What is a Teacher Leader? - Definition & Characteristics

What is a Teacher Leader? - Definition & Characteristics
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  • 0:03 What Is a Teacher Leader?
  • 2:01 Characteristics of a…
  • 4:44 Expertise Areas
  • 6:01 Support and a Positive Culture
  • 6:46 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sherri Nash

Sherri’s teaching includes middle school through college. Degrees include bachelor’s marketing education, master’s adult education and doctorate in curriculum instruction.

This lesson explains teacher leadership and the valuable roles that teacher leaders perform. We'll explore the special characteristics that quality teacher leaders possess.

What Is a Teacher Leader?

A teacher leader has a passion for both teaching students and mentoring or assisting fellow teachers. Peer teachers have the greatest influence on other teachers in impacting school-wide change and driving improvements in the classrooms. The teacher leadership structure may be formalized, or teachers might informally evolve into a supportive role. This role includes providing individual or group assistance in a number of areas, such as curriculum, instruction, classroom management, professional development, mentoring, data coaching, and continuous improvement initiatives.

Assume you are a teacher who transferred from Autocratic High School to Empowerment High School. You meet several veteran teachers that welcome you to the school and offer assistance. At Autocratic High School, there was a formal structure where one teacher with administrative certification was appointed as a Curriculum Supervisor. She worked with the administration and provided professional development workshops for teachers. You discover that Empowerment High School does not have this supportive position. Instead, it has several teacher leaders who share their expertise and talents in an informal structure.

Principal Strong introduces the teachers and praises their collective leadership and assistive roles, which result in increased student achievement. Mr. Cash is successful in acquiring grant funding, training on technology instruction resources, and analyzing student performance data. Mrs. Wise work with teachers on curriculum, instructional strategies, and assessment techniques. One teacher tells you, 'Mr. Steady really helped me improve my classroom management skills last year.' You notice that these teachers also facilitate professional development sessions. You are impressed by how involved the teachers are outside of their own classrooms. During the school year, you notice that teacher leaders have certain quality characteristics.

Characteristics of a Teacher Leader

Effective teacher leaders generally possess multiple characteristics, expertise in several areas, and work in a school with supportive administrators and a positive culture. Assume you have been teaching at Empowerment High School for six months with Mr. Cash, your mentor. You think about the characteristics he has demonstrated in assisting you:

  • Ability to 'teach' adult peers consistent with adult learning theory - This includes respect, collaboration, and mutual trust. Mr. Cash treats you like an equal peer and guides you based on your improvement needs. He always targets his advice to apply to your customized situation.

  • Being approachable - The teacher leader should be patient and non-threatening when asked for guidance. Mr. Cash has an open door, and you are not inconveniencing him when you ask questions.

  • Positive personality - You feel comfortable working with Mr. Cash because he is always reassuring.

  • Time management, multitasking, and organizational skills and dependability - The teacher leader's first priority is their students. Their ability to also provide support for other teachers at the school requires the above skills to assure all needs are met. Several teachers mention that Mr. Cash is able to balance many tasks due to his efficiently organized schedule.

  • Excellent communication skills - This includes listening thoroughly and providing constructive feedback. Innovative teacher leaders often have creative solutions to learning obstacles. Mr. Cash encourages you to observe his class to learn new technology strategies, after which you discover that your students are more engaged in your lessons.

  • Coaching skills - The teacher leader must serve as a coach to motivate and drive change. You feel you are supported by Mr. Cash's encouragement.

  • Data-analysis and research capabilities - Student performance data and updated research on effective learning should be communicated to all teachers. Data-driven decision making should guide improvement strategies. Mr. Cash teaches you to use Microsoft Excel to analyze student assessment scores.

  • Non-evaluative - The teacher leader is a support person and not a teacher evaluator.

  • A passion for teaching - You ask Mr. Cash why he doesn't apply for an administrative position. He responds, 'I love teaching. I feel I can be a leader of teachers, provide input into improvements, and still be in the classroom with my students.'

Expertise Areas

Effective teacher leaders must have expertise resulting in student success in order to be credible. You think about Mrs. Wise and Mr. Steady who assist other teachers. They have expertise in:

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