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Pathways to Teacher Leadership Discussion

We hope that this discussion will elicit various stories showing how you have exerted teacher leadership in the past, and perhaps how that has changed over time. Please introduce yourself and  share your story.


Joni Falk

We hope that this discussion will elicit various stories showing how you have exerted teacher leadership in the past, and perhaps how that has changed over time. Please introduce yourself and  share your story. What helped you find new opportunities? Which have been the most challenging or rewarding. Has your leadership been within your classroom, in your school, or district? Have you found opportunities to engage with research? With policy? Look forward to hearing from many of you. 

Tue, 03/05/2019 - 14:15 Permalink


I am a 2nd grade teacher in Lincoln, Nebraska. Currently, I am finishing up my Master's work on curriculum and instruction. I am very interested in equity in education, as well as the effects of trauma on students. 

My teacher leadership experiences began when I started taking university courses to become a K-3 Math Specialist. I was given the opportunity to be a leader for my 2nd grade team in regards to math and also to share my learning with my colleagues at faculty meetings. I expanded my teacher leadership skills when I was a teacher leader for a state-wide program called UNL TEAMS. 

My favorite part of being a teacher leader is seeing teachers understand new concepts and find things that they can take back to their students. I enjoy seeing teachers feel empowered. One of the more challenging aspects is feeling constrained in efforts due to district, state, or federally-mandated protocols. 

Wed, 03/20/2019 - 17:40 Permalink

I typically do not have a path when it comes to my profession. I wander from interesting opportunity to interesting opportunity. Sometimes they work out, while other times they do not. I started in leadership by taking on department head in my high school at about the same time I was accepted into the Maine Governor's Academy on Mathematics and Science Leadership. From there, I applied to and was accepted by the Hope Street Group National Teacher Fellowship program in 2013. That leapfrogged me into leadership in my district, as it led me to start work that I am still doing on teacher evaluation. Those opportunities have opened many doors for me, including the Einstein Fellowship in 2016-17.
Mon, 03/25/2019 - 10:10 Permalink

In 2013, district leaders from the Guam Department of Education (GDOE) convened to plan the possibility of implementing standards-based grading (SBG). The plan involved first training and educating teachers in the tenets of SBG during the 2014-2015 school year (SY), then piloting SBG in certain elementary and middle schools during the 2015-2016 SY, with the hope of full implementation in all schools in the district by the 2018-2019 SY. District leaders reached out to administrators to nominate teachers that could train other teachers in SBG. My administrator nominated me and I was ultimately chosen to be the SBG trainer for mathematics at the middle school level. Chosen teacher trainers would have SBG piloted at their respective school sites. I was excited at the prospect of being able to work closely with other middle school math teachers to help make an educational impact in the district.

The summer before the pilot year, other SBG teacher trainers and I were trained in a summer-long session that required us to become fairly familiar with the main principles of SBG. It was virtually impossible to cover all the topics of SBG in the course of one summer, but we were able to be informed of its main tenets that we would discuss with other teachers the following school year, with other follow-up trainings included. We were informed on how to effectively break down the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), how to establish clear yet concise proficiency scales, and how to develop robust and meaningful formative and summative assessments. The training was indeed rigorous, but I came out of it with a newfound philosophy in my grading system and overall approach to student learning.

Although my focus was mainly mathematics, it was during that summer training program where I was also able to work closely and collaborate with the science teacher trainer in numerous occasions to plan for STEM activities that may be incorporated into certain lessons in which SBG may be applied. Together, my science counterpart and I were able to develop activities that synthesized both content and process standards from both CCSS and the Next Generation Science Standards. Notably, it was also helpful that my science counterpart also taught Robotics which helped provide insight in integrating technology and engineering content into the lessons we were creating. By the end of the summer, we both felt properly equipped with the necessary tools to help train other middle school science and math teachers in not only SBG, but also in implementing STEM activities in their classroom.

Personally, my philosophy is that effective leadership begins with the willingness to continue learning and is exuded by being able to serve others. This philosophy has been manifested in my style of educational leadership, which I believe was exhibited during my summer training sessions and during the teacher training year of SBG in Guam’s school district. I trained and met regularly with STEM teachers at my middle school, sharing with them the essential principles of SBG and how it can be incorporated in their classrooms. In addition to being more of a source of support, I was also able to share STEM activities with them and how it these were connected with SBG. Because of this positive rapport with my fellow teachers coupled together with being able to communicate the district’s vision and purpose, they were all willing to implement SBG and the STEM activities in their classroom.

