Inspired by my students, I founded the Future Educator Leader Academy (FELA). FELA is a teacher-nominated leadership academy for students who are recognized as great potential educators. The goal is to expose a diverse group of students to the tremendous difference they can make with a career in education. The program is less than a year old, but we’ve already seen great success, with a strong foundation of 32 student leaders. Here is how we built a successful program that is continuing grow:
Lead a thoughtful selection process that values a diversity of students. I asked my colleagues to nominate students, but I was intentional in saying I wanted a culturally diverse list of students. I wanted them to identify students with great leadership or “teacher-esque” qualities. I told my colleagues: “Do they talk a lot in class? I want them. Do they have a large friend group? Send them my way. Class clown? I’ll take them.” I wanted this to be an inclusive place for students who are never recognized to realize they are worthy and needed to lead future generations.
Build excitement. Every student nominated received a formal congratulatory letter informing them they had been selected by a school staff member for their excellent leadership qualities and invited them to the first FELA meeting. I printed the letters on official school letterhead and my principal and I hand-signed each one before mailing to students’ homes. I wanted them to be able to open it up in front of their parents and feel extraordinary.
Plan and execute thoughtful meeting agendas. I set one meeting date a month for FELA. My supportive principal also set aside a small budget, so I could serve refreshments at each meeting and make our students feel like rock stars. During the first meeting, we got to know one another and established the purpose and goals of the Future Educator Leader Academy. The following meetings introduced my students to the world of education, as many of the members “didn’t want to be teachers.” I set a meeting with educators from different content areas, grades, and even non-teacher positions as speakers. At the next meeting, I had four different colleges and universities from the area speak with students about their education programs and held a “fair” type of event where students could meet with the schools individually and network. The last meeting focused on the broader education landscape. Two members of the Tennessee General Assembly, the Deputy Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Education, and our county’s Chief Academic Officer spoke to students about how education works on a statewide and local level. Students were actively engaged in this discussion; they asked amazing questions and the meaningful conversations continued after the meeting was finished.
Are you interested in supporting the next generation of educators in your community? If so, here are my tips for you:
• Talk to your kids and seek opportunities for them. Speak to students about education as a career and why they would be a good fit.
• Seek out our students of diverse backgrounds and talk openly about education—get their perspective. Our students are yearning to have open and real conversations about their futures with adults who care about them. Students want to know they are wanted—that we value them.
• Find opportunities to connect students with education programs from local universities.
• Ask your superintendent to talk about why education is important and why our students are needed as future leaders.
Our job is to point out student strengths, build meaningful relationships with these amazing kids, and show them that they can change their communities through a career in education. Our students need to know and feel that they are superstars, that education may be their calling.
To learn more read Laura’s two other blog posts about FELA: