"How do I get my administration to recognize that they have a valuable resource in me?"

I can be a leader or a follower, depending on what the situation demands.  

I started teaching in 1998 with the help of excellent mentors, specifically my first principal. I was a science major in college and started teaching without an education degree, knowing very little pedagogy. This mentoring was one of the reasons that I know that I was successful in the first years of my career. I never would have thought of myself as a teacher, but after marrying a teacher and watching his impact on his students, I knew that I too wanted a job where I could be of value and pass on lessons learned in pursuit of a STEM career. Previously, I had been working in a lab where I spent little time with people and did not feel that my work mattered.  

After several years of teaching, I decided I wanted to go into administration, as I was driven and wanted to help new teachers as my administrators had helped me.  When I asked one of these principals what it took to be a good administrator, he said to me “You have to be a great teacher to be a great administrator.”  This advice stuck with me as I earned my educational leadership degree and continued to hone my practice in the classroom.

When I became an administrator, I was sure that I would be mentoring teachers and making impactful decisions for student achievement. I continued on my own education, obtaining a doctorate degree in Organization Management and Leadership, thinking that one day I would be at the superintendent’s table, leading this huge organization in a positive direction. Unfortunately, in my fours years as an administrator, I spent more time at bus duty, lunch duty, supervising hallways, and disciplining students. So, disillusioned, I went back into the classroom, where I felt that I had more influence over learning. 

Four years ago, a new opportunity presented itself through the Noyce Fellowship for Master Teacher Leaders. I jumped on the opportunity. This was exactly what I had been searching for, an opportunity to mentor and lead without leaving the classroom. I applied and was accepted into the fellowship with 19 other people from Hillsborough County in Tampa, Florida. 

How do I get my administration to recognize that they have a valuable resource in me?

I have learned so much from this fellowship, from how to conduct action research to how to effectively use mentoring language when working with peers. For my annual report that I am currently writing for Noyce, I analyzed my contribution as a teacher leader for this past school year. I found that I contribute on the county and national level; I attend and present at conferences, I write district curriculum, I train other teachers in content, and I am an AP reader for The College Board. Conversely, I realize that I make little contribution in my own school. When I started reflecting on why this is, I realize that I don’t have many opportunities and although, in the past, I have sought opportunities, that my administration does not encourage or appreciate teacher leadership in our school.

What challenges have you encountered in your career as a STEM Educator?

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Several years ago, I asked to lead a Best Practices in Grading training during pre-planning. I felt that grades are often too ambiguous and I wanted to present what research says grading should be based upon. I was thrilled when the training was approved and to have the opportunity to share my knowledge, however, became disheartened when not a single administrator chose to attend. I experienced this again when I asked to serve on a new instructional leadership committee, which seemed like it had potential to a change agent, only to have it disband after a year due to lack of participation and follow-through from administration. I continue to volunteer on committees trying to find the point where instructional decisions and leadership meet but have not found an opportunity where teacher voices are truly heard throughout the school. I am now ending the school year with the question of how I can serve my school as a teacher leader.

How do I get my administration to recognize that they have a valuable resource in me?