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Teacher leaders broaden Dever’s knowledge base

By Caroline Bermudez

Leaders at Paul A. Dever Elementary School, in Boston, are preparing themselves for a future in which teachers assume leadership roles.

Dever’s large leadership team of administrators and coaches realized they were making many decisions on behalf of the school. They needed to include more voices in decision making to take advantage of their viewpoints and energy.

“What we know about turnaround work is that one person or small group of people can not do this difficult and important work,” says Principal Todd Fishburn. “It takes distributed leadership around a shared vision where high quality teaching and learning are defined and executed. This capacity building will be instrument in the Dever's continuous growth.”

Dever’s instructional leadership team (ILT) functioned more as a teacher council than a group with an instructional focus. There were few opportunities for teachers to take leadership roles because leading common planning time was left to the coaches.

We recognized the need for teachers to be part of instructional visioning conversations so that teachers can feel a deeper sense of purpose and ownership behind the instructional priorities of the school.
— Lynn Connor and Elisa Feng, Dever coaches

Lynn Connor, the school’s K-5 math coach, and Elisa Feng, the K-2 ELA coach, say, “In many cases, information existed only within the coaching silo and could be lost if that staff person changed roles. It was necessary to support teachers to take on that work and also learn new skills to develop as teacher leaders. We also recognized the need for teachers to develop agency by being a part of instructional visioning conversations so that teachers can feel a deeper sense of purpose and ownership behind the instructional priorities of the school.”

Dever decided to focus its ANet partnership on developing teachers to take part in setting and executing against instructional priorities for the school.

ANet Coach Alexis Rosenblatt has been providing resources and guidance to the school’s coaches as they develop teacher leaders. Administrators started attending common planning time (CPT), to gain context for their observations and help everyone develop content understanding as a team. Each coach worked with one teacher to create CPT agendas and facilitate meetings.

As they created a plan for teacher leadership, the team reflected on the following questions:

  • What skills are they already developing within ILT to facilitate CPT or other professional development?

  • What strengths do each of these teacher leaders individually have?

  • What support do each of these teacher leaders need to successfully facilitate CPT?

Alexis, Lynn, and Elisa also co-created guides to use when meeting with teacher leaders to help visualize goals and the steps necessary to achieve them. “Thanks to that process, those teachers that have received targeted development are ready to facilitate many meetings on their own and lead their grade levels,” says Elisa.

Teachers, according to Lynn and Elisa, feel more confident facilitating their own professional development. Coaches and teachers now use planning meetings to translate an instructional priority into actionable data and teacher moves. These moves are refined as the year progresses tailored to teachers’ skills and strengths.

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