Grant Profile: Elementary Teacher Leadership Program


February 2017

Ask teachers what makes professional development effective and they will likely tell you that hands-on, interactive, classroom-specific learning is the most meaningful.  Arlington’s Elementary Teacher Leadership program does just this.  This program – by teachers and for teachers – has changed and enriched the way professional development is being done in Arlington and gives Arlington teachers a way to become leaders within their schools and across the district while remaining in the classroom.

The Teacher Leadership in literacy program was kickstarted in 2015 by a $10,000 AEF Development & Expansion Grant.  Then, in October 2016, the Arlington Education Foundation granted an additional $30,000 to fund the expansion of the Teacher Leadership initiative in the Arlington Public Schools.

The Teacher Leadership initiative offers training, experience, and opportunities for teachers to become leaders in the reading and writing content areas. These teacher leaders provide teacher-led professional development for their colleagues, both within the school day and at the after-school district-wide professional development sessions.  Unlike other professional development models, this program gives teachers the chance to take ownership of their growth and helps to build a foundation for teacher-led professional development in Arlington schools.  Teachers learn from each other by visiting colleagues’ classrooms during the school day, as well as by observing colleagues via video taken during classroom teaching. Teachers are empowered to share their instructional practices and to guide one another in implementing strong curriculum and in continuously improving instruction.

One of the teacher leader participants said “[these] alternative professional development models that are more hands-on, where teachers collaborate and learn from each other, are some of the most valuable experiences.”

Recently, Assistant Superintendent, Laura Chesson, reported that “the Teacher Leadership initiative in Arlington has grown and flourished over the last year…The success of our work was recognized through our selection as one of the key participants in the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Schools Professional Learning Network for Distributed Leadership.”

Thanks to AEF’s support, the district now has twenty elementary teachers participating in the program. This cohort includes thirteen teachers who are identified as Literacy Leaders, and another seven who are taking the Instructional Leadership course funded by the grant and who are interested in a variety of content areas. The enthusiasm about the growth of teacher leaders in literacy has led to a clamoring for similar types of leadership positions in math and science at the elementary level.

Dr. Chesson stated, “We are profoundly grateful to AEF for supporting this important professional development initiative for both the Literacy Leaders as well as the teachers participating in the Instructional Leadership course. We look forward to expanding this initiative to additional grade levels and content areas.”


Excerpt from the Superintendent’s October 2016 Newsletter about the Teacher Leadership Program

Assistant Superintendent Shares District Use of Technology at SchoolCIO Summit

I am happy to report that Assistant Superintendent Laura Chesson was one of the speakers at the SchoolCIO Summit held in Baltimore last month. Attendance at this prestigious conference is by invitation only, and this is the second year Dr. Chesson has been a speaker. This time she was asked to bring our Chief Technology Officer, David Good, along as an attendee.

Dr. Chesson first spoke on Using Technology to Support Coaching. She discussed the work we are doing on distributed teacher leadership and our efforts to involve more teachers in directing and leading their own professional development. Our Literacy Lab initiative was created to allow teachers to visit a colleague who volunteered to host other teachers during a unit of study in writing. Teachers quickly realized how powerful it is to watch their peers in action, but there are limitations in the amount of time they can leave their classrooms during the day to do such visits.

This problem has been solved by using SWIVL video recorders. These devices allow a teacher set up the equipment, set play, and start teaching. The SWIVL has a Bluetooth connection to a microphone that the teacher wears around his or her neck. The Bluetooth unit connects to the video and controls the camera so that it follows the teacher as he or she moves around the room. It also picks up the teacher’s voice. The videos are uploaded to the Arlington district Google drive and made available to teachers throughout the district to view at their convenience.

This method has enabled entire lessons to be recorded, increasing the opportunity for viewers to reinforce their understanding of the content. With the videos available at any time, more teachers are able to see what the lessons look like in actual practice. The feedback has been very positive, and this year Grade 1 and 2 Literacy Leaders are videotaping their entire first unit of study in reading, providing a view of what the new district reading program looks like in the classroom.

District Literacy Coaches Linda Hanson and Tammy McBride, who started the SWIVL project, report that the program has been so successful that five additional teachers have stepped up to join the original group of Literacy Leaders. These individuals have agreed to invite their peers into their classrooms, videotape their lessons for others to watch, answer questions and lead online discussions and debriefs. I am grateful to those who are willing to open up their practice and share their teaching with their peers. I am also grateful to the Arlington Education Foundation whose grants have supported our efforts to increase teacher-led professional development.

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