Deputy Chancellor for Educator Quality
For more than 25 years, the Florida Department of Education and Macy’s have celebrated teachers and teaching through the Florida Teacher of the Year program. Each school district and local education agency in the state nominates one Teacher of the Year to attend a recognition gala and professional development conference. From among these accomplished educators, Florida’s Teacher of the Year is named and on his or her way to a year-long mission to advocate for our state’s outstanding students and educators.
The department’s Commissioner of Education, Pam Stewart, challenged us this year to take our work with these phenomenal educators to the next level. She envisioned a year-long professional learning opportunity that would invite each district Teacher of the Year to take on the challenge of improving student outcomes in a classroom that is not his or her own. We invited this year’s honored educators to step out of their classrooms and become leaders within their community and across the state, something many were already doing.
Department staff partnered with the New Teacher Center, a national leader in the area of professional development and support, to give these teachers the tools and resources they need to lead their peers. Through the partnership, we created the LEAD network, a year-long program for the Florida’s district Teachers of the Year that included two in-person meetings and five online learning forums. During the program, each teacher created an action plan in one of two areas: leading a group of educators in a Professional Learning Community or individually coaching new teachers. With tools and blended staff support, our LEAD teachers are able to increase student achievement through helping their peers.
At our most recent in-person meeting, we learned many of our LEAD teachers have taken the work we started this summer developing “growth mindsets” back to their schools or districts. Several, for example, are leading year-long book studies with Carol Dweck’s Mindset as the key text.
We’ve also heard from many educators on how much they value the LEAD network. One participant commented that, as a result of this year’s LEAD Network, she has done “more sharing this year than all of her 26 years in education.” Another commented that she feels like she is “in a room full of giants,” every time the group comes together.
As a result of Commissioner’s Stewart vision, the department is changing its strategy for working with teachers, opting for deeper and more sustained communication so the impact of these educators can extend far beyond their own classrooms.
We are also modeling our programs so that local school districts and other organizations can see what teacher leadership means to the department and why it is important. Taking on the challenge of ensuring college- and career-readiness for every Florida student is an enormous challenge, a great opportunity and our moral responsibility. However, we cannot prepare students if we don’t acknowledge Florida’s teachers as our partners and as community leaders. The Teacher LEAD Network is our proud contribution to celebrating and advancing the profession of teaching.
Each time I work with these honored educators, I can’t help echoing the thoughts of one of our participants and feeling lucky to work with such educational giants.