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July 1, 2016 | 6 comments

Teacher Leadership


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THE IDEA of teacher leadership—educators playing a role in crafting their profession from the inside out—isn’t new or revolutionary, but it has evolved over the past few years. For decades, the logical career trajectory for those seeking to advance in the profession consisted of moving from the classroom into administration. Becoming an administrator was seen as both a promotion and a symbol of leadership in a school building. As educator and author Charlotte Danielson has written, this was the only way to grow in what was perceived as a “flat” profession.

But successful schools require more than administrative leaders; they demand teacher leaders who directly work with students in the classroom. Because teachers tend to stay in the same schools and districts longer than administrators do, they have institutional knowledge that administrators may lack.

Just as important, classroom teachers have the instructional expertise necessary to carry out ideas and projects that principals or school boards may want to enact. And they can lend their perspective to important school reform discussions. As a result, it’s crucial that teachers use their position as classroom experts to influence education policy debates and help their schools to improve.

Types of Teacher Leaders

There are two main types of teacher leaders: formal and informal. Formal teacher leaders take on responsibilities that come with particular positions, such as department chairs, master teachers, instructional coaches, and curriculum developers, some of which may require an application process.

Rather than being selected, informal teacher leaders take the initiative and earn the respect of their peers, although they lack official authority within their schools. Every teacher knows these types of leaders: those who do their jobs so well that novice and veteran teachers alike always seek their advice.

Roles for Informal Teacher Leaders

As detailed below, teacher leaders can take on many types of roles, and it’s important to find the one that best fits you and your personality. That’s where the Share My Lesson website can help.

Lesson plan provider

Have a great catalogue of activities, handouts, lessons, or other resources you can share? Then do it! Ask colleagues if they 

need your resources to teach a particular unit. Or if you notice a newer teacher struggling with organizing his classroom, share successful strategies you have learned over the years. Interested in sharing with a larger group? Post your resources today on the AFT’s own Share My Lesson website:


Informal mentorship can be one of the most rewarding types of teacher leadership. Rather than being used as a replacement for formal mentorship programs offered by many school districts, informal mentoring can help all teachers, not just new ones.

Perhaps you’ve observed a colleague do something amazing, and you think she can have an impact well beyond her particular classroom. Spend some time with that teacher to plan ways to share her successful approach with others. For more on informal mentor- ing, visit:


Have something to say about education but not sure anyone will listen? Try blogging. Take a stand on issues affecting your school, share your curriculum planning expertise, and grow your own professional learning network. For more on blogging, visit www.


Interested in exerting more influence within your school and throughout the profession as a whole? Grow your influence without leaving the classroom by becoming a “teacherpreneur.”

This term was popularized by Barnett Berry and the TeacherSolutions 2030 Team, who, in 2011, wrote Teaching 2030: What We Must Do for Our Students and Our Public Schools—Now and in the Future. According to the Center for Teaching Quality, which Berry leads, teacherpreneurs are educators who “hold hybrid roles: leading beyond their schools while continuing to teach students part of the time.” For more on teacherpreneurs, visit AE216sml2.

The Need for Leadership

The time has come for more teachers to become leaders in their school communities. The voices of those who work with students each day must be heard. Hopefully the ideas outlined here will encourage you to consider your strengths as a leader and explore ways to get involved. 

Ami Turner DelAguila

Ami Turner DelAguilaearned her B.A. in English from SUNY Buffalo and received an M.A in the Teaching of English from Teachers College, Columbia University.

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mcoleman297_2886218 March 28, 2018, 10:14 pm

I have learned that leadership is something that is used more often than not in the classroom. Children follow by example and they get inspiration from their teachers/ leaders. While holding a leadership position can be by being the team leader or something along those lines, every teacher is a leader within the classroom. After reading this article, I agree that the voice of the teachers in their leadership position need to be heard.

Chelsey Bradshaw
Chelsey Bradshaw September 19, 2018, 2:51 pm

I enjoyed reading about the two types of teacher leaders. I feel as though the “informal teacher leaders” are one of the most important components of a successful school. As a teacher, I enjoy watching and learning from colleagues who are leaders in my current school.

As mentioned, the voices of those who work with students every day is the most valuable and must be heard. Naturally, teaches are leaders in their classrooms. By becoming a teacher leader, you can influence and entire school and community.

ostermeyer.emma_2969932 September 20, 2018, 12:07 am

Leadership should be co-constructed and interactive. The notion of learning should involve the pursuit of new knowledge and fostering an effective learning environment with teaching and learning conducive to the leadership. Teacher leadership should involve lifelong learning where there is credibility among peers and the opportunity to become approachable if influencing others in their roles as leaders. Continuous professional development is vital for teacher leadership and maintaining new learning and instructional strategies. It is helpful to build school-wide support and connect with all grade-levels in order to reach out to families and the community. Although barriers and challenges remain to teacher leadership, it is vital to assess leader beliefs and styles and focus on collective strengths in order to effectively collaborate and work towards positive social change. -Emma G.

Jennifer Cregar
Jennifer Cregar March 29, 2021, 6:06 am

I enjoyed reading about the many types of teacher leaders, but with each having a heart of advocacy for the profession and each playing on the strengths that they possess and sharing them with others. I am currently in school studying to be a teacher and I am not sure yet exactly where I will fit into the scheme of it all however I hope that the passion that I have will burn bright which ever direction I go. For the experienced educators reading this, what are some great resources to use in continuing professional development, once I am in the field?

faren.evans_4001485 May 27, 2021, 8:38 pm

(Cronin,2020) opined that a mentor is a person who can support or guide aspiring leaders. In my educational climate, most mentors are teacher leaders who are approachable, innovative, creative, and inspirational to their peers. I must agree that for teacher leaders to be influential, they must identify their strengths and develop these areas periodically through continuous professional development. As I read your blog, I garnered two types of teacher leaders: formal and informal. In my view, I would be considered a formal teacher leader since I have been an active chairperson of the various committee, instructional coach, and master teacher. I also took the liberty to research to ascertain the effectiveness of mentoring. According to (Cronin,2019) Workplace Statistic revealed that :
70% of Fortune 500 companies have programs emphasizing mentorship.
94% of employees attested that they would remain at places of employment if they were allowed to learn and grow. Such an opportunity is achievable through mentoring.
67% of businesses reported an increase in productivity due to mentoring. Follower tends to perform better if they are guided accordingly.
55% of businesses felt that mentoring had a positive impact on their profit. Without a douth mentoring is an effective medium to boost any organization's r productivity if teacher leaders are formal or informal.

faren.evans_4001485 May 27, 2021, 8:40 pm

Good night Colleagues :

What are your thoughts on my initial post? I would love to hear from you.