Editor’s Note: The following post by Antero Garcia, U.S. Department of Education Teaching Ambassador Fellow, is a reflection on the second Teach to Lead Regional Summit that was held in Denver from January 9-11th. His bio is below.

16064099477_823e92b87b_k“Why do you teach?”

Amidst a lyrical chant, 7th Grade English teacher Genevieve DuBose provoked more than two hundred participants at the Teach to Lead Denver Summit this past weekend.

Based on ideas they shared and received feedback via online community site Commit to Lead, the participants at this second Teach to Lead summit came from 26 different states, representing diverse schools across the country. With the goal of developing customized models of teacher leadership, these teams came together to pull up their proverbial sleeves and do the hard work of defining new pathways within the current teaching profession.

Throughout the weekend, powerful teacher leaders and collaborators from sites like the Breadloaf Teacher Network, the Santa Fe Indian School, the Dolores T. Aaron Academy in New Orleans, and Denver Public Schools illustrated models of teacher leadership that were being enacted. These presentations highlighted how leadership in schools continues to vary to meet the individual needs of students within their communities. If one thing was clear at the summit it was that there is no one-size-fits-all model for supporting teachers within this profession.

And while speakers like DuBose and organizations like the National Network of State Teachers of the Year helped inspire and compel participants to strive toward leadership-drive excellence, most of the weekend’s summit was focused on the hard work necessary for re-envisioning site-specific models of teacher leadership.

At my table for instance, a team of four educators from Anchorage, Alaska spent their time carefully looking at how teachers can sustain the needs of high school students dual-enrolled in college courses. Likewise a participant from the Midwest was developing ways to better leverage university-school district partnerships to support early childhood education. With powerful “critical friends” from groups such as the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards providing feedback along the way, these groups developed complex and soundly thought-out logic models by the end of the weekend.

With actionable steps to be implemented and check-in points in the near future, the weekend’s summit functioned as a source of significant innovation and space for ideation. All participants left the summit ready to try out model of change.

Will they all work? Not necessarily. However, with feedback and careful reflection and revision, the ideas generated at the summit felt like a very clear avenues to help reshape and strengthen the teaching profession.

By the end of her keynote, DuBose was no longer just asking “Why do you teach?” She was also questioning, “Why do you lead?” Intertwining these two actions– teaching and leading, the Teach to Lead Summit felt like a space where participants could ask the right questions about what happens in schools in 2015.

About the Author

Antero Garcia is an Assistant Professor in the English Department at Colorado State University and a 2014-2015 U.S. Department of Education Teaching Ambassador Fellow. Prior to moving to Colorado, Antero was an English teacher at a public high school in South Central Los Angeles. Antero completed his Ph.D. in the Urban Schooling division of the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, Antero’s research focuses on developing critical literacies and civic identity through the use of participatory media and gameplay in formal learning environments. Antero’s research has appeared in numerous journals including The Harvard Educational Review, English Journal, and Rethinking Schools. He is the author of several book chapters and the books Critical Foundations in Young Adult Literature: Challenging Genres (Sense, 2013) and Teaching in the Connected Learning Classroom (Digital Media Hub, 2014).

Signs of Innovation, Leadership, and Sustaining Teachers: Snapshots from the Denver Teach to Lead Regional Summit