My first leadership experience outside the classroom was imposed upon me. About halfway through my first year, I coached the varsity cheerleading squad at the middle school where I worked, despite having never been a cheerleader. The previous coach had quit mid-season, and the athletic director was desperate. I’ve since discovered that my situation was not unique. New teachers, with their boundless enthusiasm and desire to please, have often been asked to head the tasks left unclaimed by their veteran colleagues.

Fortunately, over the last decade, a shift has developed. As teacher leadership has become more valued, the input of new teachers is also more esteemed, and they now consult on everything from scheduling and instructional practices to hiring — realms previously dominated by administrators.

Their achievements were so widely noted that other teachers requested the trainings.

My middle school’s culture encourages teacher leadership and welcomes contributions from staff at all experience levels, finding that teachers feel more supported and invested in their work when they are offered opportunities to lead. Our beginning teachers have flourished. I interviewed a few of them about their pathways to teacher leadership. Here’s what they said.

Understand professional learning communities

The implementation of Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) has been a great support and a key avenue for developing leadership skills. Hannah primarily listened at first. Being open to her teammates’ suggestions established trust, and they were later receptive to her ideas. Hannah grew to be a valuable member of her PLC, and she was the 8th-grade team leader in her second year.

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