The Value of Teacher Leadership Today—and Tomorrow

The Value of Teacher Leadership Today—and Tomorrow

In the most basic sense, teacher leaders are educators who take the reins on initiatives and projects outside their own classrooms. They might head professional learning communities, mentor new teachers, work with community nonprofits, or engage with policymakers at the district, state, or even national level. Teacher leaders are often trusted sources of advice at their schools. And in many cases, they're catalysts for school change.

Last year, a consortium of 38 organizations released the Teacher Leader Model Standards, which outline seven domains of teacher leadership. The domains, or areas in which teacher leaders can hone their expertise, include fostering collaboration, using research, promoting professional learning, and improving outreach.

In your experience, what is the value of teacher leadership? In what ways do you consider yourself a teacher leader, and which of the domains do you find most important in your role? What can administrators and policymakers do to encourage educators to lead beyond their own classrooms? What are your hopes for the future of teacher leadership?

Roundup Post: What Makes a Teacher Leader?

By guest blogger Leanne Link, communications assistant at the Center for Teaching Quality As this month's Roundtable participants pointed out, teacher leaders are everywhere. Many lead in nontraditional or unrecognized ways, as Jane Fung and Patrick Ledesma reminded us. At the same time, bloggers were able to identify some effective habits that many teacher leaders hold in common. Teacher leaders ... Spread positivity. Cheryl Suliteanu advises teachers leaders to "approach others with solutions-focused ideas. Speak with good intentions, and be an active listener with a positive perspective." Share their voices. Lillie Marshall urges teachers to make their voices heard via social ...

Follow-Up: A Differentiated Career Ladder

Patrick Ledesma During my last post, I discussed the institutional challenges limiting the development of teacher leadership. While Sarah and Janet are fictional "composite" teacher leaders, their stories are represented by teacher leaders in schools everywhere. Formal validation of these teacher leadership roles is necessary. We need a career ladder that articulates the responsibilities of different roles. From this career ladder and resulting job descriptions, we can then identify and develop the knowledge and skills these leaders will need to be successful. We can better provide professional development to grow teacher leadership in various capacities. These roles will add to ...

Follow-Up: Boston's Model for Teacher-Leader Training

Noah Patel In my previous blog post, I wrote about how school and district leaders must support teachers in developing their capacity as leaders. I am proud to say that the city of Boston has begun such work through its Teacher Leader Certificate program. Unlike most teacher leadership training programs that leave teachers "all dressed up with no place to go," this program only works with teachers who already hold leadership roles. It seeks to serve the need of a growing population of teachers who have moved into roles they recognize as important but have little or no support to ...

Follow-Up: Is Teacher Leadership Optional?

Jane Fung My school district is phasing in a new teacher evaluation process, which includes five standards for assessing performance. Although there is a professional growth expectation, teacher leadership is not explicitly stated as a performance requirement. The Teacher Leader Model Standards are "a series of broadly stated domains that identify critical dimensions of teacher leadership." On this blog, we have discussed the wide range of leadership activities and examples of how teachers lead, but what about expectations? Do all teachers need to be leaders? Maybe not, but could they be? Absolutely. Most classroom teachers I know are already engaged ...

Follow-Up: Positive Teacher Leadership

Cheryl Suliteanu The common thread I find as I read articles and blogs on teacher leadership is that "teachers are the experts." So why, as Justin pointed out, aren't teachers leading the way with creating standards? Why aren't teachers discussing ideas, suggestions, concerns, questions, and solutions with district administrators? Jessica asked me how teacher leaders might go about bringing their ideas out in the open. There's a simple answer and a complex answer. The simple answer is responsible action: I recognized a need that I wanted to address. I considered potential solutions. I researched current practices locally and nationally. I ...

Follow-Up: Teacher Leaders' Responsibility to Advocate

Jessica Cuthbertson What is advocacy? A quick dictionary search surfaces a list of synonyms that include: insistency, active support, urging, pleading and arguing in favor of something. "Advocating for Student Learning and the Profession," the seventh domain of the Teacher Leader Model Standards uses the word to capture what teacher leaders say and do to advance the profession, inform policy, and improve student learning. My initial post explored the public persona of teachers—we represent the profession wherever we go and whatever we do—and this involves both responsibility and opportunity. But we do not have to work as independent...

Follow-Up: Teacher Voice Matters in Education Policy

Justin Minkel Here's a troubling riddle: What do NCLB, Obama's Blueprint for Reform, and the Common Core Standards have in common? Not a single teacher was in the room when they were written. Last week, I met one of the authors of the common standards. I asked her why teachers weren't involved in writing them. This is what she said: 1. "Teachers are so busy." Umm...true. "They just wouldn't have the time." Umm...false. Every teacher leader I know is willing to invest time and energy if it will benefit kids. Summers are generally a good time to tap ...

