Teach to Lead Summit: Taking the Plunge

As teachers, we see things every day that we would love to fix. Broken policies, outdated curriculum, systems that are not working, usually put in place from the top down by people with little to no classroom experience. Teach to Lead flips that narrative completely, and focuses on a teacher-led mentality. Teachers are the ones in the classroom each day, living and breathing the educational system and if anyone’s going to fix it, it will be us!

I found Teach to Lead (TTL) through a Facebook post in November 2015. It was perfect timing, as I had just completed Parent Teacher conferences and the overwhelming feedback from families was that they wanted to know how to support their students at home and ensure kinder readiness. It was then I realized a need for training for our families. We had general trainings we did each year, typical to preschool (letter recognition, counting, etc.)  that were not meeting the needs of all of our families or building them up to feel confident in their role as their student’s first and best teacher. We needed something more!

With that, the Parent Empowerment Project was born. I filled out the TTL application with little to no expectations and was very surprised to get the congratulatory email saying that our team had been selected as one of 25 to travel to Baltimore and bring our idea to life. When we flew out, our team was small but mighty, containing myself and Brenda Thomas, a National Board Certified Special Education teacher and Early Childhood Support Specialist in our district but we were ready to hit the ground running!

Upon arrival in Baltimore, on a cold snowy evening, we met up with our Critical Friend. One of the best parts of TTL is that you don’t have to go it alone. They provide you with a mentor who is invested in your field. Our critical friend was Steven Hicks, a Senior Policy Advisor at the US Dept. of Ed. in the Early Childhood Dept. As a former teacher who lived and breathed preschool just like us, it was a perfect match. We spent our time with Mr. Hicks, talking out our idea. Personalized, engaging, relevant collaborations between teachers and families with the goal of increasing confidence in our parents, strengthening the home school connection, and ensuring school readiness for our learners. Piece of cake, right?

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Steven Hicks, Critical Friend and one of Early Childhood Education’s biggest advocates! So lucky to work with him!

On our first full day at TTL, we hit the ground running. As teachers,  we are working from the moment we walk into the classroom, often late at night from home. So finding time to combat issues in addition to what’s already required, can be difficult and near impossible. Having several hours set aside, specifically to brainstorm, organize and solidify our idea was amazing! The best part of this day however, came when one of the organizers stopped by and placed her hand on our backs and said “Secretary King will be here shortly.” Mr. Hicks quickly filled us in, that Secretary King was Secretary of Education John King, whom he works with in his role at the USDOE and we would be sharing the Parent Empowerment Project, in a 2-3 minute briefing when he joined us at our table. No pressure!

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Getting feedback about our idea from Secretary of Education John King!

Secretary King  could have easily smiled and nodded and moved on to the next table. Instead, he listened and then provided helpful feedback in relation to making our program useful for all of our families. I teach in a primarily Hispanic community and Sec. King suggested the use of bilingual materials, literacy, etc. as well as interpreters to support our ESL families. We shook hands and continued on with our day, working on our project, incorporating Sec. King’s input. Later on that day, we hopped on Twitter to share out pictures and discovered this very exciting tweet from Sec. King  speaking with us!

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That’s us!

We left TTL with a finished project, a complete logic model and game plan of how to get the Parent Empowerment Project-a set of parent trainings designed to be purposeful, engaging, and safe to work towards building their confidence in working with their students at home towards school readiness- off and running. Little did we know what the future held for our idea! More to come on that later…

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Thanks Teach to Lead for giving us the tools and time to make a plan!

Teach to Lead has been the catalyst for my jump as a preschool teacher in a small district in Arizona to a teacher leader, sharing my ideas, my visions for change in the education field. AZ ASCD and the Arizona K12 Center will be holding a Powered by Teach to Lead summit here in Arizona in June and if you are a teacher who has ever wanted to take the plunge into teacher leadership or just have a issue in your classroom, school, district, etc. that you think you may have an idea on how to fix, I encourage you to apply at this link: http://svy.mk/2khSran. You can do it. You can make a difference. You do know what’s best for your students and your profession and your voice and opinion matter! hope to see you there!

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