Educational inspiration can come from many situations, experiences and people. Join one education expert who finds inspiration and obtains knowledge from an eclectic, nationwide group of educators from the Teacher Leaders Network who are committed to improving preparation for future educators.

This past weekend I had the pleasure of working closely with 19 extraordinary teachers from throughout the United States – a sample of delegates drawn from the hundreds of accomplished educators who participate in the many initiatives of our Teacher Leaders Network.

We worked hard and played hard as we gathered for a three-day retreat at CTQ headquarters in Hillsborough, North Carolina. We dug deeply into what it means to transform teaching into a 21st century profession fully prepared to help every student succeed in the decades to come, both in brick-and-mortar schools and in cyberspace.

I learned so much from Tom Bremer (Illinois), Isabel Campos-Woytek (Colorado), Ben Crosby (California), Julianna Dauble (Washington), Nina Davis (North Carolina), Susan Graham (Virginia), Sarah Henchey (North Carolina), John M. Holland (Virginia), Marguerite Izzo (New York), Kris Kohl (Nevada), Patrick Ledesma (Virginia), Lori Nazareno (Colorado), Ernie Rambo (Nevada), Marsha Ratzel (Kansas), Cindi Rigsbee (North Carolina), Zach Rupp (Colorado), Ariel Sacks (New York City), Bob Williams (Alaska), and Heather Wolpert-Gawron (California). (We really missed Renee Moore from Mississippi who could not attend at the last minute.)

Teachers in this amazing group fully represent the diversity of America’s teaching force – teaching a variety of subjects and fulfilling many leadership roles in urban, suburban and rural schools at every level of the PK-12 spectrum. They are involved in our Teacher Leaders Network Forum; our emerging network of state and national teachers of the year (thanks to CCSSO); our book-writing team which has been designing a powerful pathway toward Teaching 2030;  our TeacherSolutions group studying the kinds of conditions teachers need in order to teach effectively in high needs schools. Five of them are part of our New Millennium Initiatives in four states. Several are Teach for America alums, or other first- and second-career teachers who entered the profession through alternative certifications. Others graduated from traditional schools of education.

They are all committed to improving preparation before anyone teaches anyone’s child. They have strategies for identifying and spreading the expertise of effective teachers. They can show you how to assess students for 21st century knowledge and skills. They came up with big and break-through policy proposals for how to do so. They have passion and knowledge as well as pedagogical expertise that rarely exists inside the D.C. Beltway, where most education policy gets debated and crafted. They transcend traditional union and administrator policy positions as well as those of left-wing and right-wing think tanks. If policymakers want to know how to get to “and/both” teaching and education policy — and leave “either/or” approaches in the dust — ask these teacher leaders.

Thanks to several foundations supporting projects these energized educators are engaged in — including Ford, Bill & Melinda Gates, Joyce, MetLife, Rose and Stuart — you will hear more from these extraordinary teachers in resounding and systematic ways. Since fleeing the classroom in 1981 to work on the transformation of teaching into the profession students deserve, I have never been any more inspired than I am by our work this past weekend. I have never been so hopeful for the possibilities that lie ahead. Stay tuned.

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