Beyond the Noise in Teacher Leadership Conversations

By Michael Lindblad

Teacher Leadership has become an educational buzz word being used extensively in district, state and national conversations. While we give the term a great deal of lip service, I’ve become convinced that teacher leadership as a concept is often misunderstood, that we must move past the noise and embrace the truth.

For teacher leadership to be transformative, we must choose to fully adopt it in philosophy and practice—we must build and support systems of teacher leadership in states, and allow teacher leaders change state and district policies. We must so integrate teacher leadership into our systems that we create avenues for teacher leadership and opportunities for educators to make the changes needed in schools (and keep our best teachers in the classroom).

When Jonathan Kozol suggests that having an incredible teacher in a classroom can overcome a myriad of challenges in education, he’s right. But I know that having the right teacher leader in a region or state can change the entire dynamic of education.

Katherine Bassett and NNSTOY have not only trained, modeled teacher leadership, they have also opened their educational networks that we in Oregon have used to make unprecedented changes in our approach to teacher leadership.  Dr. Noor, Dr. Boyd Strategic Communications/teacher leadership, and Tim Boyd Director of School/District Effectiveness have been flexible enough to allow these changes to happen while also writing these changes into Oregon’s comprehensive ESSA plans.

Our new State Teacher of the Year and teacher leaders have been given unprecedented support and avenues for advocacy. We've created a Superintendent's State Teacher Leadership Advisory Council, a live teacher of the year interview process—where 7-8 of the major educational entities in Oregon have a person at the table—and we are forming our first NNSTOY chapter, with nearly 10 former Oregon Teachers of the Year.

One reason our state has been able to accomplish so much is due to the invaluable inspiration and mentorship provided by NNSTOY members. I’ve learned how to be a positive and effective speaker from watching Alex Kajitani at conferences and trainings. On the side, Alex also mentors and coaches teacher leaders, helping us to improve our speaking skills in legislative, stakeholder and school settings. Jeff's speech in New Jersey made everyone feel comfortable about the returning to class while others were making career changes. Sean McComb advocated for the creation of hybrid roles where teachers could stay in class half of their time while pursuing teacher leadership the other half. They were so insightful that when I left Next Steps Conference, I knew exactly what I had to do when returning to Oregon.

When I think about the ways I have grown my skills leading and my understanding of teacher leadership, I want to throw my whole support behind NNSTOY so that other STOYs and Finalists will benefit from this family of professional educators.


Michael Lindblad is the 2015 Oregon State Teacher of the Year. He taught IB and EL History of the Americas at Gresham High School near Portland, Oregon for nearly two decades. He currently works with the Oregon Department of Education to support the teacher of the year program, teacher leadership and the Oregon Mentor Project.

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