Tennessee Educator Fellows: Teacher-Leaders Bilingual In Practice And Policy

Who should start the conversation around college and career readiness in our state? Would you have said a first-grade teacher from southeast Tennessee? Kevin Winters is a Tennessee Educator Fellow who has launched JobFair BookShare, an example of teachers who are leading advocacy and conversations on what Tennessee students need.

Increasing the number of students who are strong readers and writers is top of mind in Tennessee and as a first-grade educator, a professional imperative for Kevin. But he also recognizes that literacy is deeply connected to other education needs in Tennessee, such as postsecondary readiness.

Kevin invites business partners, community leaders, and policymakers to read high-quality, grade-appropriate books to students in his school district and concretely model how literacy plays a role in their professional lives.  Guest readers get the chance to influence students’ perceptions of reading while educators and students alike better understand the demands and expectations of the modern workplace.

This type of thoughtful ‘doing’ is the result of the learning fellows do through the Tennessee Educator Fellowship.

The fellowship provides educators an opportunity to make a lasting difference for students beyond the classroom while continuing to lead students from the classroom. In the past four years, 145 Tennessee educators have had the chance to lead important conversations across the state and within their communities on what students and educators need to continue Tennessee’s historic growth in student achievement. They are the teacher-leaders who are bilingual in practice and policy matters and can bring colleagues and communities together on the issues that matter for students.

But what does it mean to truly bring people together as a teacher-leader? While articles describing collective impact or books on educator advocacy can start that conversation, the program takes fellows to the next level. Fellows thoughtfully consider what it takes to be an effective student-focused advocate and to make a lasting impact through this work.

That learning begins with fellows bringing their wealth of practitioner experience to a range of discussions. The discussions include engaging with state and local education leaders to learn about Tennessee’s education journey, the nuances of policymaking in the education space, and the opportunities to make our shared education goals a reality. With each conversation, fellows consider how this context resonates with their work with students and how they can influence decisions that impact that work.  They grapple with the same challenges leaders face to develop and refine student-focused solutions. Layered on top of these foundational conversations is a series of communications and advocacy trainings that empower fellows to share their stories effectively. Along the way, fellows choose the issues they want to impact and benefit from the coaching and comradery of a statewide, diverse network of alumni and fellows.

The fellowship experience has empowered fellows and alumni to share thoughtful insights and lead innovative initiatives that will make a difference in student learning:

• In Manchester City Schools, 2017-18 fellow Mary Gilbert collaborated with local education leaders and community members from three school districts to begin addressing chronic absenteeism, an important issue that impacts student performance.
• 2016-17 fellow Erin Rains from Bradley County shared her experience with using data from high quality annual assessments to support her students and improve her craft.
• 2016-17 fellow Dr. Diarese George founded the Tennessee Educators of Color Alliance with the support of fellows Erin Glenn from Hamilton County and Mary-Owen Holmes from Maury County to deepen support for teachers of color in Tennessee.

We are currently looking for the next cohort of Tennessee Educator Fellows. If you are a Tennessee public school teacher, librarian, or school counselor with three years or more of experience and want to be the change agent Tennessee has been waiting for, we invite you to apply to become a SCORE Tennessee Educator Fellow. Applications for the 2018-19 Tennessee Educator Fellowship will be accepted through Friday, March 2, 2018, at 11:59PM (CT). If you support the success of Tennessee students and teachers, we ask that you share this opportunity with the teachers in your network. SCORE looks forward to working with another class of fantastic educators who will push Tennessee students forward.

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Peter Tang

Peter leads the Tennessee Educator Fellowship. After graduating from Amherst College with a bachelor’s degree in history in 2010, Peter came to Tennessee for a teaching career. He taught seventh-grade math at Westside Achievement Middle School in the Achievement School District and eleventh-grade English at East High School in Memphis City Schools before being named a master teacher at Kate Bond Middle School in Shelby County Schools. Peter was selected for the inaugural class of Tennessee Educator Fellowship and is an alumnus of the Teach Plus Teaching Policy Fellows program, where he had the opportunity to brief national and state policymakers about teacher development and rigorous academic standards. He serves as a Tennessee Department of Education Core Coach and on the board of EdReports.org, a nonprofit that provides Consumer Reports-style reviews of instructional materials.

The SCORE Sheet is the online conversation on public education reform in Tennessee and is hosted by SCORE. The blog mirrors SCORE’s collaborative nature and features contributors from Tennessee and across the country including students, parents, teachers, policymakers, community groups, and members of SCORE’s team. Regardless of perspective, contributors share a common goal: that every child graduates from high school prepared for college or the workforce.

Posts on The SCORE Sheet are the opinions of the individual contributors and are not necessarily reflective of the opinions and positions of the State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE).