Teacher Perspective: Empowering Teacher Leaders
In an education climate rife with opinions, teachers are taking steps to make their voices heard in boardrooms, on picket lines, and on the Senate floor. An effective school leader recognizes this and acknowledges the power and importance of teacher voice. When teachers have a voice, they are three times more likely to value setting goals and work hard to reach those goals. When teachers have a voice in decision-making, they are four times more likely to believe they can make a difference (QISA & TVAIC, 2015). Principal Barton Dassinger is one such school leader.
My service as educator is inextricably bound with social justice and advocacy. I am grateful for the opportunity to organize and advocate with communities of educators, students, and families for a more equitable education experience for all students. As a classroom educator, I bring a particularly relevant perspective to advocacy spaces where teacher voice is often undervalued or unsolicited. In order to effectively serve both in and outside of the classroom, I need the support of a school leader, such as Principal Dassinger, that recognizes the value of this service and has faith in my ability to draw connections between the two learning spaces.
It has been clear from the beginning of my tenure at Chavez that Principal Dassinger was not only invested in my success as a teacher, but also supportive of my development as a teacher leader and advocate. During a post-observation conference as part of the teacher evaluation process last fall, Principal Dassinger walked me through the scores for domains one through three. After some necessary feedback, he redirected the conversation with a surprising question: “Is there anything I can do to support you in your development as a teacher leader?” Despite no prior conversations about my professional trajectory, Principal Dassinger made a point to facilitate a conversation about and offer support for my professional learning as a teacher leader based on his observations of my work.
While I was not able to whip out a five-year plan during our meeting, his question opened the door for continued conversation about my professional development and affirmed my commitment to advocacy and voice as a teacher leader. Over the last two years, he has approved and encouraged opportunities to travel for professional development regarding teacher advocacy for relevant policy decisions, host events for colleagues to take action on local, state, and national education policy issues, and lead conversations about our power as teacher leaders in the policy space.
Every school houses a breadth of personal and professional expertise. A transformative school leader recognizes this expertise and encourages educators to lean into our experiences. When we draw out new learning and opportunities for action, we become resources for our colleagues. We elevate our schools’ culture of professional learning and collective responsibility. Our profession needs more school leaders who embrace the passion, potential, and propulsion of their staff members. Thank you, Principal Dassinger, for being one of these leaders.
Ashley McCall is a third grade English/Language Arts Bilingual teacher at César E. Chávez Multicultural Academic Center in Chicago, Illinois and an E4E-Chicago member. The student body at Chávez is predominantly Latino (96 percent) and comes from low-income households (99 percent). Almost half of students are English learners. Ashley has taught in both public and charter settings and this is her seventh year in the classroom.