Teacher-Leader Career Track

COASCD logo smallAt Colorado ASCD’s  ESSA Symposium for Superintendents and district leaders, one particular remark by Dr. Ken Haptonstall, the Superintendent for Garfield School District has stayed with me as I ponder the role of “teacher leader” in a school or district. He said that 70% of his high school teachers have their administrator license, but none of them has any interest in being a principal.   At the same event, district leaders were speaking with great concern about the teacher turnover rate.   I started wondering: What if we created a program that extended the current Colorado induction program, to provide an ongoing peer coaching program,  that could also provided a career ladder for those teachers who want to learn and grow, have an opportunity to advance, but don’t want to leave the classroom? Could developing this address these two needs at once?

As I sat in the Symposium, I tweeted my thoughts on this, and received this reply from Lisa Bejarano:

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsI do think National Board Certification is a fantastic program, however, I see its focus as being on what happens inside of the classroom.  The program I envision would be to build teacher-leaders who have additional skill sets that can serve in a leadership role outside of the classroom. What I envision is either a graduate level degree or certification program offered through our state universities that would help develop good classroom teachers into teacher-leaders.  The types of coursework might include:

  • Cognitive coaching
  • Leadership
  • Designing professional learning for adults
  • State education law
  • Privacy law
  • Project based Learning
  • Personalized Learning
  • Technology workflow
  • Interpersonal communication
  • Digital literacy
  • Time management
  • Brain-based learning
  • Understanding by Design

Teachers who receive this certification could become key voices in district and school development. Here are ideas for these important roles they could assume:

  • Mentoring teachers
  • Peer Coaching
  • Standards alignment work
  • Creators of backwards-designed project based learning and units of inquiry
  • Writer of common assessments
  • Professional learning provider
  • Curator of learning materials (digital and print) aligned to standards
  • Advisor to school board


Of course, there would need to be some incentive offered by school districts to encourage teachers to participate in this level of career development. Here are some ideas:peer mentor2

  • Career Advancement for those who don’t want to be a principal: Promotion – pay scale –higher than teacher +MA – perhaps equivalent to a Dean or Assistant Principal
  • Recognition –with all stakeholder groups
  • Voice –in state, district and school decision-making
  • Paid release time to peer-mentor & coach teachers, design learning and assessments, and curate resources

What are your thoughts? Teachers, would you be interested in a career ladder that allowed you to earn more pay yet remain in the classroom?  Administrators, can you see a benefit to having teacher-leaders in your school who can be peer mentors and provide support to teachers who are struggling to transform and build future-ready classrooms?//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Author: Nancy White

Learner, Curator, Innovator, Teacher, Librarian, and Collaborator. Passionate about designing learning that is engaging, relevant & sticks. 20+ years in education.

4 thoughts on “Teacher-Leader Career Track”

  1. I absolutely loved this idea Nancy. I am impressed that you put together so many details as to what this program could look like. I too have met many teachers that choose to get their administration degree to receive MA+ pay, but have no intention of being an administrator (despite that being the way their coursework is designed). This could be a perfect opportunity and nitch for that group! As I read it over a second time I wonder what the placement for someone with this teacher-leader advanced degree would be in terms of employment and title. Are they instructional coaches? Are they still apart of the standard teaching staff? Is there an entirely different position? I don’t think that we need yet another employment label for our wide range of educators in schools, but I do think the way that is designed and defined would be an important part of the motivation to get people to do this coursework. Thanks for the post!


  2. Great questions, John. I was thinking the teacher leaders would remain in classroom at least part time. Part of the advantage for our students, I think, would be to keep highly trained, experienced teachers in the classroom with kids, instead of the only way for advancement being to move them out of classroom into management.


  3. I think an intermediate degree is a great idea…for teachers who want to have that leadership role outside of the classroom. I also hope that someday as a culture we get to the point where it is still admirable for a teacher “just” to be a good teacher, without the expectation that at some point teachers MUST move to a leadership role to be measured successful.


    1. Thanks for your comment, Lisa. I am on the board for Colorado’s ASCD affiliate, and this is something we definitely will be looking into here. I know that ASCD is re-focusing on teacher leadership with their new partnership with the Dept. of Ed. I am hopeful that we will start to see some movement in this direction!


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