Tue, 03/12/2019 - 00:16 Permalink

I couldn't agree with this article more. Over the last several years, I have worked to integrate as much of the subjects I taught into engaging, high-quality lessons that centered around literacy and mathematics. I would start with the story my class would read for a unit and align science and social studies standards that would help build background knowledge. Then, I would establish different STEM challenges that would make my students become part of the story we were reading, regardless of it being fictional or non-fictional. This would always be followed up with the students writing about how their solution to the challenge would change the events in the text. I had so much success with my students regardless of their ability level because they became the full drive behind their learning. They were so eager to learn, read, and apply what they knew to solve each challenge and talk about the content they were mastering. It set a whole new precedent for the culture of learning in my classroom. 

Tue, 03/12/2019 - 08:48 Permalink

I have been a generalist teacher for 15 years at the elementary level. I enjoying finding ways to integrate all subject areas. I want children to see that everything they learn can be interwoven and connected to other subjects and especially to their own real lives. I see the children come in each year, different than the year before. They need variety, new and exciting ways to learn. Ensuring my own children get the education they need and deserve is what drives me to push myself and others to learn and do more in the world of education.

The biggest change I made as an educator was flipping my classroom after writing a grant with 3 colleagues to receive 1:1 devices for our classrooms. I completed the equivalent to another master's degree in online courses and trainings to learn how to properly implement a flipped and blended learning approach to teaching. The 4 of us were the first in our district to teach in this way and became model classrooms for others in our district. We hosted "Tech Tuesday's" and continue to lead yearly technology staff development.

After numerous presentations about my successes in the classroom, I began to receive nominations for various committees from leaders at the school and district levels. I have been able to assist in writing state assessments, participate in data review committees at the state level and assisted in writing the new mathematics standards for the state of North Carolina. I have assisted in rolling out the new standards in our district and help write local formative assessments and instructional guides to assist with the implementation of the new standards. 

This past summer I was named the 2016 recipient of PAEMST in the area of mathematics. I am excited about the opportunities and networking that has become available since receiving this award. Most recently, I was asked to serve as an advisor for our district's House of Representative's Educational Committee. Through this committee, I will be able to provide insight, from the classroom teacher's perspective, on pieces of legislation dealing with education. I will continue to look for ways to improve education, not just for my own children, but for all.

Tue, 03/12/2019 - 23:04 Permalink

Hello! My name is Courtney. I am a mathematics Master Teacher in Detroit currently teaching 3rd grade math and science. I also represent my district as the 2018- 2019 MDE Region 10 Teacher of the year and Michigan Teacher Leadership Advisory Council member. When our new superintendent joined our district, he sent out a call for Master Teachers. This new position consisted of teaching half of the day and mentoring colleagues the other half. The job description sparked my interest and has been the start of leadership for me within my building as well as within the district. While balancing the role of teacher and coach has been challenging at times, I am truly enjoying the leadership opportunities that I am being afforded. In just under a year, i have grown as a leader by serving on curriculum selection committees, writing curriculum guides, traveling to various conferences, mentoring colleagues and providing professional development. 


Tue, 03/19/2019 - 10:04 Permalink
Rachel Levy

Mathematical Modeling is a way for students to connect mathematics to the world around them. Have any of you learned the practice of mathematical modeling in your teacher education programs? If so, I would like to hear about your experience, and whether what you learned resonates with the ideas in the GAIMME report (Guidelines for Assessment and Instruction in Mathematical Modeling Education). You can download it for free here
Tue, 03/19/2019 - 11:54 Permalink
chris ohana

My path to leadership in science ed is probably a fairly common one. I attended a PD workshop and then joined California Science Implementation Network. I also worked with the Lawrence Hall of Science in a grant with FOSS. I became a leader in my district, then the state. I decided to pursue a doctorate and then became a professor of science education. The opportunities for professional development are key to growth in leadership.

Tue, 03/19/2019 - 13:26 Permalink

I am currently working as a postdoctoral researcher at Virginia Tech in the departments of Computer Science and Engineering Education. In the fall, I will begin my first faculty position in which I will be working with undergraduate liberal studies majors who want to become teachers. 

