I wasted the first five years of my teaching profession. Maybe I didn’t truly waste those years, but I spent a few moments wondering why a few faculty members seemed to take charge of meetings or make presentations on our professional development days. What I didn’t realize at the time is that some teachers emerge as leaders of their colleagues. Teacher leaders can fill many roles within in their schools – department or grade level chairpersons, data analysts, mentors, coaches, and professional development facilitators are a few examples of teacher leaders. What I find most appealing about teacher leaders is that they can be change agents within their schools. One example of a teacher leader is Daniela Robles, who I mentioned in an earlier post about the Mitchell 20 documentary. After her experience in certifying as a National Board educator, she encouraged her colleagues to begin the same process. As a result of Daniela’s leadership, teachers’ effectiveness increased, which led to increased student achievement.

I’m not sure if Daniela was asked by her administrator to lead others or if her experiences led her to lead others. Until I was asked to be a department chair and also to share what I had learned at a conference with my colleagues, I did not realize that I was “allowed” to be a leader at my school. In actuality, teachers can become leaders without waiting to be asked, as I did.  As the roles that teacher leaders can play in education continues to emerge, I hope that more teachers become aware of the different ways in which they can lead.

Learning Forward (previously known as the National Staff Development Council) included teacher leaders in their recommendation for the definition for professional development in section 9101 (34) of the proposed revision of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (most recently known as the No Child Left Behind Act.) In addition to working with the Congress to include teacher leaders in the task of improving student achievement, Learning Forward has recently collaborated with other members of the Teacher Leadership Exploratory Consortium , including the Center for Teaching Quality, to create a set of standards specifically addressing teacher leadership. The Teacher Leader Model Standards include seven domains. Each of the domains describes the work of teacher leaders and how their work helps to support student learning. I like the standards because any teacher desiring to expand his or her work experience can read the standards and see examples of teacher leaders in action. The standards provide a way for those who lead (or want to lead) to measure their own actions and to see examples of teacher leadership that are occurring around the country.

I hope that we see more acknowledgements of teacher leaders in future iterations of educational policies. Teacher leaders are an important component of every school’s plan for ensuring that all students learn. Who do you know at your school who could be an effective leader? I hope that you’ll steer them to the Teacher Leader Model Standards website, just in case they’re waiting to be asked to lead.

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