The Importance of Teacher Leadership for Student Success

It’s sometimes said that teachers reach the pinnacle of their career the first day they walk into their classroom. Unless they wanted to go into administration, a classroom teacher had no advancement track. But that is changing in many school districts as they begin to embrace teacher leadership.

What is Teacher Leadership?

Teacher leadership can take many forms and will vary from district to district or even school to school. The National Network of State Teachers of the Year (NNSTOY) helped to create the Teacher Leader Model Standards. These standards spell out seven domains where teachers can be leaders while remaining in the classroom:

  1. Fostering a Collaborative Culture to Support Educator Development and Student Learning
  2. Accessing and Using Research to Improve Practice and Student Learning
  3. Promoting Professional Learning for Continuous Improvement
  4. Facilitating Improvements in Instruction and Student Learning
  5. Promoting the Use of Assessments and Data for School and District Improvement
  6. Improving Outreach and Collaboration with Families and Community
  7. Advocating for Student Learning and the Profession

In Illinois, the Illinois Teacher Leadership Network (ITLN), of which Illinois PTA is a member, is working to help define teacher leadership in Illinois, to help the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) recognize teacher leadership, and to help school districts implement teacher leadership.

Many school districts may already be implementing some types of teacher leadership without formally calling it that. In some districts, this is a necessity because there may not be separate staff available to fill some roles. In others, it may be due to the district’s recognizing the importance of teacher mentors, the need to improve professional development or instruction, or the desire to use the additional data schools are collecting to improve student outcomes.

Why is Teacher Leadership Important?

Teacher leadership provides opportunities for teachers to grow in their profession without leaving the classroom that they love. In districts where teacher leadership is being embraced, teachers are happier with their school, which means there is less teacher turnover.

A recent report by the New Teacher Center on the effect of teacher leadership on student achievement provided research-based results identifying how these two are linked. The report, called School Leadership Counts, notes that:

  • Students perform better in schools with the highest levels of instructional and teacher leadership.
  • Involving teachers in the decision-making processes related to school improvement planning and student conduct result in higher student achievement.
  • High-poverty schools often lack teacher leadership elements that improve student achievement, which limits students’ potential at those schools.

What Role Do Parents and PTAs Have with Teacher Leadership?

It’s important to remember that Domain VI of the Teacher Leader Model Standards focuses on improving outreach and collaboration with families and communities. PTAs and their families can encourage their school and district administration to learn about and implement teacher leadership as a way of improving student achievement. They can also work with their administration to help improve family engagement through programs such as the National PTA School of Excellence. Finally, it is important to recognize that schools and districts that embrace teacher leadership and including teachers in the decision-making processes are also schools and districts that are likely to embrace parent leadership and inclusion in decision-making.

Learn More at the Illinois PTA Convention

Steven Elza, the 2015 Illinois State Teacher of the Year and an ITLN member, will be presenting a workshop on teacher leadership at the Illinois PTA Convention on Saturday, May 5th. Don’t miss out on this and other great workshops. Register for convention today!

Photo courtesy US Air Force/Kelly Deichert.

Top 10 Reasons to Attend the Illinois PTA Convention



The 116thAnnual Illinois PTA Conventionis coming up May 4-5 at the NIU-Naperville Conference Center. If your PTA doesn’t have someone attending convention yet, here are the top ten reasons why you should. The early bird discount ends April 6th, so register today!

  1. Meet keynote speaker Dr. Devorah Heitner.In addition to giving the keynote address, Dr. Heitner will be presenting a workshop and signing copies of her new book, Screenwise: Helping Kids Thrive (and Survive) in Their Digital World. Copies will be for sale at convention.
  2. Get some hands-on learning with MemberHub.Are you a little confused about how to use MemberHub with your PTA or school? Take advantage of the hands-on workshop time in the NIU-Naperville computer lab with MemberHub staff to learn how to make the most of this great platform to run your PTA.
  3. Network, network, network.Tired of having your PTA do the same thing year after year. Share experiences and ideas with PTA members from across Illinois to learn new ways of doing programs or to discover new events your PTA can do. Find out how other PTA leaders have solved the problems you or your PTA are facing.
  4. Spend some PTA funds to improve your PTA.Attending the Illinois PTA Convention is an acceptable use of PTA funds. The leadership skills, program ideas, and other experiences of convention can supercharge your PTA going forward.
  5. Win prizes.Our convention vendors love our members and donate prizes that are given away at the start of both general sessions and the end of the last general session. In addition, Illinois PTA will be having a drawing among first-time convention attendees for a free convention registration to the 2019 Illinois PTA Convention. If you haven’t attended before, here’s your chance for a 2-for-1 deal.
  6. Become a better advocate.As a PTA member, you have a superpower. It is your voice, which is heard far too rarely by school boards and legislators. Learn how to use this superpower to make a difference in the life and education of not just your child, but all the children in your school district, in Illinois, and across the nation.
  7. Enhance your leadership skills.Whether you knew it or not, PTA leaders are running small non-profit organizations. Learn how to run your PTA more effectively through the Illinois PTA University leadership courses and other workshops at convention.
  8. Learn from experts. Want to grow your PTA membership, but don’t know how? Want to reach out to all the communities at your school? Heard about childhood trauma and education, but don’t really know what it means? Want to write grants for your PTA, but don’t know where to start? We’ll have workshops covering all these and more.
  9. Make your voice heard.Convention is where Illinois PTA has its business meeting, and it’s your opportunity to direct where the association is going. Vote on the budget, elect program directors (officers next year), shape our legislative platform, and more.
  10. Meet with vendors.Looking for an alternative to your wrapping paper fundraiser? Want to find an exciting assembly? Vendors at the Illinois PTA Convention are there to help you.