Follow-Up: Teacher Leaders Should Stop Being Scaredy Cats and Embrace Social Media

Lillie Marshall Teachers lag behind other careers in harnessing the power of social media, and a major reason is fear. "It's dangerous to put my words on Twitter or Facebook," I've heard educators explain. "Who knows who might stumble across it? And you know, things on the Internet never go away." Teachers frequently feel this undercurrent of fear. Each day, tabloid headlines scream "Teacher Fired for ___!", reminding us that we're constantly in the public eye—an eye that hungers to blame and judge. Often this fear squashes our voices and stunts our potential as teacher leaders. But I think it is...

People Need to Hear From Teachers

Jane Fung My teacher leadership started with a principal who believed I had the potential to make an impact beyond my classroom. She first invited me to write a grant for the school and continued to push me beyond my comfort zone, asking that I take on student teachers. Mine became a model classroom for teacher observations. At the same time, a colleague who was already a teacher leader nudged, guided, and mentored me into leading professional development outside of our school and district. The more experience I had as a teacher leader, the more opportunities came my way. And ...

Scratching the Teacher Leadership Itch

Noah Patel In my previous blogs last fall, I spoke about the importance of creating a meaningful career ladder for teachers. This proposal included opportunities for career advancement through mentoring. Additionally, I advocated for more formalized roles for teachers who wish to increase their influence while deepening their capacity and developing the skills of others. As a mentor this past school year, I loved being able to collaborate with a new teacher in my math classroom. While I brought expertise to our partnership, she brought fresh perspective and we worked together to advance not only her growth as a teacher, ...

Leading Through Outreach and Relationships

Cheryl Suliteanu Teacher leadership is a mind-set rather than a title; a perception of endless possibilities with every new experience; the belief that within myself I have the ability to bring new ideas to life; the knowledge that relationships are everything. I chose to earn my National Board certification in English as a New Language because I was drawn to the community aspect of the standards, as I am drawn to Domain 6 of the Teacher Leader Model Standards, "Improving Outreach and Collaboration with Families and Community." A teacher leader recognizes the impact that families, cultures, and communities have on ...

A Teacher Leader Excels Beyond the Education Sphere

Lillie Marshall Our definition of teacher leadership is too narrow. Examining the "Seven Domains of Teacher Leadership," a domain is glaringly missing: the rest of the world. In my first five years teaching in a Boston Public School, I was no leader. Sure, I mentored a full-time student teacher, and I collaborated with my colleagues on projects that improved our school, but something about it felt limited. It wasn't until I took a leave of absence in 2009 that I realized: I didn't feel like a teacher leader because I wasn't a leader beyond the education sphere. During my leave ...

It's Time to Formalize Teacher Leadership Roles

Patrick Ledesma Sarah is a department chair in her high school. In that role, she collaborates closely with administration to implement decisions on school wide initiatives to support her content area. She assists with hiring and designing the master schedule. She mentors and supports other teachers for all curriculum and instructional issues, and most importantly, serves as the expert in her content area to inform administrators, who have never taught in her subject area. Janet is a special education department chair. In this capacity, she manages a department of 23 teachers and other staff providing services to over 200 students. ...

The Public Persona of Teacher Leaders

Jessica Cuthbertson My parents said it often: "Never do something today that you don't want to read in tomorrow's newspaper." Their warning foreshadowed how quickly the lines can blur between a private and public persona—even before Facebook, Twitter, and rampant blogging. Much of the work that goes on inside the walls of our classrooms is still invisible to those outside of the immediate learning community. But all teachers have public personas: We are recognized as teachers in coffee shops, grocery stores, and on walks with our dogs in the park. Community members ask us to speak for and as teachers,...

Creating 21st-Century Teachers for 21st-Century Students

Justin Minkel Kids pay more attention to what we do than what we say. That simple truth has profound implications for teaching 21st-century skills: If we want students to collaborate, innovate, and solve problems, we need to model these skills ourselves. During the best week of professional development I have experienced, my colleagues and I taught one another. On Monday, our school's math coach stopped by my classroom to look at student work together and plan next steps. The following day, she observed me teaching and gave me the constructive criticism I had invited. Later that week, I went down ...

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

  • Brad Clark

    Brad Clark

  • William Tolley

    William Tolley

  • Kristina Holzweiss

    Kristina Holzweiss

  • Laura Thomas

    Laura Thomas

  • Kathleen Melville

    Kathleen Melville

  • Cindi Rigsbee

    Cindi Rigsbee

  • Jackson Barnett

    Jackson Barnett

  • James Mann

    James Mann

  • Isabel Song

    Isabel Song

  • Garrett deGraffenreid

    Garrett deGraffenreid

  • Fatima Khan and Muniba Siddiqui

    Fatima Khan and Muniba Siddiqui

  • Amani Bey

    Amani Bey

  • Scarlett Gaddy

    Scarlett Gaddy

    Scarlett Gaddy is a high school social studies educator of 24 years in Tuscaloosa, Ala. She is a past recipient of the Williams College George Olms...

  • Val Brown

    Val Brown

    Val Brown is a 10-year educator who supports elementary school teachers as a teacher on assignment in Seminole County Public Schools in Florida. Sh...

  • Kim Ursetta

    Kim Ursetta

  • Carrie Bakken

    Carrie Bakken

  • Ayla Gavins

    Ayla Gavins

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