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Teacher Leaders Build Better Schools for Youth

Recently, a team of educators from the Greendale School District including teachers, the curriculum director, a building principal and I led a presentation on teacher leadership at a Learn and Serve Grant Program sponsored by Teri Dary of the Wisconsin Department of Public Education in Madison, Wisconsin.

Underlying this work is the core belief that leadership is a learned skill. Understanding the change process and the importance of school culture and climate will give teacher leaders necessary tools, dispositions and knowledge to implement a desired strategy or initiative. We believe that the changing needs of youth require dynamic leadership at the school level. Increasingly, schools rely on teachers to assume a variety of formal and informal leadership roles, including team leader, department chair, peer coach, faculty representative or association leader, curriculum facilitator, mentor, and youth engagement leader.

During the presentation, made to Wisconsin teachers from across the state, we outlined the characteristics of a teacher leader and what constitutes effective teacher leadership. Included was an overview of a formal leadership model that encompasses seven broad areas:
  • Understanding and influencing school culture and climate
  • Building and maintaining a successful team
  • Equipping and supporting other potential leaders in the school
  • Utilizing and learning a proven leadership model that works in schools
  • Identifying your leadership knowledge, disposition and skill level
  • Understanding what the change process is, what it feels like and how to reach the desired goal
  • Enhancing or improving student achievement and engagement of youth
We were able to provide clear strategies grounded in the work of the Greendale Schools – a high performing suburban Milwaukee County school district.

Through our efforts to focus teacher professional development on enhancing leadership skills, managing the change process and understanding a school’s organizational culture and climate, we are empowering strong teacher leaders.

Our experience indicates that the development of teacher leaders committed to student achievement and youth engagement improves student learning and helps to foster a connection to the school community.

The Teacher Leader presentation provided the first stage of leadership development to educators who want to assume new leadership in their schools. It is our belief that a core group of people can be encouraged to develop teams focused on school initiatives with a minimum of outside help and expense. We also believe that the necessary expertise for engaging students and improving learning lies within our schools.

To view the presentation, please click here.

Bill Hughes

About the author: Dr. William Hughes has worked in education for  31 years as a teacher, principal, superintendent of schools. He has served as Superintendent of the Greendale School District in Greendale, Wisconsin for the past 14 years. Greendale is a garden community and one of three greenbelt communities in the United States. It is a suburban district of about 2,600 students located in the Milwaukee metro area; an area known for high achieving schools.  Greendale is known for its high level of student achievement with over 90 percent of graduates attending higher education institutions, ongoing community engagement on multiple levels, along with collaborative relationships with bargaining groups while retaining a focus on children, service, citizenship and learning. He is a former board member of the Milwaukee Area Technical College, a member of the National School Climate Council, board member of the National Center for Learning and Citizenship and adjunct professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.   

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