The Teacher Leaders We Need

Topics: Leadership

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    Every school has them. They are those staff members that all other staff members in a school look up to because of their teaching skill, knowledge, and experience. They are the teachers in a school who impact learning, not only in their classroom, but at the school and district level. They are there, in essence, to "make the place a better place for kids." They add to the profession by making everyone better. They are committed, dedicated, professionals.

    Most master teachers don't start out as master teachers. They become great at their craft because they put in the time to be the best. Master teachers become master teachers because they know that the most important factor regarding student achievement in the classroom is the teacher and the content knowledge and instructional expertise they bring to the classroom. Becoming a master teacher takes years of practice, research, and growth. Because of their standing in a school, master teachers are recognized and respected as natural leaders in their schools.


    The Center for Comprehensive School Reform has spent some time looking at the research concerning teacher leadership in schools. Through their own investigation on teacher leadership they have found that, while there is not a lot of research on teacher leadership, there are enough studies to create a "conceptual framework around the topic. From their research brief, What Does the Research Tell Us About Teacher Leadership? (2008), they developed the following definition to describe teacher leadership:

    Teacher leadership is the process by which teachers, individually or collectively, influence their colleagues, principals, and other members of the school communities to improve teaching and learning practices with the aim of increased learning and achievement. Such team leadership work involves three intentional development foci: individual development, collaboration or team development, and organizational development (pp. 287.288)

    When thinking about the implementation of RTI in our schools, our master teachers are the ones we look to as we begin the process. One of the most important aspects of RTI implementation, as Jim Collins states in his book Good to Great (2001), is "getting the right people on the bus." We need to provide opportunities to allow master teachers to share and model what they know about being a great teacher. We want RTI to succeed in our schools, so by tapping into those in our schools who are recognized as leaders, we promote success in two ways:

    1. We are utilizing those staff members who are recognized and respected as natural leaders in our schools, and
    2. Those who are recognized and respected already have a strong track record of demonstrating success in the classroom.

    These master teachers bring to the RTI process all of the attributes, skills and knowledge needed to promote positive school change around the RTI initiative.

    When thinking about how master teachers can influence RTI implementation in your school, always be thinking about creative ways to draw on their expertise. Here are a few examples of how you might, as a school, use teacher leaders to implement RTI in your schools.


    • Master teachers are great teachers. Use them to do what they do best. Teaching RTI concepts, processes and protocol to the school staff is a great way to take advantage of their strengths.
    • Master teachers usually have strong collaboration skills. The need for collaboration when implementing RTI is paramount. As staff members come together for children, the expertise and knowledge that a master teacher brings to the collaboration process will be a great model for the entire staff.
    • Master teachers know what to teach, when to teach it, and how to evaluate the effectiveness of their instruction. Have them show other staff members the importance of the instructional process within the parameters of RTI implementation.
    • Master teachers are natural leaders. Give them the opportunity to lead. They bring credibility to the effort.
    • Master teachers have become master teachers because they have the unique ability of applying what they learn. They are usually great mentors and coaches. Having them coach others in the building on how to apply RTI concepts in the classroom improves on the learning outcomes for everyone.

    The most valuable staff members are those who are committed to student achievement and the teaching profession. Take advantage of those teachers in your school who have demonstrated over time the qualities of a master teacher. When implementing RTI in a school, it is through their leadership that successful implementation will occur.

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