Martin Luther King Jr. said “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” This quote sums up my experience as a teacher leader. I have taken a series of steps, never quite sure where the next one will take me, but having faith that as long as I continue to move forward, these steps will make me a better educator, stronger teacher leader, and project my voice for my students, colleagues, and profession.
My teacher leadership staircase started with a gentle nudge in 2013 when I was nominated for the Rodel Exemplary Teacher award by my administrator, Dr. Williams. It was my second year in preschool and she believed in me, when I did not yet fully believe in myself. I went through an observation and interview before receiving word that I had received the award and would have the distinct opportunity to work with student teachers in my classroom through the program, sharing the knowledge and expertise I brought to the table. And just like that, I took the first step…
Being a part of the Rodel family shed light on the next few stairs of my teacher leadership staircase. I had the opportunity to take part in events like ECET2, Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teachers, a conference that seeks to lift teachers up, by celebrating the profession and then empowering teachers to find their passion and speak out. I first became a part of this event as an attendee and the following year came back as a presenter. Talk about inspiring! Hearing teachers present on their leadership journeys and what makes them stick with the profession was amazing!
After finding my passion, I took a few more steps, applying for Teach to Lead, where I was able to work on my own idea (with a team of course!) and come up with my own solution. This was one of the biggest steps of all, taking the leap from my own classroom, in my own community and branching out onto a national platform. Teachers from Alabama, Michigan, Florida all coming together to bring their ideas to life. I left feeling like I could do anything!
And so I tried… I applied for and received the Teacher Impact Grant, one of 17 in the country. I applied/interviewed for the Arizona Hope Street Group Fellowship and was one of 27 selected. I stood in front of 200 teachers at the Teacher Leadership Institute last month and shared my story. Where I once stood at the top of the staircase, and thought “what if?”, I have now begun to jog up the staircase, like the stadium drill we used to do in high school and think “what next?”
I encourage you to take the first step. Whether that be starting the National Board process (Arizona teachers, AZ K12 has a pre candidacy class starting soon!), applying for a Teach to Lead summit (there’s one coming up in Austin!) with your idea to solve a problem, or finding your own path, I challenge you to become a teacher leader. You are an expert and you hold valuable knowledge that can be used to better education! I can’t wait to see what the world looks like when all of America’s teachers start taking steps up their staircases, beginning their teacher leadership journeys! The sky is truly the limit.