I wanted to share one of the most impactful experiences as a curriculum leader when I was teaching middle school math in Los Angeles in a Title 1 school. Our school had been placed on program improvement due to low standardized test scores in math. The administration was attempting a number of strategies to raise students' scores, most of which the teachers grumbled about. As one of the grade-level curriculum leaders, I participated in an activity that I have always remembered, so I wanted to share this in hopes that it can happen more often and on a regular basis in schools. Each of us represented a particular math course or grade-level curriculum. We spent time creating a large board representing all of the standards and key concepts that we covered throughout the year. We indicated which of these students typically struggled with most or concepts that students generally had an easier time mastering. Then, we walked around the room so that we could see all of the other grade-level/course boards. This really helped each teacher view their own content in context, juxtaposed alongside where students were coming from and where they were going. Then, teachers had the opportunity to discuss and collaborate on how perhaps they could decrease time spent on certain topics in order to increase time spent on other topics in which students tended to struggle. They also exchanged pedagogical strategies. It was collaboration at its best. 

Tue, 03/19/2019 - 13:34 Permalink
Matt McLeod

Hi. I am an educator at heart and have always loved finding new ways to help others come to that Aha! moment, especially in mathematics where so many people say they aren't good. While some have decided that they don't like mathematics, I am a firm believer that everyone can be good at it. Early in my teaching career, I believed it was my job to impart knowledge on the young minds in my classroom. I had it, they needed it, so I was supposed to give it to them. The irony was that when I was a young student, you couldn't tell me what to do or how to do it, so why did I believe I was going to do that with them? I came to understand the idea of constructing learning and that my role as the teacher was to provide the experiences that would lead to that. I call it getting out of the way. As my career progressed, i learned to also apply this to adult learners and have tried to adapt this mantra to any PD that I develop or facilitate. What I have learned about this is that students (adults and children) don't learn how to do a single problem, but they learn how to think about problems and they are consequently more willing to approach a new problem despite the fact that I "didn't show [us] how to do it."

Tue, 03/19/2019 - 14:09 Permalink

My journey to leadership started with excellence in the classroom.  Even as a novice teacher, I generated buzz in first my building, then our district by doing innovative, research-based learning with my students.  As a result, opportunities began to appear to contribute to a community outside of my classroom.  First, I was asked to be a department chair and serve on district committees.  Soon, outside opportunities to serve on statewide and national teams began to appear.  With my PAEMST recognition, I soon had more options and was able to select what I was most passionate about--integrated STEM and Problem Based Learning.

With time and hard work, I have been able to create a pathway to be a leader while still daily working with my students.  This is not the "typical" leadership pathway, but it fills my life with creative opportunities to learn and a sense of fulfillment to work with my students.  I can't wait to learn more within this community!


Wed, 03/20/2019 - 12:33 Permalink


My name is Vicki Willett and I am so excited to be on here.  I am a first-grade teacher in a small district outside of Columbus Ohio.  I am originally from Florida but moved to Ohio a long time ago.  I love it here.  

I have found that with STEM, I can engage my students to want to read.  I can't begin to talk about the difference this addition to my teaching has made.

I didn't start out loving any of it.  As a child, I didn't just dislike math and science, I detested it.  It scared me to death.  My own children, however, loved it and watching a high school teacher explain how and why he teaches the way he does transformed my thinking.

I love teaching science, math, technology and computer science. 

I was acknowledged for my teaching in 2018 and awarded the PAEMST award for Science from the state of Ohio.  I am one of the faces on the homepage.  I was the unlikely awardee, but ever so grateful.

Wed, 03/20/2019 - 19:52 Permalink

My experiences in leadership began when I applied for the Primarily Math program through UNL not really knowing what to expect, but knowing that I needed to be a better math teacher.  Primarily Math did so much for me; as a teacher, a learner, and as a leader.  It changed my teaching, not just in math, but in all areas, and inspired me to share that knowledge with others.  I teach in Northwest Nebraska and believe that all teachers need the opportunity to experience Primarily Math or the equivalent to it.  So when UNL offered the first course in Western Nebraska I was excited to be offered a position as a co-instructor.  I found that I really loved working with teachers! Later, I was a co-instructor for a state-wide professional development project, UNL TEAMS (Teaching to Enhance Achievement in Math and Science). I was not looking for leadership opportunities, and never really considered myself a leader.  Without Primarily Math I would have never had these experiences and met amazing teachers from across the state. While I love working with my 5th grade students, I feel that I can have a larger impact by educating teachers on best practices.  Eventually, I would love to move into a position where I can do just that. 

