Teach to Lead

Teach to Lead: Denver

In early January 2015, Kalpana Kumar-Sharma of Brightwood Education Campus in Washington, DC represented Leading Educators at the second Teach to Lead Summit of the season in Denver, CO. Through her project, Kalpana is creating a team of ‘Health Ambassadors’ that will work to deploy quick health strategies for everyday use across the school.

Kalpana is an early childhood teacher focused on holistic health in her own school and across the nation. As a participant in both the DC Leading Educators Fellowship and the District of Columbia Public Schools Teacher Leadership Innovation (TLI) pilot, Kalpana is well-versed in the power of teacher leadership to affect school-wide change. She is currently training 12 school-based staff (ranging from classroom teachers to social workers and school counselors to physical education teachers) in stress management, deep breathing, and meditative exercises that can be quickly deployed for greater community health. Kalpana has gotten the staff to sign on to dedicating the first 5 minutes of all school meetings to these well-being strategies.

Kalpana says, “Health often gets forgotten in the pursuit of greater student achievement gains. Holistic health – social, emotional, and physical – however, is an integral component of promoting long-term success inside and outside the classroom.” After submitting her idea for the Summit through the Commit to Lead platform, Kalpana and her colleagues, Assistant Principal Justin Ralston and 2nd grade teacher Rachel Rosenberg, attended the Summit in Denver to present and workshop their idea.

While the attitude is often “I don’t have time”, the Health Ambassador Project works to implement small, mindful exercises that promote “a healthier, happier, and more productive school culture”, says Kalpana. At the Teach to Lead Summit, she was able to share her unique idea with other teachers from around the nation. She said creating a 7 minute pitch as well as 30, 60, and 90 day plans was hugely beneficial to selling and implementing her project back in DC. “It was an amazing experience. While I already had some strategies, thanks to Leading Educators, I got tons of helpful feedback from other participants that will strengthen my project. I recognize that I now have a platform [Teach to Lead] to raise my voice and spread awareness.” When describing the experience, Kalpana reminisces about, “getting lost for hours in planning and research with crucial friends who really believe in and support the work.”

Kalpana (left) photographed with her colleagues Rachel and Justin at the Teach to Lead summit in Denver in early January 2015.

Now that she has returned from the Summit, Kalpana is excited to roll up her sleeves and begin large-scale implementation. While her health ambassador team is entirely composed of Brightwood staff at this time, the vision is to eventually engage parents and students as well. And while Kalpana would like to see the program succeed at her own school first, she is starting to devise plans to expand the sphere of influence across the district. She noted that after conducting a yoga session at Seaton Elementary School last semester, she already has their leadership signed on as a potential expansion school. Her whole team is very excited about spreading this work and has begun to identify grant opportunities and secure speakers to expand the scope and level of prestige surrounding the project. We look forward to seeing the results.

DC Fellow Presents Teacher Leadership Project at National Summit

In December, Adrianna Riccio, a 2nd year DC Fellow, took her commitment to her teacher leadership one step further by winning a spot at Teach to Lead’s Louisville, KY Summit for teacher leaders. The Summit was one of three events hosted by the Department of Education under U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s initiative to support and grow teacher leadership across the country. Adrianna was chosen to attend after submitting her idea for a teacher leadership project to Teach to Lead via their Commit to Lead platform.

Adrianna’s idea was based on her own work. She has been working on a comprehensive coaching program in her school to best employ the expertise of veteran teachers in her building to provide guidance and support to those in their first three years on the job. Since Fairfax County Public Schools already provides coaches for first year teachers, Adrianna’s coaching program is centered on leveraging 8 highly effective teachers at Glasgow as instructional coaches for second and third year teachers.

Adrianna said, “In this program, each teacher in their 2nd and 3rd year will receive an instructional coach that will meet with them once per month to help them perfect their teaching craft. These meetings will be non-evaluative and will use a variety of coaching methods. The coaching team will help with disseminating data and holding data dialogues as well as address any classroom issues that may arise. Most importantly, these teacher leaders will be seen as a resource for all teachers in the building.”

