Teacher leaders take on special assignment

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Eight teachers were selected to become the first hybrid teachers -- also known as Teacher Leaders on Special Assignment -- who work part time in the classroom and part time for the Kentucky Department of Education. The hybrid teachers include, from top left, Anji Davidson, Brian McDowell, Katrina Boone, Angela Gunter; second row, from left, Kristal Doolin, Joseph Harris, Holly Bloodworth and Brandy Beasley.
Eight teachers were selected to become the first hybrid teachers — also known as Teacher Leaders on Special Assignment — who work part time in the classroom and part time for the Kentucky Department of Education. The hybrid teachers include, from top left, Anji Davidson, Brian McDowell, Katrina Boone, Angela Gunter; second row, from left, Kristal Doolin, Joseph Harris, Holly Bloodworth and Brandy Beasley.

By Brenna R. Kelly
Brenna.kelly@education.ky.gov

Last school year, Lauren Hill taught English in the morning at Western Hills High School in Frankfort. In the afternoon, she worked with the Kentucky Network to Transform Teaching (KyNT3) to help teachers come up with solutions to common challenges and then share that knowledge with other teachers, schools and districts across the state.

She was a hybrid teacher.

After 24 years in the classroom, Hill now is working full time for the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) coordinating the work of eight hybrid teachers who have become the state’s first Teacher Leaders on Special Assignment.

While they continue to teach part time in the classroom, the teacher leaders also work part time for KDE on efforts to improve teacher effectiveness and empower other teachers to take leadership roles in their schools or districts.

“It’s really exciting to me that the Kentucky Department of Education has put its support both behind teacher leadership and this hybrid model in such a powerful way,” said Hill, teacher leadership coordinator for the Office of Next-Generation Professionals.

The eight teachers, one from each education cooperative region, will focus on a particular interest while also working on overall issues affecting teachers and students. The team meets virtually every two weeks and Hill travels around the state to meet with them individually.

The teachers include men and women from elementary, middle and high school levels and a variety of content areas. Their focus areas include topics like integrating student voice into teaching and creating a teacher network for eastern Kentucky.

“It’s demonstrating the power of teacher leadership and it’s also showing the flexibility and power behind a hybrid role, because you maintain your classroom teacher voice and authenticity while also flexing your leadership muscles and serving as a catalyst for the leadership of others,” Hill said.

KDE decided to start the teacher leader program because research has shown that teacher leadership has a positive effect on teacher effectiveness, teacher growth and student achievement, said Robin Hebert, director of the Office of Next-Generation Professionals.

“Too often our most outstanding teachers felt they had to leave the classroom in order to have the opportunity to mentor and support other teachers or to advance their careers,” Hebert said. “This project allows us to explore other options, better options, so effective teachers can stay in the classrooms they love, while also having the chance to support both the learning of other educators and improvements in local, district, state and national education paradigms.”

As Hill knows, it can be hard doing two part-time jobs that could easily each be full-time work.

“One of the challenges they face is when they finish teaching, they want to plan for the next day or call parents and it’s difficult to switch gears,” she said. “We are working really hard to provide them the flexibility and structure. It can be a tough balance.”

The teachers work with KDE through a memorandum of agreement with their district. They are funded by KDE, and KyNT3, which is part of a U.S. Department of Education Supporting Effective Educator Development (SEED) grant.

The teacher leaders also work with the KDE’s Instructional Support Leadership Networks and other KDE field staff, including novice reduction coaches, effectiveness coaches and program consultants, Hill said.

In addition to her work with the teacher leaders, Hill is continuing her work with KyNT3 on the Classroom Teachers Enacting Positive Solutions (CTEPS) program. This year’s group includes 36 National Board certified teachers who will create and enact a plan to tackle common challenges in their classroom, school or district.

Both the teacher leaders and CTEPS teachers will write about their experiences in hopes of elevating teachers’ voices across the state and inspiring others to become teacher leaders, Hill said.

That’s also one of the goals of the Kentucky Teacher Leadership Framework created by representatives from KDE, KyNT3, the Education Professional Standards Board, the Collaborative for Teaching and Learning, The Fund for Transforming Education in Kentucky, the Kentucky Education Association, the Hope Street Group and the Bluegrass Center for Teaching Quality.

The framework defines teacher leadership and serve as a guide for teachers pursing leadership roles and those working to create those roles. A draft includes six sets of dispositions, core beliefs, knowledge base and requisite skills for teacher leaders.

Teacher leadership leads to more effective teachers in the classroom, increases teacher retention, creates a positive school culture and provides support for new teachers, Hill said.

All of that will benefit students.

“The reason for teacher leadership is not teacher leadership itself. Teacher leadership is a way to solve some of the problems and take down some of the barriers to student learning,” Hill said. “Teachers are experts at this. They look those kids in the eye every single day and we need to demonstrate ways to tap into that expertise and show teachers as leaders. That’s how we’re going to make schools better for all of our students.”

The eight teachers and their projects are:

About: English teacher at Shelby County High School

Focus: Engagement of teachers through writing and communications

About: 3rd-grade teacher at Emma B. Ward Elementary in Anderson County

Focus: Creating a new teacher support toolkit

About: STEM and Project Lead the Way teacher at Mason County Middle School

Focus: The Margins Project: Student engagement and voice through unexplored teaching models

About: AP English teacher at Lawrence County High School

Focus: Integrating student voice into the classroom

About: Language arts teacher and reading interventionist at Corbin Middle School (Corbin Independent)

Focus: Kentucky Appalachian Teacher Network and National Board certification support

About: Science teacher at Jackson Independent Middle School

Focus: Kentucky Appalachian Teacher Network and National Board certification support

About: English teacher at Daviess County High School

Focus: Teacher driven, personalized professional learning

About: Spent 28 years an elementary teacher, now works part-time for KDE and part-time for the Kentucky Network to Transform Teaching.

Focus: Career pathways and teacher leadership in western Kentucky

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