Ben LaRoche has lived on both sides of the country and in a couple of places in between. But when it came time to settle down to a teaching career, he chose to “come back” to Thetford, Vermont. And he’s very happy he did. “I graduated from Thetford Academy in 2006,” he said. “My two younger brothers went to Thetford Elementary School (TES) [where Ben now teaches 6th grade] and my mom worked here as well, so I was a frequent visitor.”

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Like most teachers who enter the profession, I never envisioned much more for myself in the way of leadership outside my own classroom. My classroom was my domain. When I taught first grade, I collaborated with my co-teacher and our assistant. We planned reading and writing workshops together and we did our best thinking when bouncing ideas around together. We constantly reflected on our teaching to improve student learning. In those early days of my career, it never occurred to me that one day I would assume a leadership role as the Literacy Coordinator, where I would have these conversations with many teachers to improve learning outcomes for students.

Teacher leadership can seem untouchable and intangible. Part of the problem is that it is loosely defined and seen differently from school to school. Teacher leadership can be formal or informal, and can take many forms: modeling, peer coaching, team leadership, professional development leader, data collector/examiner, resource provider, and instructional/curriculum support. Taking steps to become a teacher leader benefits not only your students, your peers, and the whole school - it can be a catalyst for career advancement.

To serve as a leader among your peers, you must be willing to listen and build trust. The relationships we build as teachers with our students is transferable to the relationships we build with our colleagues. Becoming a teacher leader positions you to be someone teachers and administrators turn to when a new idea or a challenge surfaces. The pathway to serving as a teacher leader can unfold through conversations with administrators, taking on leadership roles, and coursework. Is there a teacher leader in you?

Commentary by Becky Wipfler

Becky Wipfler is UVEI’s Elementary Education Coordinator and a member of our Program Faculty.  

Other commentaries by Becky, can be found at:



UVEI's founder, two-time director and Board member emerita, Barbara Ragle Barnes, died on March 7, 2018 at the age of 94. Barbara Barnes was not only the founder, two-time director, and a Board member emeritus of UVEI, she was a friend and mentor to me -- as I know she was for so many educators around the Upper Valley and well beyond. On behalf of all of us at UVEI, it was an honor to work and learn from Barbara.  Our work will not be the same without her, and we will miss her!


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