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Leading Out of the Classroom Without Leaving It

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Better Conversation Hope Street Group Liz Riggs Teacher Fellwoship Teacher Prep Teacher Voice Tennessee

Leading Out of the Classroom Without Leaving It

Leading Out of the Classroom Without Leaving It

Recently, the Hope Street Group announced it would be offering a fellowship to Tennessee teachers who wish to engage in high-level policy development and have their voices heard at the local, state and national levels.

The fellowship boasts as many perks as is it does opportunities. Not only do teachers receive a $3,500 stipend for their participation, but the organization intends to raise teacher voices by giving them a platform to write op-eds, letters to the editors and blog posts; meet directly with policy makers; and collaborate with teachers in other states.

I shared the opportunity with many teachers, school leaders and instructional coaches to hear their thoughts and see who would be drawn to the fellowship.

Alisha Woodson, a second-year teacher in Nashville, immediately felt compelled to apply.

“I want to do this,” she said. “I think this is an excellent opportunity for the people who work directly with our students and affect them on a daily basis to get their voices heard.”

Next year Alisha will be teaching at a charter elementary school and is specifically interested in how the fellowship might allow her to be a stronger supporter and champion for her students and school.

“This promotes teaching as leadership and allows us to advocate for our students.”

Through the fellowship, teachers will attend conferences, write and speak about issues that directly affect them, their classrooms and their students, and serve as ambassadors of the Hope Street Group’s mission.

Charlie Friedman, a principal at Nashville Classical Elementary school was impressed with the opportunity, recognizing how infrequently teachers actually get to participate in the broader conversations that impact their work.

“If you’re in a school, you’ll always feel the effect of a policy. It’s rare that you get to affect policies. Any opportunity that tips those scales is a good one.”

These types of fellowships offer much needed elevation for teachers. For many, their careers can feel static if they want to stay in the classroom but don’t necessarily have the desire to advance into administrative roles. This feeling can be stifling. How does one continue to leverage leadership without advancing out of the classroom? How do teachers share their insight, expertise and opinions on issues that profoundly affect their everyday work and the lives of their students?

Katie Hoffmeier, another teacher in Tennessee, is intrigued by the fellowship, but concerned about the time commitment. She’ll be teaching at a turnaround school as a founding teacher and despite a keen interest in policy, she worries participating in a fellowship like this may overload her.

Ideally, this fellowship will draw ambitious teachers and leaders who are looking for leadership opportunities that don’t force them to leave the classroom. And as Tennessee continues to be on the frontlines of implementing forward-thinking reform measures, a fellowship like this will continue to put teachers in the middle of the conversation for important issues.

Natalie Klotz, a math teacher currently in her sixth year, hopes that fellowship lives up to its potential, one that she believes will help create more logical policy for teachers, classrooms and ultimately students.

“I believe that teachers have the best perspective on what is good for our students and many decisions are made without students’ best interest at heart,” she says.

The fellowship has clear appeal to teachers in Tennessee, and if it lives up to its promise, educators like Natalie can look forward to its effect on their classrooms.

“I often hear about policies that make no sense for my students or our school,” Natalie says, “so I really believe this can have a positive impact if used effectively.”

Liz is a writer and educational equity advocate who lives in Nashville, Tennessee.
Photo by Texas A&M University-Commerce Marketing Communications Photography, CC-licensed.

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