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So Now You’re a Teacher Leader, What’s Next?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three years ago, thinking of myself as a teacher leader was the furthest thing from my mind.  I was neck-deep in seven periods of instruction, directing drama, and coaching tennis. The world of educational policy was far away.  Geographically, it was quite close since I live and teach 20 miles from our state’s capitol. However, head down, I simply focused on my classroom, not the political arena just outside that sphere.

 

Then the absolute gift came. I was named 2018 Idaho Teacher of the Year.  Suddenly I was thrust from small school high school teacher to world traveler.  I attended media training, met with the State Department of Education, and traveled to all of my state’s senators’ and representatives’ offices.  Throughout my experiences, I was schooled on the educational topics prevalent across the nation and realized that the issues in my classroom were happening nationwide.  At the end of my time as Idaho’s Teacher of the Year, I truly felt the importance of my role as an advocate and teacher leader to work towards better educational policies.

 

However, when back in my classroom and again running through a school year, it was difficult to remain diligent as a teacher leader.  I was wearing all the hats and juggling all the tasks without support or time to engage in politics. But, as with every other mountain I’d climbed in my life, I realized that small steps would keep me involved and passionate about educational policy.  I’ve outlined those ideas below but know that many more opportunities exist in every state.

 

Local Teachers’ Union

Becoming part of a teachers’ union was a new experience for me as a part of my STOY year.   My fellow 2018 TOYs showed me the importance of union involvement and encouraged me to join my local chapter.  Even though my salary and contract do not directly benefit from union negotiations, the union is pivotal to any educational policy made in my state.  As a teacher leader, it is my responsibility to join and remain active in this important organization.

 

ECS Contacts

One of the most rewarding experiences of my STOY year was attending the Education Commission of the States (ECS) National Forum on Education Policy.  Before the meeting, I reached out to all the attendees from my state. This led to a dinner with key lawmakers, members of legislative education committees, and members of my State Department of Education.  These important contacts are still just an email away when new legislation comes up that requires a response. If you are a former STOY and didn’t attend ECS, the ECS website (https://www.ecs.org/convene-counsel/national-forum-on-education-policy/) keeps rosters of attendees that can aid your search for key players.  I would highly encourage any new STOYS to attend ECS and reach out to your lawmakers.  My experience allowed me to influence important changes in how my state uses its award-winning teachers.  Through conversations with the attendees, I was able to speak to the State Board of Education and advise the superintendent on relevant topics.

 

Your State’s NNSTOY Chapter

Twenty-six states currently have active NNSTOY chapters while other states are seeking or forming organizations.  Our state is currently in the process of forming a chapter. Although the unpaid work is challenging, the possibility of having our own chapter is exciting.  We hope to advise lobby groups, lawmakers, and organizations, truly bringing teachers to the table. Eventually, our goal is to expand the role of our STOY program within the state, including involvement with our state board of education.  Attending the annual NNSTOY conference is also in our strategic plan, and we intend on sending our officers every year. Organizing award-winning teachers and making them available for educational policy players is an important step towards advocacy.

 

Each of these opportunities, although time-consuming, has been enriching and rewarding.  By keeping my head up, so to speak, I’m still engaged as a teacher leader while keeping my own classroom in perspective.  I’m also giving back to my state department of education and all the organizations that gave me so much during my STOY year.

 


Becky Mitchell is a high school English and Drama teacher who uses both hemispheres of her brain to teach Chemistry and Physics as well. As 2018 Idaho Teacher of the Year, she met teachers from all over the world who inspire her daily and remind her why she loves teaching.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 





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