Kevin Henson supports Kevin Hensonnew teachers through home-grown induction leadership.

School: Lenape High School
District: Lenape Regional High School District
State: New Jersey
Source: Knowles Science Teaching Foundation

Kevin Henson has remained at the same New Jersey high school since he started teaching a decade ago. “What I like is that I have the ability to provoke change,” he says. “Things are not stagnant, and I can see the culture beginning to turn.”

Henson plays a key role in the teacher induction program for the five high schools in the Lenape Regional district, a required three-year course for new teachers at the high schools focused on research-based pedagogy. After completing this induction program, he applied to be an instructional trainer in this program, a process that included observation of his classroom as well as visits from Fitchburg State University (Mass.) faculty who are partners with the district. His interest in this emerged because he wanted an opportunity to not only support the induction of other new teachers, but to build a collaborative environment for teachers in the district in order to continue learning. The course, he says, is helping “establish a culture where teachers see a meaning in what we’re doing.”

The common language and expectations raised in the course have driven the development of the district’s teacher evaluation model, which Henson helped create. He now leads teacher workshops on ways to align instruction with the model. “We wanted to make sure we weren’t doing something just for the sake of doing it, but to get teachers thinking about how it can impact students,” he says. “My role as a leader is to have that conversation, whether formal or informal.” As a result of the alternate model the district developed, he says, “teachers are finding value in the [system] as opposed to seeing a mandate.”

With a background in oceanography, Henson ultimately decided that he wanted to teach across the broad spectrum of sciences. In a fast-track master’s education program, he found himself with little time to reflect and less time to focus on the specifics of science instruction. Joining Knowles Science Teaching Foundation (KSTF) enabled him to develop his knowledge and skills in science instruction and to find opportunities for reflection and greater learning with others. “Being able to teach science is something different,” says Henson. “KSTF was a good opportunity to bridge pedagogy and science education, and it allowed me to be more reflective. That was an essential piece to help me grow as a teacher.”

Henson joined the KSTF in 2003. KSTF’s emphasis on teacher leadership played a key role as Henson shaped his career—and ultimately stayed in the classroom. “The KSTF Fellowship helped establish for me what it means to be a leader,” he says. “If I didn’t have the Fellowship, I would have felt like I couldn’t have a voice without 10 or 15 years of experience. It also doesn’t mean you have to take a position with a title or leave teaching.”

Growing His Own