The Versatility of Emerging Teacher Leader Program Graduates

Dr. Felicia Bolden
Dr. Felicia Bolden
Elementary school principal; Ed.D. in Teacher Leadership
A hand points at a graphic that say “leader” alongside other words: “qualified, committed, creative, structure, experienced, versatile.”

Teacher leadership is a critical factor to improving the educational system. Heroic leadership solely by school principals is no longer the most effective way to lead schools (Bellibas, Gumus, & Kilinc, 2020). According to Katzenmyer and Moller (2001), the influence of teacher leaders positively impacts educational practices.

Teacher leaders are imperative to meeting the needs of students, and school districts can no longer use the top-down approach of leadership and expect schools to be successful: “American students, at every stage of their educational journey, from kindergarten through post-graduate school, need teachers who will lead rather than manage them,” (Stein, 2020).

Teachers have direct knowledge and access to students daily and should naturally be involved in leadership to make the best decisions for students and school communities to ensure academic success. Emerging teacher leader program graduates are the epitome of building solid organizations in schools.

What is a Teacher Leader Graduate Program?

Teacher leader graduate programs prepare educators to make decisions to support students and their colleagues through practitioner inquiry or action-based approaches by learning teacher leader model standard. Components of a teacher leader program can include courses about:

  • Data analysis
  • Collaboration
  • Building trusting relationships
  • Understanding culture and diversity
  • Instructional coaching
  • Mentoring

Teacher leader program courses can also help educators lead through the 21st century with a laser focus on the appropriate use of technology in education. The programs typically require 30-33 credit hours to complete and are centered around ensuring teachers are agents of change. They can contribute to educational organizations focusing on social justice and equity for all students.

Educators who complete teacher leader graduate programs are better equipped to address and respond to social and cultural transformations of education. Teachers must have the capacity to effectively lead through the challenges and problems that can arise daily using solutions-oriented approaches.

What Skills Gained in a Teacher Leader Program?

There are a plethora of skills to gain in teacher leader programs that would benefit school systems. Some courses help teacher leaders become culturally competent and take the initiative when there are problem-based issues in schools. A practical approach to solving problems includes using basic research skills and data analysis steps related to teaching and learning.

Data analysis courses help teacher-leaders use quantitative and qualitative data to adjust instruction, contribute to the culture and climate of schools, and assist with finding best practices to support colleagues and students during decision-making processes. The data can also be used to support student learning, especially with an emphasis on differentiation to reach Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3 students. Teacher leaders are better able to lead professional learning communities, model best teaching practices, and assist with leading change within an organization.

Most importantly, teacher leader programs must also include strategies for teachers to learn how to develop rapport, gain trust, diagnose conditions, and build skills and confidence within their peers (Searby & Shaddix, 2008). Teachers’ soft skills gained from teacher-leader programs are the foundation to continuously supporting educators while improving schools.

In What Ways are Teacher Leader Programs Graduates Versatile?

Teacher leader programs produce graduates who move into other roles:

  • Committee leaders
  • Instructional coaches
  • Specialists
  • Mentors
  • Administration
  • District leaders

However, this isn’t always the case, as many teacher leaders have the initial desire to remain in the classroom to improve outcomes for all students.

Teacher leaders use their skill sets to focus on diversity within school systems, which helps them be an advocate for all students and staff. Teacher leaders are visionary, have strong integrity, and can work in various settings. Also, many teacher leaders may become active in their community as agents of social change. Opportunities are endless for graduates of teacher leader programs.

How to Thrive as a Teacher Leader

Teacher leaders become the voice of peers who may not have the desire or skill set to speak up when change is needed. Therefore, the communication skills of teacher leaders must be impeccable. Participating in public meetings, speaking in forums, and presenting in conferences will help teacher leaders find their voice and contribute to the field of education. Teacher leaders must also use their talents to support the betterment of education for students and colleagues without getting into personal struggles or barriers because of one’s own beliefs.

Using data to drive decision-making ensures that teacher leaders can balance their thoughts, self-efficacy, and policies of the organization without comprising the importance of focusing on student achievement. They must also use compassion and trust when working with others to ensure their focus stays on the transformational change regarding teaching and learning. Understanding the nuances of leadership and human connection can help teacher leaders thrive for the greater good of educating all students.

Promoting teacher leadership is a paradigm shift, and school districts need to ensure effective systems are in place to empower teacher leaders.

Teacher education curriculums of our colleges and universities most often include leadership instruction at the graduate level—implying that leadership is reserved primarily for institutional, organizational leaders. This mindset needs to change if we intend to improve our nation’s educational system and make it more competitive globally (Stein, 2020).

School districts and universities must work together to promote teacher leader graduate programs that produce candidates who are diverse, problem-solvers, compassionate, and critical thinkers. Strengthening teacher leader graduate programs will benefit the educational system, ultimately supporting student success. Educational leaders need to continuously support teacher leaders to ensure a strong leadership foundation for our future.

Explore our available teacher leader graduate programs and enroll today!

Bellibas, M., Gumus, S. & Kilinc, A. (2020). Principals supporting teacher leadership: the effects of learning-centred leadership on teacher leadership practices with the mediating role of teacher agency.

Katzenmyer, M. & Moller, G. (2001). Awakening the sleeping giant-Helping teachers develop as leaders. Corwin Press.  Searby, L. & Shaddix, L. (2008). Growing teacher leaders in a culture of excellence. Academic  Journal, 32(1), 35-43.

Stein, L. (2020). Teacher leadership: The missing factor in America’s classrooms.

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