If you see “Arizona” and “Education” in a headline, expect bad news to follow. But not for long, given the rate that we are incubating, hatching, and nurturing teacher leaders.

In fact, as far as teacher leadership goes, Arizona is becoming a beacon unto the nation.

If you see “Arizona” and “Education” in a headline, expect bad news to follow. But not for long, given the rate that we are incubating, hatching, and nurturing teacher leaders through networks supported by the Arizona K12 Center, the National Education Association, The National Board of Professional Teaching Standards, the Rodel Foundation, the Gates Foundation, the Center for Teaching Quality, The US Department of Education, The AZ Department of Education, the Arizona Education Foundation, and the Arizona Education Association.

In fact, as far as teacher leadership goes, Arizona is becoming a beacon unto the nation.

Having doubts about that claim? Allow me to present my case.

Exhibit 1: Last weekend, over 100 teachers attended Arizona’s first convening of Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teaching and Teachers (ECET2). In addition to keynote speakers and panel discussions, participants attended breakout sessions in which they learned the tools by which a passion can become a message and how a network can be built to spread the message and make the passion reality. The convening was the dream of teachers Misha Quarles, Beth Maloney, Cheryl Redfield, Kristie Martorelli, and AZK12 Director of Teacher Leadership Taryl Hansen, who made it happen with a grant from the Gates Foundation.

About the convening, Misha says, “As I work more and more with teachers, I notice that most want to take on leadership roles; they just need help identifying possible roles that work for them. I think the other thing I am noticing is that there are many levels of Teacher Leadership, and they can lead from their classroom! ”

Kristie adds, “In Arizona we often struggle to make sure that education is the priority that it needs to be in order to move our communities successfully into the future. Our teachers have found that the best way to support public education is to speak up and tell their stories. We can no longer view ourselves as anything but teacher leaders. Our students deserve nothing less.”

Exhibit 2: Nearly 50 Arizona teachers, more than twice the number from any other state, participated in the first year of the Teacher Leader Initiative (TLI), a program created in partnership with the NBPTS, CTQ, and the NEA. The teachers completed five modules in Innovative Teacher Leadership, then chose a specialty area – Common Core, School Redesign, or Teacher Evaluation and completed five more modules. They are currently wrapping up individual capstone projects.

Over 30 Arizona teachers are on deck to participate in the second year of the program.

Exhibit 3: Last spring, six teachers coauthored The Teacher Leader Competencies, which describes the continuum for teacher leadership for the TLI. Two are from Arizona.

Exhibit 4: This year, in the Take Your Legislator to School Event, 67 Arizona teachers hosted Democratic and Republican lawmakers into their classrooms to see firsthand how policy impacts instruction. The event is made possible by the Rodel Foundation, the AZDOE, the AEA, the AEF, and the AZK12 Center.

Exhibit 5: A dozen Arizona teachers and support professionals blog for Arizona Stories from School: Practice Meets Policy, which the Washington Post named as one of the Top 10 Education Blogs. (See Jess Ledbetter’s account of Take your Legislator to School for a sample.)

Exhibit 6: Two Arizona teachers also blog for CTQ. (I invite you to read my SFS and CTQ posts.)

Exhibit 7: Arizona teachers facilitate ED Week… Every Week – a twitter chat about recent articles in Education Week. ED Week supports teacher leaders in Arizona by providing every National Board Certified Teacher and Arizona Master Teacher in the state with a free on-line subscription. Why don’t you join us on Wednesday, October 1, at 4:30 PM Pacific, #azk12chat? We’ll be discussing a piece about the toxic nature of the K-12 debate.

Exhibit 8: For the past ten years Arizona teachers have attended the Arizona K12 Center Teacher Leader Institute. Participants engage with nationally and internationally known leaders and authors around such topics as Teaching 2030, The Global Fourth Way and The Mindful TeacherIn June 2015 the topic will be Elevating the Teaching Profession – And you’re invited!

Exhibit 9: And while you’re checking these things out, please like the Arizona Teacher Leader Network’s Facebook page.

Exhibit 10: Since 2012, members of the Arizona TeacherSolutions team have facilitated the breakout sessions at the Institute. The team was formed in connection with the Center for Teaching Quality. Since then we have produced a special report, a video, and an article for GOOD about our vision for education in Arizona. Last year we held a “Virtual Road Tour” in which teachers from around the state were invited to teleconferences to discuss how teachers can lead the conversation and change related to problems in their districts.

Exhibit 11: This year the AZK12 Center offers evenings filled with lively and candid conversation in its Thought Leader Series. Guest authors like David Berliner and Audrey Amrein- Beardsley will be featured guests.

Exhibit 12: The Arizona K12 Center recently received a major Network to Transform Teaching (NT3) grant from the NBPTS and the USDOE to recruit and support National Board candidates. A particular goal of the Arizona cohort is to reach out to teachers in rural parts of the state.

Exhibit 13: When National Board CEO Ronald Thorpe wanted a director for the newly created Outreach and Engagement division, he hand selected Arizona principal and former teacher, Mike Lee.

By the way, The National Board always seems to have an Arizonan as a board member.

Exhibit 14: When the local media did a report on teacher attrition they turned to former state Teacher of the Year Kristie Martorelli for an interview.

Exhibit 15: When the NEA needed speakers for their Raise Your Hand Event in Colorado last summer, they included Arizonan Daniela Robles. Daniela, incidentally, was the force behind the movie Mitchell 20, which documents the story about the year the entire faculty at her former elementary school applied for National Board Certificates. 

Exhibit 16: Only two teachers from the entire southwest have served as teacherpreneurs for the Center for Teaching Quality (one in partnership with the AZK12 Center). They are both from Arizona. 

The case has been made. The verdict is beyond reasonable doubt: Arizona rocks teacher leadership.

And we will change the lament, “I love Arizona, but as a teacher…..”  into the praise, “I love Arizona because it’s the best place in the country to be a teacher!”

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