Here’s a secret 11threason to attend: to have fun! Getting together with fellow PTA leaders and members often involves laughter and new friendships. Don’t miss out on the fun. Register today!



Rekindling the Flame

Feeling overwhelmed by your PTA responsibilities? Winter’s cold and snow got you feeling down? Use these tips to rekindle the flame of PTA Leadership!

Dare to Try New Things

Try something new to develop a stronger and more vital PTA. Have a brainstorming session with your board or your members to discover new ways of doing things. Develop a list of reasons why these ideas will work. Eliminate negative phrases like “we’ve always done it this way.”

Try Again…and Again

Develop the patience to tell your PTA’s story again, and again. Always consider who you are talking to. How much they already know? What is the message you want to get across? Try limiting your message to twenty words or less to find out what is the most critical part of your message.

Delegate Responsibility

Involve as many people as possible in the work of the PTA. Ask yourself, “What am I doing that someone else can do as well or better than I can?” Be specific about the job to be done. Then trust those to whom you have delegated the responsibility to make good decisions, keeping in mind that their way of doing things might not be your way.

Attract and Retain Active Members

People are motivated to give their time and talents to issues that concern them. Find out what issues are important to your PTA membership. Seek the opinions and advice of the community. Match jobs to people who are motivated to use their knowledge and skills on identified concerns. Share what your PTA has already accomplished this year to recruit new members who can bring in new energy and ideas.

Overcome Procrastination

If you realize that you are procrastinating on a tough job, divide it into a series of small and manageable “instant tasks.” Start each day by doing at least one task you have been putting off.

Work with People Effectively

Chairing a meeting requires more than a knowledge of parliamentary procedure; it requires skill in human relations. Be approachable. Make sure your body language communicates respect. Be a team player; work for consensus. Encourage people to focus on what is best for children and the PTA.

Keep Your Sense of Humor

If the PTA is working for worthwhile goals, expect frustration and problems because change is always hard. But remember that working hard for important goals doesn’t have to be gloomy. Keep your sense of humor in all your PTA work.

Recognize When to Bow Out with Class

Your PTA’s future depends on recruiting new leaders and moving them into increasingly responsible positions. Support the nominating committee in their search and avoid criticizing new people. Be willing to move on in the PTA and give your successor room to do their job.

What Am I?

I am the link which unites and presents a clearly defined image of PTA work to the community.


I provide strong, inspiring leadership.


I am understanding and compassionate to unit problems.


I work with the district board realizing that through cooperation, we may achieve the purposes of the PTA.


I refrain from legislating for units.


I shall not dictate to units.


I interpret the basic PTA policies in a friendly, impersonal manner, noting that units abide by their bylaws.


I counsel with courtesy and perception, knowing that each unit is autonomous.


I give PTA information in a clear and easily understood manner.


I start my meetings on time and use parliamentary procedure to ensure a fair and just meeting.


I work within the framework of the PTA purposes, mission, and vision, recognizing that they are the foundation of all PTA work.


I keep my units informed concerning deadlines on National PTA and Illinois PTA grants, reports, awards, registration forms, and bylaws.


I stay informed on PTA legislation and share my experience and information with the units, realizing that sharing is an important part of leadership and my obligation to the members.


I abide by my bylaws and urge local units to do the same.


I present programs, demonstrating technique along with information.


I plan informative leadership development seminars.


I use National PTA and Illinois PTA resources in my work.


I try at all times to be big enough to overlook pettiness, small enough to ask for help when needed, and above all, to practice what I preach.


I lead by example.


I am a PTA Council.