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What makes a teacher a leader?

What Makes a Teacher Leader?

Aug 25, 2017 2017-08-25

By Dr. Annette Smith and Kara Gann

Let's face it! Leadership is both a calling and a learned skill. Determining the best way to approach mentoring, coaching, decision making, and visioning takes specific techniques and attributes.

Leading as a teacher requires motivation from within and from other people.

Making a difference is often a strong motivator for educators. But we don't always know if we have left a meaningful difference with our students. Sometimes a student or parent will reach out with positive comments, feedback, and updates, but for the most part students grow up and move on. It takes a great deal of internal confidence and mission to keep leading knowing you are making the world better one person at a time with minimal feedback.

Leading as a teacher requires a growth mindset.

Teaching is the art of learning in a collaborative space. For example, many educators attend conferences and events while paying their own way. They are collaborating; networking; and searching for strategies, tips, and tools to improve instructional learning outcomes. What makes educators want to spend their own money to attend an event on their own time? What keeps the mind growing and the teacher leader engaged is a growth mindset. Teacher leaders understand they are at the core of successful initiatives and school district success; they are continuously learning and working to make outcomes better because they know that everyone is a learner.

Leading as a teacher requires commitment to the field of education.

Teacher leaders build relationships, learn, share, support, and mentor others. Their attitude is one of collaboration, willingness to model for others, and to take risks. They work diligently not to be discouraged while keeping their focus on the goal of having every student reach his or her full potential.

If you are curious about what a teacher leader looks like, just look into the eyes of the students they once taught. Ask students about the teachers they remember; they will be able to tell stories about their learning experiences in the classroom, in the halls, or at extracurricular activities. Students invite teacher leaders to important events as they grow up and move on, honoring their leaders with graduation announcements, wedding invitations, and birth announcements. Students will make the world a better place all because of a teacher leader.

Dr. Annette Smith is a proud member of the technology and educational leadership community, including 29 years in education and four in private industry. Her work with the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), and state level groups bring her great joy. She is published in professional journals, presents, and blogs extensively (especially at
Kara Gann has enjoyed her 30+ years in the educational field as a teacher, instructional coach, and administrator. She joined the private sector to influence educational products that support learning. She is a recognized thought leader having presented at national conferences and published extensively in educational magazines and blogs.

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