Leading with Passion
There was a time, long before email and the Internet, when teachers would visit their students’ parents at home.
Dr. Alice Duhon-Ross, program director of Walden University’s new M.S. in Education specialization in Teacher Leadership, recalls those teachers as classroom leaders who would go the extra mile to help their students thrive. She sees a similar trait in those teachers who are enrolling in Walden’s new Teacher Leadership specialization.
“Those who have a passion for teaching are an ideal match for this program,” Duhon-Ross says. “Having that passion means they already have one of the major attributes of a teacher leader.”
Excelling in the Classroom
Walden launched the M.S. in Education with a specialization in Teacher Leadership in the fall of 2007. The program has been designed to meet the needs of a growing population of educators who want to enhance their leadership capabilities while remaining in the classroom or who want to expand their leadership beyond the classroom by taking on additional responsibilities at their school or in the community.
When Penny Chauncey was comparing graduate programs, she was attracted to Walden’s online format. What she found in the Teacher Leadership specialization, however, was the opportunity to bridge a growing gap between the classroom teacher and the administrator. “Most teachers feel those making decisions for us are out of touch with what goes on in the classroom,” says Chauncey, a physical science teacher with 23 years of experience. “It’s going to take leadership to get people working together.”
Educators who already have earned their master’s degree may also choose to specialize in Teacher Leadership through Walden’s Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) program. Cynthia McKeon was among the first class of teachers accepted into the Teacher Leadership specialization for the doctoral program. According to the 20-year classroom veteran who teaches art as well as Advanced Placement courses, Walden offered her the convenience she needed coupled with the opportunity to build her leadership skills.
McKeon plans to continue to teach in the classroom. “I really enjoy being in the trenches,” she says. “I like where I am.”
Like Duhon-Ross, McKeon remembers the teacher leaders who served as her mentors when she was starting out. “I see a need for more leadership in education. The older teachers who were good role models, the ones that I wanted to emulate, are gone. Now I’m trying to follow their code of ethics and continue my education until I’m truly an expert in my chosen field.”
McKeon is focusing on her own leadership skills by heading an initiative in her community that partners art students with local businesses through mural painting. Her students have the opportunity to give back to the community through public art while gaining valuable experience working with businesses.
What it Means to Be a Leader
In addition to the practical strategies addressed in Walden’s core M.S. in Education curriculum, students within the Teacher Leadership specialization are asked to examine their own understanding of what it means to be a teacher leader. This initial examination is essential to building a strong foundation from which teachers can effect positive social change within their learning communities.
Subsequent courses focus on the teacher leader’s role in increasing student learning and achievement, mentoring and collaborating with colleagues, and effectively working with key stakeholder groups such as parents and counseling professionals.
“We are not training our students to become administrators; we are celebrating their goals of becoming teacher leaders in their classroom and among their peers,” Duhon-Ross says. “This program gives them the tools to become a better educator and leader. They learn to appreciate that there are rewards in observing their students thrive from their leadership, and it may be far greater than a salary increase or promotion.”
Upon completion of the Teacher Leadership specialization, students will have a professional portfolio showcasing their best work.
In the end, Duhon-Ross says she hopes this unique program will celebrate these exceptional teachers and help them build upon their passion for teaching in the classroom.
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