A New Pathway: Teacherpreneurs

Who doesn’t want to have more influence, work on solving big problems, and earn a little extra money for doing it? Traditionally, there were only two routes teachers could take to get there. They could either climb their way up through the administrative ranks or move on to the corporate world of curriculum guides, books, workshops and consulting. Both took teachers away from the place that mattered most, the classroom.

But that’s all changing.

No longer must teachers choose between staying and going. They can achieve a purpose beyond their classrooms without leaving them. They can influence their students and teachers from around the world. They can direct policy and use their classroom experience to justify their advocacy. And to do it, they no longer have to sacrifice their identity as teachers.

New technologies, new opportunities and a new culture have changed what is possible. Teachers can now stay in the classroom and, at the same time, thrive in an emerging and exciting new role.

They can become “teacherpreneurs.”

What is a teacherpreneur?

Teacherpreneurs are teacher leaders that continue doing what they do best, affecting students on a daily basis, while also embodying the entrepreneurial spirit in some of the following ways:

  • They come up with ideas that can be shared easily with a large group of teachers, and they represent those ideas in authentic ways.
  • They are thought leaders that work to improve the role of teachers without regard to available resources. They use free platforms like blogs, Twitter, Facebook and Voxer to start their own communities where they can explore critical issues.
  • They see opportunities, which others may not fully recognize, to meet an unsatisfied demand or to radically improve an area of education. They have unquenchable self-belief that this opportunity can be made real through hard work, commitment and the adaptability to learn the lessons of the market along the way.
  • They are innovators that try out new technologies, incubate new ideas and create new ways to reach students.

This movement can trace its roots back to Barnett Berry, CEO of the Center for Teaching Quality. In his book, Teaching 2030: What We Must Do for Our Students and Our Public Schools—Now and in the Future, he articulates a clear vision of this hybrid role:

We see teacherpreneurs, not primarily as marketers [of their own ideas], but as expert practitioners who are paid to spread their ideas and approaches as virtual mentors, teacher educators, community organizers, and policy as well as action researchers. The purpose in creating teacherpreneurs is not to identify “super teachers” who will make a lot more money, but to empower expert teachers who can elevate the entire profession by making sure that colleagues, policymakers, and the public know what works best for students.

Who Are Teacherpreneurs?

Vicki Davis — Vicki spends about 30 minutes during her school day at Westwood Schools in Camilla, Ga., playing with new educational apps. It is one of the many reasons why she has emerged as a leading voice in 21st-century teaching. Many—including Thomas Friedman, author of The World Is Flat, and Don Tapscott, author of Grown Up Digital—look to Vicki as a leader in technology integration. She has won the ISTE Online Learning Network Award, has been named a pioneer in open source virtual world technology, and was recognized by Edublog for the Best Teacher Blog.

Vicki is the author of two books, Reinventing Writing and Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds, and her blog, the Cool Cat Teacher, is consistently among the top 50 blogs in education worldwide. In 2013, Mashable named her one of “10 Rockstar Teachers on Twitter.” She has created more than 20 global collaborative projects connecting students from more than 20 countries. She has shared her exciting story at more than 30 conference keynotes around the world and through webinars.

Dave Stuart Jr. — Dave is an English teacher at Cedar Springs High School in Michigan. He has emerged as a thought leader on the Common Core State Standards and avoiding teacher burnout. In addition to his teaching duties, Dave is the author of A Non-Freaked Out Guide to Teaching the Common Core and is a highly sought out speaker and professional development facilitator. On his blog, www.davestuartjr.com, he writes about literacy instruction, character strengths and teacher longevity to more than 35,000 people each month.

Jose Vilson — Jose Vilson wears many hats. The roles of author, advocate and activist are all a part of his teacher narrative. He is a math educator for a middle school in the Inwood/Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City. Jose’s most recent book, This Is Not a Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and the Future of Education, was endorsed by American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and New York University professor, education historian and policy analyst Diane Ravitch.

In addition to his teaching and writing, Jose serves on the board of directors for the Center for Teaching Quality and the president emeritus of the Latino Alumni Network of Syracuse University. He writes regularly for Edutopia and TransformED / Future of Teaching, and has contributed to the New York Times, CNN.com, Education Week, the Huffington Post, and El Diario la Prensa (a Spanish-language daily newspaper in New York City).

What It Means for You

Each of the teachers above found effective ways to contribute to the profession without sacrificing his or her calling in the classroom. To be a teacherpreneur, you don’t need 100,000 Twitter followers or a Rolodex of contacts. Here are three places to get started:

  • Attend a Teach to Lead Summit. In coordination with supporter organizations, Teach to Lead hosts Regional Teacher Leadership Summits to help spotlight and advance the groundbreaking, teacher-led work that is happening in states, districts and schools across the country.
  • Apply to become a teacherpreneur. Over the past three years, the Center for Teaching Quality has supported 18 teacherpreneurs and Teacher Leaders in Residence in seven states, working on projects that advance smarter teaching policies and stronger classroom practice.
  • Start your own leadership initiative on a blog, Facebook, Twitter or Voxer.