This year, I have the pleasure to work closely with a dedicated group of teachers from the Fall Mountain Regional High School (FMRHS) as they begin their journey as co-teachers in their classrooms. General Education teachers co-teach with Special Education teachers in groups where identified and general education students learn together to meet the Common Core State Standards for in the subject area.

It has been an amazing year that has been filled with challenges and successes for both students and teachers. Because I am in FMRHS coaching teachers at least twice a month, I have a bird’s eye view of the process of forming co-teaching teams. I’ve learned a number of lessons from this journey.

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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: