Teacher Leadership—What is it?


A few weeks ago I had the great honor to sit at the table for a friend’s dissertation and learn more about teacher leadership and explore options for what that might look like in different schools. She talked about creating space and valuing teacher input and having leadership coaches. As I drove back to school that afternoon I began to think about what teacher leadership meant to me, to our school and our teachers. I wondered how teachers on my campus might define teacher leadership.

In 2007 Joellen Killion defined teacher leadership roles as: Resource Provider, Instructional Specialist, Curriculum Specialist, Classroom Supporter, Learning Facilitator, Mentor, School Leader, Data Coach, Catalyst for Change, and Learner. “Teacher leaders assume a wide range of roles to support school and student success. Whether these roles are assigned formally or shared informally, they build the entire school’s capacity to improve. Because teachers can lead in a variety of ways, many teachers can serve as leaders among their peers.”

The InTASC Model Core teaching standards define teacher leadership through Standard #10: The teacher seeks appropriate leadership roles and opportunities to take responsibility for student learning, to collaborate with learners, families, colleagues, other school professionals, and community members to ensure learner growth, and to advance the profession.

Next I explored what a leadership coach is. The Institute for Leadership Coaching talks specifically to business or executive coaching. They identify what coaching is not: Coaching is not mentoring and consulting. A coach is a trusted role model, advisor, wise person, steward – a person who works to tap new energy and purpose, to shape new visions and plans, and to generate desired results. A coach is someone trained and devoted to guiding others into increased competence, commitment and confidence.

So really teachers are already leadership coaches and they don’t even realize it. Imagine if we rebranded them as such. Would that change their disposition? Would they see themselves as the leaders they are?

I see teachers lead in their classrooms, on their campuses, through their role in the association and through their work with statewide and national organizations, but I also see teachers get stuck in the mindset that teacher leadership is a title or has a defined path. I wonder can teacher leadership be self identified as something different for every teacher? So if every teacher were a leadership coach what would that look like? Sometimes as an administrator, I feel like it is my job to create these roles or positions, but is it really up to me?


Jen Robinson

Jen Robinson

Maricopa, Arizona

Hello, my name is Jen Robinson. I have been in education for over 20 years. I began teaching in Buffalo, NY in 1992, as a pre-school special education teacher. My experience ranges from primary grades through high school. My husband and I moved to Arizona in 2001, where we were fortunate enough to teach at the same school. In 2004, I achieved National Board Certification and currently support candidates. In 2011 I completed my Ed.D. in Leadership and Innovation. My dissertation research focused on supporting National Board candidates through their certification process. During the 2012-2013 school year, I completed my National Board renewal process. It was humbling and very powerful to step back into a classroom. I am currently an elementary principal. I am excited and hopeful for the new school year. I also serve on the Arizona Teacher Solutions Team where we are solutions focused in an effort to transform and elevate the teaching profession.

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