In 2013 the Iowa legislature passed a law establishing the Teacher Leadership and Compensation system. The goals of this legislation were to: 1) Attract promising new teachers by offering competitive starting salaries and offering short-term and long-term professional development and leadership opportunities; 2) Retain effective teachers by providing enhanced career opportunities; 3) Promote collaboration; 4) Reward professional growth and effective teaching by providing pathways for career opportunities that come with increased leadership responsibilities and involve increased compensation; and 5) Improve student achievement by strengthening instruction.
According to the Iowa Department of Education, "the overriding philosophy of the system is multi-pronged, but boils down to this: Improving student learning requires improving the instruction they receive each day. There is no better way to do this than to empower our best teachers to lead the effort."
The Gladbrook-Reinbeck Community School District submitted an application last fall to be included in Iowa's Teacher Leadership System. This past spring, the district learned that it had been selected to participate in this initiative for the coming year and beyond. In the first year, grant funds have been provided by the state to fund the program; in future years, Gladbrook-Reinbeck's Teacher Leadership System will be funded through an additional annual per-student allocation from the state.
The additional funding the district is receiving from this program is being spent on salary stipends and training for teachers who assume new and/or additional roles, designed to help foster collaboration between colleagues as a means of improving student outcomes. G-R's plan called for the creation of a full-time Instructional Strategist position, several model teachers, several mentor teachers. The district has also set aside a portion of these funds for professional development related to the TLC program. It was a requirement of the program (and the TLC law) that those hired for these positions had to have previously been teachers in the district.
Last spring, Kyla Kiburis was selected for the full-time role of Instructional Coach to begin with the start of the 2016-2017 school year. Kyla previously served as the district's K-12 Talented and Gifted teacher. The role of the Instructional Coach, in part, is to support teachers throughout the district through collaborative inquiry, analysis of student data, supporting teachers' professional development, implementation of research-based strategies, and leading district-wide professional development efforts.
Model Teachers for the current year are Nicole Creswell, Ashley Caslavka, Brenda Egesdal, Lindsay Plett, Jen Wrage, Megan Welter, Kyle Formanek, Tom Boheman, and Andrea Rowe. These teachers have assumed their Model Teacher duties while remaining in the classroom full time. They are serving as a point of contact for professional development initiatives, and in cooperation with the Instructional Strategist they are providing leadership for district-wide professional development efforts. Their classrooms are open for teachers to observe the implementation of new strategies or instructional methods. In addition, they provide an extra layer of support between the teachers and the Instructional Strategist, to ensure that professional development needs are identified and supported.
Finally, the G-R Teacher Leadership System includes a number of mentor teachers. The mentors are veteran teachers who agree to support teachers who are new to the profession. They work with the new teachers on many facets of the job, with the intention that they help the new teacher acclimate to the position, allowing them to be successful and, therefore, increasing the likelihood that they will stay in the field long term. New teachers will be assigned mentors for their first two years in the profession. This year's mentor teachers include Diane Staker, Kassi Nelson, Jennifer Strohbehn, and Connie Doughan.
I've heard some people referring to this program as the "Teacher Leadership Grant," and I want to point out that I don't consider this to be correct terminology. The use of the term "grant" implies that it may be a one-year program or that the "grant" funds could eventually run out which would force the district to end the program. I think reasons people are calling it a grant are twofold: 1) The district was required to complete an application in order to be selected for the program, much like a grant; and 2) The funds technically did come to our district as a one-time lump-sum allocation in the first year. Teacher Leadership funding will be ongoing though, as the funds will come as an increased per-student allocation as part of our general funding from the state starting in year two and beyond.
While the state funding for our Teacher Leadership System will be ongoing, the law requires for all of the Teacher Leadership positions to be one-year appointments. Those in a leadership position can apply to continue in their present role. If they decide to return to the classroom after spending time in a leadership role, we certainly support that and have a policy in place that allows them to do so.
Teacher Leadership represents a significant change in our school system and one that has the potential to significantly impact student learning at Gladbrook-Reinbeck. I'm pleased to be part of a progressive school district that is implementing Teacher Leadership to benefit student learning at all levels.
Do you have a comment or question about our new Teacher Leadership System? You are welcome to visit my blog at redhawksupt.blogspot.com/ where you can read all of my columns from the Northern Sun Print and Reinbeck Courier, and leave comments if you wish. You are also welcome to follow me on Twitter, where my handle is @DavidRobertHill.