a middle school special education teacher and mentor-teacher program coordina...

  • Brianna Crowley

    Brianna Crowley

    Brianna Crowley teaches high school English in Hershey, Pa. She also serves an instructional-technology coach to implement her district's BYOD poli...

  • Julie Hiltz

    Julie Hiltz

    Julie Hiltz is a 2013-2014 CTQ teacherpreneur who helps Florida teachers personalize their leadership roles and works as an educational-media speci...

  • Carl Finer

    Carl Finer

    Carl Finer has taught in South Los Angeles for ten years, currently teaching English and journalism at Animo Jefferson Charter Middle School. He is...

  • Tim Walker

    Tim Walker

  • Margit Timakov

    Margit Timakov

  • Meredith Kohl

    Meredith Kohl

    Meredith Kohl is special projects manager for Project Tomorrow and lower elementary education director for Bridges Reading and Writing Institute, b...

  • Hillary Greene

    Hillary Greene

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    Brad Clark

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    William Tolley

  • Kristina Holzweiss

    Kristina Holzweiss

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    Laura Thomas

  • Kathleen Melville

    Kathleen Melville

  • Cindi Rigsbee

    Cindi Rigsbee

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    Jackson Barnett

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    James Mann

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    Isabel Song

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    Garrett deGraffenreid

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    Scarlett Gaddy

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    Val Brown

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  • Kim Ursetta

    Kim Ursetta

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    Carrie Bakken

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    Ayla Gavins

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