Growing Teacher Leaders

In this special guest post, Elyse Haber,  a teacher leader at the Hebrew Academy in Montreal, shares her thoughts after the North American Jewish Day School Conference and asks: How are you supporting the teacher leaders in your school?

I was given a wonderful opportunity to attend the NAJDS conference this past week. Normally our Executive Director would have gone, but when I was asked to be part of a presentation at the conference, she graciously gave up her place so that I could attend (Thank you Linda!)

I am the English Studies and Technology Integration Coordinator at my school. I work with the English department as well as the French and Hebrew departments on how to integrate technology into their curriculum in meaningful ways. Melanie asked me to speak at the conference about being a teacher leader and how I got my position at my school. I wasn’t really sure that I would have that much to say or that anyone would really be interested in what I do. I was very happy to see that I was wrong! It was a wonderful feeling to have engaged all those educators and school stakeholders in meaningful conversations about teacher leaders. As I went from group to group my confidence in what I was presenting grew and I realized that I really did have something valuable to add the conversation.

One point that I thought was important to make, that while some might call me a “teacher leader”, I feel that I am also the product of progressive administrators who recognized the fact that I was someone who desperately wanted to continue my professional learning and grow as a teacher. I was encouraged to take online courses (Thank you, YU), attend seminars and was supported both personally and financially in my quest to develop 21st Century teaching skills.

We also discussed the fact that there are many passionate teachers who have areas of strength and how important it is to tap into their strengths and use them as resources for our schools. Teacher leaders are created when teachers are given the time and opportunity to improve on and then share their skills with others. Some of the most meaningful PD that we have is when it comes from other teachers, especially those who can empathize with all the challenges and constraints that we deal with in our schools every day.

So, I’m happy to be called a “Teacher Leader” if it means that I can continue to be encouraged to be a lifelong learner as well as have the opportunity to share my passion and learning with my colleagues. Presenting at this conference has really pushed me out of my comfort zone and given me a little more confidence that what I have to say has value and maybe someone else can benefit from some of the things that I have learned. A big thank you to MY teacher leader, Melanie Eisen who leads by example and always encourages me to challenge myself in my professional learning.