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Why We Need Teacher Leaders in K-12 Education Now More Than Ever

Student education involves more than just classroom teachers. Teacher leaders are critical in school, staff, and student success. The National Education Association (NEA) notes that teacher leadership “is at the heart of transformation in any school. Teachers create the norms of practice, character of communication, and sense of values that form the culture of a school. Empowerment for teacher leadership is not an act of assigning roles or conferring authority, but is rather a state of mind — teacher leaders embrace greater responsibility for the culture and work of their school and profession.”

Teacher leaders are in high demand for responsibilities like advocating for student needs, serving as mentors or coaches, designing curricula, conducting research, and more. This article discusses why teacher leaders are more important in K-12 education than ever before and how the Emporia State University (ESU) online Master of Science in Curriculum & Instruction – Instructional Coach Teacher Leader PreK-12 program prepares students to become effective teacher leaders.

What Is a Teacher Leader?

A teacher leader is an educator who goes beyond the traditional role of classroom instruction to influence and improve educational practices at various levels. According to the NEA, teacher leaders enhance student learning outcomes by contributing to their schools, districts, and the broader educational field. They are involved in curriculum design, professional development, mentoring, and advocating for academic policies. The role of a teacher leader can evolve throughout their career, adapting to the changing needs of the education system.

What Makes a Good Teacher Leader?

Influential teacher leaders possess unique skills and attributes that enable them to drive positive change within their educational communities. According to Indeed, successful teacher leaders demonstrate strong communication skills, a deep understanding of academic pedagogy, and the ability to collaborate with colleagues. They are also proactive in seeking professional growth opportunities and are committed to continuous learning. Leadership qualities such as empathy, resilience, and the ability to inspire others are crucial for teacher leaders’ success.

Leading Educators Effectively

Being a teacher leader involves a variety of responsibilities that extend beyond the classroom. Teacher leaders play a vital role in improving teacher attrition rates. McKinsey & Company reports that teacher attrition is a significant issue in K-12 education, with many educators leaving the profession due to a lack of support and professional growth opportunities. Teacher leaders can help address this issue by providing mentorship and guidance to new teachers, creating a supportive and collaborative work environment that encourages retention.

As McKinsey & Company notes, “Innovative staffing models that harness the expertise of senior teachers by allowing them to lead lessons across several classrooms have also proven to be a cost-effective intervention that may allow districts to increase compensation.” Moreover, teacher leaders contribute to the professional development of their colleagues through ongoing teacher development opportunities to enhance the overall quality of education. They can facilitate workshops, lead professional learning communities, and share best practices, helping their peers stay updated with the latest educational trends and methodologies.

“Teachers should be encouraged by building leadership to work together in collaborative environments so they can pool their expertise, observe and critique one another, and develop lesson plans and strategies to help their students. This bottom-up approach, where teachers feel empowered to collaborate with one another, can lend itself to improved working conditions and, ultimately, lower teacher turnover rates,” writes Naaz Modan in K-12 Dive.

Dr. Joshua Barnett, CEO of the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET), states that “teacher leaders usher in improvements in student performance, teacher effectiveness, and teacher retention by providing multi-year mentoring support, leading induction programs, and ensuring the successful rollout of new technology, positive school environment programs, and materials across the school system.”

Meet the Need for Teacher Leaders With an Online Degree From Emporia State University

ESU’s online MS in Curriculum and Instruction – Instructional Coach/Teacher Leader program offers courses such as Supporting Technology Integration for School Leaders and Creating a Culture of School Improvement. These courses provide educators with the knowledge and skills needed to support technology use in schools and lead school improvement efforts, aligning with the demands of the modern educational landscape.

The role of teacher leaders in K-12 education is more important now than ever. They are crucial in improving teacher retention, providing professional development opportunities, and addressing various teaching challenges. The demand for skilled and dedicated teacher leaders will only increase as the education system evolves.

Learn more about Emporia State University’s online Master of Science in Curriculum & Instruction – Instructional Coach Teacher Leader PreK-12 program.

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