By: Lauren Pfeffer Stuart
Did you know there are ways to lead while still keeping your classroom position? I didn’t! In 2014, I was feeling burnt out, as many educators often feel. I loved being with kids, but felt I wanted to impact education on a larger scale, and I needed a change of pace. As teacher burnout is on the rise, it is of critical importance to find ways to keep our most effective educators in the classroom. Finding opportunities that allow you remain teaching while also flexing your leadership potential is one way to stave off the burnout. Here are 4 of my tips.
Open the first door
Finding that first opportunity can feel challenging. Believe it or not, I did a basic internet search for “non-teaching jobs with a teacher credential” and came across a National Teacher Fellowship offered by Hope Street Group. It checked all the boxes: kept me in the classroom, involved me in teacher leadership at a national level, and took me out of my day-to-day routine. This experience changed everything for me. I met other teacher leaders from around the country, and we worked together on the issue of teacher preparation. I was given training on telling my story, working with legislators, and the art of networking. What I didn’t realize was that there is a whole ecosystem of teacher leadership out there. Once this door was open, it was a steady stream of doors waiting to be opened.
After Hope Street Group, I became a Teach Plus California Fellow. In this position, I traveled to Sacramento, CA, and met with legislators around the issue of teacher tenure. We worked in collaboration with an Assembly member to draft legislation to extend the period of time teachers were given to achieve tenure, while also ensuring mechanisms were in place to support struggling teachers.
Turn toward your passions
Not interested in policy? Look for opportunities within your content or passions areas. As an English Language Arts teacher, the National Council of Teachers of English was a place for me to grow related to my subject area expertise. They offered the Kent B. Williamson Fellowship which brought me to DC to advocate on issues related to English Language Arts instruction. While that fellowship is no longer offered, the organization offers leadership opportunities for members, as well as opportunities to engage with the NCTE Advocacy and Leadership Summit.
Get Involved at the National Level
This year, I am on loan from my school district to the U.S. Department of Education as a full-time School Ambassador Fellow. This year-long or part-time experience allows educators to bring their knowledge to the Department and lend their voice to the national dialogue on education. During this experience, I co-hosted the Teach to Lead Summit in Atlanta, led the data collection on the State of Education annual survey, worked with the Office of Education Technology to share stories on digital equity, and created a capstone project to bring back to my district.
Lend Your Voice
Finally, there are always organizations looking to hear from teachers and utilize our knowledge. EdReports is a non-profit that offers reviews of instructional materials created by teachers. If you are passionate about curriculum, you can become a reviewer. In 2019 they established the Klawe Fellowship as an opportunity for reviewers to build their leadership skills through advocacy. I currently sit on the Board of Directors for EdReports and help guide the organization on their mission.
What are you waiting for? See what is out there aligned with your interests. It exists, go knock on the door.
Lauren Pfeffer Stuart is a middle school English Language Arts intervention teacher. She has a Master’s in Education from Pepperdine and has been teaching for 16 years. She is currently working as a School Ambassador Fellow for the U.S. Department of Education.