What is it?

Teacher Leadership: What is it?  This question keeps traveling around in my circle of colleagues.  There seems to be a debate as to how teacher leaders are identified, recruited and used in education.  We know that teacher leaders are the backbone of every school; they are the ones that make things happen.  They keep the day-to-day operations running smoothly, make modifications as needed and create the atmosphere of success at each school.  These teachers are seldom charged with these tasks yet they rise to the occasion and take on leadership roles.  I often wonder how this happens, what forces are necessary for a teacher to step out of their classroom and decide that it is up to them to lead?  This naturally makes me question why more teachers don’t decide to step out and lead? As teachers, have we been conditioned to believe that we can only be teacher leaders if someone else anoints us or do we recognize within ourselves the power to lead?

I am spending this week with over 150 Teacher Leaders pursuing National Board Certification.  Many of them may have never viewed themselves as leaders until today.  Today marks the beginning of a long and evolving journey as teacher leaders.  Some of them may not know it yet, they might think that they are by just making the decision to become board certified but the truth is that for many teachers the certification process will be the catalyst they need to break out of the defined teacher roles and start viewing themselves as influential, credible and competent to lead.  I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to be part of this growth process for teachers.  I get to watch as they find their voices and discover what they are passionate about and help to create pathways for them to be successful.  I once believed that my purpose in this work was to support teachers in becoming better for students, I have since come to understand that my true purpose is to build teacher leaders.

I still can’t clearly define Teacher Leadership in a way that we can all agree upon because I know that this area of education is constantly being transformed.  The term itself implies action and we, as teachers are very creative in choosing how we decide to lead; we are in fact quite masterful at leading from the middle and not needing to look above or below to get things accomplished.  Maybe it is time to start acting as a collective teacher voice and work towards a common purpose.  We are very influential as individuals, imagine what we might be able to accomplish together.  We might even decide on a common definition for Teacher Leadership.


Julie Torres

Julie Torres

Tucson, Arizona

My name is Julie Torres. I wasn’t always sure that I wanted to be a teacher; somewhere along the way I realized that teaching had been knocking at my door for a long time. I became a teacher because it felt natural; I remain a teacher because my students inspire me.

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