08/26/13 The Plymouth Community Schools never stops looking for ways to improve student achievement. For one of their new initiatives, administrators are tapping into the talent found in their very own teaching staffs.

Assistant Superintendent Dan Funston has taken on the responsibility of organizing the first group of Teacher Leaders. Funston says they plan to have ten or more teachers trained and in place by October of this year. He said they want to recognize, reward and develop leaders for the school system.

In the position of Lead Teacher or Senior Lead Teacher, teachers will work in an advisory capacity as opposed to an authority capacity. Funston said administrators are in the process of determining the areas where Lead Teachers could be the most effective and fill the greatest needs. Their functions could include serving as an instructional coach, mentor, curriculum specialist, grant writer, or action researcher.

The first step in identifying those in each of the buildings in the corporation as potential leadership participants was to allow each teacher in the system to nominate two fellow teachers who they felt would be a good fit for the program. Those nominated were then given an opportunity to learn more about how the program would work and if they wanted to take on the extra tasks in addition to teaching in their own classrooms.

Participants will be asked to attend a series of training exercises consisting primarily of National School Reform Faculty protocols including planning, examining student work, examining student data, peer observation, brainstorming, dilemmas, and analyzing text. Funston indicated that those in the group will also be involved in training for general leadership development.

Participants will have to interview for the final available positions with a committee made up of administrators and others. According to Funston, candidates may be selected by exhibiting a pattern of high student growth, 97 percent attendance, leadership abilities and exhibiting willingness for continuous improvement. Those chosen will receive a stipend of $4,000 per year. At some point, those chosen as Senior Lead teachers will receive a yearly stipend of $7,000.

Funston said Lead Teachers and Senior Lead Teachers will be evaluated each year and the needs of the corporation will be reassessed each year as well. He said, “In most cases, individuals will continue their appointments until the needs of the corporation change or their effectiveness is not sufficient to the task.”

Menominee Elementary second grade teacher, Megan (Barker) Atkinson was nominated by teachers at her school. She taught kindergarten for three years before switching to 2nd grade last school year. Atkinson said, “I have always wanted to get as involved as I can with students and other teachers.” She said she sees the Teacher Leadership Program as a practical way to help teachers by offering suggestions of things that she has found work in her classroom such as interactive bulletin boards and discipline plans and finding new ideas from other classrooms.” Atkinson traces her ability to speak in front of a group or communicate a particular idea with others to her participation in speech and theatre at Plymouth High School. Atkinson, 2003 PHS graduate, said, “I give 100 percent credit to the PHS Speech and Debate Team and theatre training for teaching me how to speak on my feet.”

Lead teachers will not be designated to only one school, but will typically serve a grade level or corporation function, according to Funston.

Carol Anders Correspondent