Adrianna stands at the front of the Kentucky Regional Summit (wearing a grey cardigan and glasses). Image courtesy of Teach to Lead

Overall, Adrianna is trying to cultivate a collaborative space for the teachers at Glasgow to share best practices in a meaningful way that both empowers educators to lead as well as learn from their peers. Some other elements they may incorporate include peer observations, TeachMeets (mini conferences held by teachers for teachers), and professional development opportunities.

Not only did Adrianna and her school team qualify for the Louisville Summit with this idea, but their interpretation of what teacher leadership could look like in their school proved to be very popular. Adrianna describes the Summit as a great generative space to collaborate and innovate with like-minded and driven educators from across the country. It was a huge growth opportunity and we hope many more of our teacher leaders get to experience it.

Press Release: DUNCAN RECOGNIZES TEACHER LEADER IMPACT ON STUDENT SUCCESS

U.S. Secretary of Education Hosts Roundtable with Members of New Orleans Teacher Leader Program

NEW ORLEANS – December 9, 2014 – U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will meet with Leading Educators Fellows at Arthur Ashe Charter School to hear from teacher leaders about what it takes to be successful and what further support schools, states, and the Department of Education can offer. As part of the Secretary’s Teach to Lead initiative to promote teacher leadership, Duncan will share a roundtable with five Leading Educators Teacher Leader Fellows and their principals, two of whom are alumni of the New Leaders program, in New Orleans Thursday afternoon. A parent from each school will sit in on the discussion.

“Strong school leadership has been crucial to the progress seen in New Orleans schools. I applaud organizations like Leading Educators and New Leaders that prepare teachers and principals to do this incredibly challenging – but critical – work,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “Great school leadership makes great teaching possible and helps ensure that every student graduates prepared for college, careers and life.”

Secretary Duncan will ask the roundtable participants to share stories of success and challenge in working to support and develop both their students and their colleagues. Teacher leaders and their principals, several of whom are alumni of the Leading Educators Fellowship, will join the roundtable from Arthur Ashe Charter School, ReNEW Dolores T. Aaron Academy, Samuel Green Charter School, New Orleans Charter Science and Math High School, and KIPP Believe College Prep.

“Secretary Duncan’s visit signifies the administration’s commitment to understanding experiences of teacher leaders and the impact of a national movement of educators who seek to support and develop their students and their colleagues,” said Chief Executive Officer Jonas Chartock.

Leading Educators is an official partner of the national Teach to Lead initiative, which seeks to expand opportunities for teacher leadership. The organization has been working with teacher leaders in New Orleans since 2008 and remains headquartered in the city.

“It’s only fitting that Secretary Duncan is looking to New Orleans for examples of model teacher leadership – teacher leaders are a significant force in the improvement of the city’s schools,” said Greater New Orleans Executive Director Julie Bourgeois. “Our teacher leaders have led initiatives that have had a real impact on student learning and school culture.”


Leading Educators works to advance teachers’ leadership skills and opportunities, building a national movement to ensure all students have the opportunity to succeed in school and life.

Teach to Lead is an initiative jointly convened by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and the U.S. Department of Education to advance student outcomes by expanding opportunities for teacher leadership, particularly those that allow teachers to stay in the classroom.

Video: Thanks for a Great Week of Teacher Leadership!

In June our teacher leader Fellows from across the country came together in New Orleans for our first National Intensive. With this video, we want to celebrate their work and thank the many guests and facilitators who made National Intensive such a success, including keynote speakers Pedro Noguera, the Metropolitan Center for Research on Equality and the Transformation of Schools; Secretary Arne Duncan, US Department of Education, with Emily Davis and Maddie Fennel, Teach to Lead; Katie Haycock and Brook Haycock, Ed Trust; and Andrea Berkeley, formerly of Teaching Leaders UK.

Thank you all for your dedication to ensuring great teachers for all students!