Imagining Leadership: Learning While Leading

Ruth Dawson, Jane Bennett

Graduates  of  education  faculties  embark  on an exciting learning journey. Teachers have the opportunity throughout their careers to teach in a variety of roles in their school. A leadership role appeals to some. At one time, this meant becoming a principal. Today, however, there are numerous routes that teachers can follow as they consider roles of added responsibility.

Leadership and professional learning go hand in hand. In this article, ETFO members who are teacher leaders  describe the essential role that continued  professional learning plays in  their work. Each began by taking on small leadership roles in their school or board. They found that each leadership activity was also a professional learning opportunity.

Like  others  looking  for  an  opportunity  to share more  formally  with  colleagues, Jennifer Paziuk, a teacher  librarian in the Halton District School Board, found teaching Additional Qualification courses to be a natural next step.

She had been a workshop leader in her board and throughout the province for a few years. As an AQ instructor  Paziuk has found that being aware of current research and new instructional approaches  is  essential, and  now  professional reading  plays  a  key  role  in  her  learning  and preparation. Because she may teach Parts 1, 2, and 3  together she must differentiate the various topics, and dig deeply into the research and pedagogy to  have  enough interesting and relevant materials for each course.

Sue  Pasian, a  Literacy Improvement Project Teacher in the Hamilton-Wentworth School District, has also found that keeping current is critical to her work. During the last few years, some boards have introduced new  coaching roles so that a school-based teacher leader can work with other teachers in the school. Pasian was excited about this role. “It is such a wonderful opportunity to work with educators in many different settings and  see  what  works  or  doesn’t  work in their particular situation,” she said. She has found that visiting other teachers’ classrooms has helped her gain significant insight into her own practice and enhanced her professional growth. She  has  also participated in numerous professional activities to acquire new knowledge in the area of  literacy. Now when she  participates in professional learning, she thinks about the content as well as about how she will integrate what she has learned into her own presentations with teachers, a significant new approach for her.

Curriculum  consultants or  coordinators are teacher leaders who focus on curriculum implementation and facilitating professional development, a  role  that  requires continual  learning. Kristi  Manuel  (Peel  District  School  Board), Sheridawn Maloney (Rainbow  District School Board),  and Michelle Skene (Ottawa-Carleton District School Board) have found that working as consultants has led to numerous professional development  opportunities.  Maloney  believes that to be prepared, she has to be familiar with current


Woman ETFO members posing together

My experiences  as a teacher from a minority culture pushed me to become an activist in my school.

ETFO President John Hammond

I’d like to start by thanking you. It’s been a long and stressful 14 months of central bargaining for members.