By Dorina Sackman
Florida’s 2014 Teacher of the Year
When I was named one of four finalists for the 2014 National Teacher of the Year, many at the Florida Department of Education could tell you that the entire building heard my screams of joy upon hearing the news. After I got the call from Commissioner Pam Stewart, I remember instinctively screaming in my New York accent, “We did it! We did it! Oh my Gawd, Florida teachughs! We are on the MAP!”
I immediately called the department’s Teacher of the Year program coordinator and exclaimed, “We did it!” Her calm, but confident response shocked me. “YOU did it because you always think of our teachers first. That’s a leader!” A Leader? Me? But I’m “just” a teacher…
And there was my moment of Zen.
“Just.” A word all teachers must remove from their vocabulary when describing who we are (and you know you’ve said it). We are not “just” teachers, we are educators! We must use our expertise, hands-on experiences in the classroom and voice to elevate our profession.
Just look online at any educational organization’s upcoming conference and you’ll see at least one session featuring teacher leadership. From national to state to local conferences, attendees are learning about these new “buzz words” focusing on teacher leadership.
But what does it all mean?
Well, that’s where you come in. The definition is subject to one’s own interpretation, and so I ask you, what does teacher leadership look like? What does it mean to you? Is teacher leadership something of interest to you? At present, what are your options at your school and/or district to help you remain in the classroom, but also be a teacher leader? Why do you think there is such an increased awareness of the need for teacher leaders?
Too often, teachers have nowhere to go in their profession as far as advancement. Many of us are thirsty to do more for student success, but have no desire to go into administration. Yet, it is the traditional ladder we must climb: teacher to dean to assistant principal to principal and so on. If your goal is administration, there still needs to be a shift from the outdated ladder of growth to a more modern lattice.
A lattice, as mathematics teachers know, is a multi-dimensional structure that extends infinitely in any direction. For gardeners, a lattice is a structure that provides growth in many different directions; exactly what we need in education; more choices to get involved, share ideas, innovate (not Marzano’s innovate, your innovate) and research.
I see us all as the roses blooming on that lattice, spreading beauty via our strength in numbers and our healthy desire for growth. Together we can lead and grow, so our students can do the same.