When Teacherprep Creates Teacher Leaders

I want to introduce you to my newly minted colleague Taylor Dayton. Dayton was in my Seminar on Educational Issues, Ethics, & Policy course in the fall of 2014. In my classes we grapple with some pretty heavy issues but the main focus of the course is to help these future teachers to discover who they are and how they will “be” teachers. I challenge them to start an inquiry in the real world that will help them build skills and introduce them to the idea of teachers as leaders in their schools and community.

I want to introduce you to my newly minted colleague Taylor Dayton. Dayton was in my Seminar on Educational Issues, Ethics, & Policy course in the fall of 2014. In my classes we grapple with some pretty heavy issues, but the main focus of the course is to help these future teachers discover who they are and how they will “be” teachers. I challenge them to start an inquiry in the real world that will help them build skills and introduce them to the idea of teachers as leaders in their schools and community.

It was in this same course 20 years ago that I accepted my calling as a teacher leader. I hope to create a similar opportunity for my students. In the course my students, along with peers at Mt. Holyoke and Wheaton, talk through digital video with teacher leaders like Jose Vilson, David Cohen NBCT, Dan Brown NBCT, and Renee Moore NBCT, to name a few. Dayton was a leader in discussions who consistently called on her peers to explore reasonable discourse and to put students first. She wasn’t the most vocal or particularly adamant about her views, but she seemed to understand that teaching is not about her, it is about her students.

When Ms. Dayton got a job right out of college I was not surprised. I knew she had all the skills she needed to be a great teacher in our city school system.

I saw her in September at the RVA Makerfest, and she told me she would likely be transferred out of her new school to another school that needed a smaller student-teacher ratio, a process called leveling. She was upset but trying to maintain her positive attitude. Then I learned that the parents of the school were especially upset that this was being done six weeks into the year. They had a meeting at the school and planned to advocate to the school board. The local news showed up and asked some questions. The reporter, Mark Holmberg, consistently covers the counter-narrative in our city. He asked Ms. Dayton to show him her classroom and asked her some questions. As I watched this video, I was floored by the leadership she demonstrated. At about the 2:05 mark on the video, Taylor talks about the effects of this decision on her students. She is obviously upset, but as she pushes through it, she comes off as a passionate professional committed to her students’ well being. Her dissent does not attack the school division. It doesn’t attack the policy. It doesn’t point fingers. She tells the small but powerful story of her students. Her dissent is leadership. I was so proud of her at that moment.

Later when I mentioned that going on camera might not have been the best move for her career, her reply was powerful and inspiring. She said, “I figured it might not be the best career move, but I didn’t become a teacher so I could further my own successes. Plus, I’m not one to allow myself and those around me to be mistreated.”

Check out the full video here.

Taylor Dayton is why I am inspired for our future. She will not be like the teacher at Spring Valley High who watched his student dragged across the floor by a cop for refusing to stand up. The next generation of teacher leaders will speak their minds by speaking up about what is really important, their students.

Image: Portraits of Ms. Dayton by her students.

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