Sat, 03/23/2019 - 15:39 Permalink

My name is Sandy Bradshaw.  I am in my thirty-sixth year of education.  I am currently the STEAM Teacher Leader at Midway Elementary School in Anderson, South Carolina and a Project Lead the Way LAUNCH Master Teacher.  

I became a STEAM Teacher Leader about ten years ago, but the preparations for that position began long before that time.  I taught fourth grade for many years, was a teacher of the gifted, and then served as our school’s Science Specialist.  Problem-based learning coupled with Science and other content standards  became the focus of my instruction.  A transition of my school to a STEM school and an opportunity to pilot the Project Lead the Way Elementary LAUNCH curriculum propelled my career and my work as a teacher leader into places that I could have never imagined.

I continue to work with students, coach teachers in my own school, and train others in my state and across the nation.  It is so rewarding to be an integral part of STEAM education and its impact on others.

My recognition as Project Lead the Way’s LAUNCH National Teacher of the Year and being a PAEMST awardee continue to open more doors that allow me to share my passion for STEM/STEAM education.  I look forward each and everyday to seeing “what’s next!”


Sun, 03/24/2019 - 14:25 Permalink
Terrie Rust

When I was first hired to teach a combined technology/careers course, I was excited at the challenges that were before me.  I attended as many workshops and conferences as I could, read everything I could get my hands on to learn as much as I could, and brought my excitement to my students each day.  Over the ensuing years, the greatest thing that helped develop my leadership within my school, my district STEM cohort, my state STEM education organizations, and beyond, was joining professional organizations.  I became active in the Arizona organization of the Association of Career and Technical Education (ACTEaz) and the International Technology and Engineering Educators Association.  I presented at conferences, held appointed and elected offices, and published on STEM topics.  These provided substantiation when I applied for the Einstein Fellowship and served as a Fellow at NSF.  After my fellowship, these leadership components were recognized internationally and allowed me to provide leadership on a global basis.  If I could recommend one thing for new teachers, it would be for them to get active in their state and national STEM organizations.  

Mon, 03/25/2019 - 10:36 Permalink

Hello everyone! As a professional educator for 26+ years, I started my career in formal K-12 education, and quite honestly, thought that was "real" education (I apologize in advance to those of you who already had a wider perspective!). After spending two years in Washington, DC as an Einstein Fellow, and immersing myself in NASA's robust informal education endeavors, and in my current position as the Director of Education at Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum in Denver, CO, I find myself, in the second half of my education career, looking at the ways formal and informal education blend together--and how the strengths and limitations of each can be leveraged to improve the overall education environment. There are many ways that both formal and informal educational landscapes can learn from one another--and more importantly, work together. However, this is not an easy task.

I look forward to using this site as a great resource and welcome any discussions aligned with this topic.

Thanks everyone!


Mon, 03/25/2019 - 10:55 Permalink

I taught in a small rural school, and there were not many formal opportunities for teacher leadership (much less STEM teacher leadership). I had to seek out opportunities on my own at the state and national level. The school and district opportunities that did exist (e.g. math coaches) were grant funded and the district did not continue them after funding expired. I'm curious about ways that other teachers have worked with their administrations to set up a sustainable teacher leader program. 

Mon, 03/25/2019 - 11:16 Permalink
Steven Long

I decided about 15 years into my 41-year career to invest in myself: to seek out and obtain the professional development that I knew I needed and that I enjoyed. Too often, educators rely on school systems to supply all of their PD - which may, or may not, fit their personal goals and needs. I began by participating in a two-week summer chemical instrumentation workshop (through the Institute for Chemical Education). The knowledge and hands-on experience I gained along with the wonderful colleagues I made improved my teaching my students' learning. Thus began a series of annual summer travels, trainings, learning, and improvements as I personally invested time and money into my career. As my experiences and circle of colleagues grew, my "credibility" in my school and district increased, and opportunities for leadership blossomed within the school, district, state, and nation.  For the next 25 years, I was fortunate to continue to build my skills and knowledge while I worked on numerous projects or served in leadership positions with NSTA, the American Chemical Society, the Arkansas Science Teachers Association, the National Academies, and so many more.  So, if you want to have a larger sphere of influence than you classroom (and that it the most important place), then invest in yourself, build credibility, gain knowledge and skills, cultivate colleagues and professional relationships.  Be proactive in seeking the professional development you need and value so that you, too, can become the teacher/leader that you can be!

Sat, 03/30/2019 - 15:06 Permalink