Fairfield Ledger

Neighbors Growing Together | Apr 19, 2014

Slechta participates in teacher leadership group

By DIANE VANCE | Jan 17, 2014
Scott Slechta

Fairfield High School teacher Scott Slechta is one of 150 educators in six states selected to participate in the pilot year of the national Teacher Leadership Initiative, a program to develop leaders within the teaching profession.

“We’re creating a leadership program,” said Slechta. “It began this month and for the first three months we’re learning, reading, discussing, studying and reflecting.”

Slechta said the 150 teachers were grouped into six cohorts, so he participates in a small group of 25 teachers from elementary to high school, from California to Mississippi.

“We’ve all been directed to specific articles to read about education and about leadership, then our small group members have discussions in a computer chat room,” said Slechta. “We’ve participated in two webinars together and have spent the first few weeks getting to know one another.

“It feels very hands-on and the other teachers in my group are very friendly and open,” he said. “We’ve shared blogs and are getting to know one another as people as well as professionals. Our group has some very good leaders.”

This summer, teachers in the leadership program will integrate what they’ve learned and create an individual plan for their school and their students to implement in the next school year, said Slechta.

“It’s structured and yet it’s also organic, which makes it really enjoyable,” he said. “As things come up, we talk about adding to the program and that happens.”

Slechta said he’s learned he already has leadership qualities and has been a leader among his peers while teaching the past 35 years.

In a press release, the Center for Teaching Quality CEO Barnett Berry said the new program calls on the voices and expertise of accomplished teachers.

“It’s time to blur the lines of distinction between those who teach in schools and those who lead them,” said Berry.

One doesn’t need to be a school administrator to be an education leader, said Slechta.

“I don’t want to be an administrator,” he said. “I want to stay teaching students. But I like the idea of being a leader in my profession. Teachers’ roles are changing.”

The Teacher Leadership Initiative is a collaborative effort with the National Education Association, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and the Center for Teaching Quality.

The leadership initiative is a product of these organizations’ shared vision of teacher-leadership advancing the teaching profession, according to a press release from the NEA.

The long-term goals of the leadership initiative are:

• Define the foundational competencies of teacher leadership.

• Develop relevant experiences and supports to help teachers cultivate those competencies.

• Activate teachers to be leaders for their profession as a result of their participation in this process.

“This initiative will ultimately develop expertise and engage thousands of teacher-leaders in leadership work in schools, with NEA affiliates, and in state houses throughout the country—because every student should have the best possible educators in their schools,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “The program will prepare and support the next generation of our profession’s leaders to meet the demands of a 21st century teaching professional and ensure the success of their students.”

Other expert teachers have designed an interactive curriculum for the teacher participants.

“This is a very positive move in education and exciting for me, personally,” said Slechta. “Teaching day in and day out, it’s nice to step back and look at the bigger picture. I want to know what’s going on in my profession and continue to grow.

“I’m on the ground level, we’re helping design this teacher leadership program from the beginning. We’ve been evaluating our own leadership styles, and it’s been eye-opening to reflect on what I’ve been doing.”

Slechta, who teaches English language arts to all four grades at FHS, earned his teacher’s National Board Certification in 2008.

“That was a surge, earning national certification,” he said. “It helped me understand the power of being a teacher. Now, I look for opportunities to grow and learn. A teacher must continually be a student, too. Teachers must experience personal-learning success so that our students can experience classroom-learning success.”

Slechta, originally from Dennison in western Iowa, joined the FHS staff in 1984 and has taught nearly all of the English courses offered at FHS. Currently, he teaches composition I and II, public speaking and introduction to literature for college credit, along with journalism.

He also is the high school drama director.

He serves the district as the mentoring-beginning educator induction facilitator.

He also teaches teachers through courses for the Iowa State Education Association’s Professional Academy such as ethics for educators and other courses to assist colleagues to prepare for the National Board Certification.

“Because our profession is both challenging and rewarding, teachers need the support and the structure from themselves, their administrators and from educationally sound local, state and national decision makers to become teacher-leaders,” Slechta wrote in his application to the teacher leadership program.

“Teachers see joy of learning and appreciation of knowledge in their classrooms. Teachers also truly and deeply care for their students and their students’ success.

“Teachers don’t want trends in education,” he said. “They want truth in education.

“We should establish a student-centered foundation with solid education goals along with a best-practice instructional plan.”

Slechta said through teacher success and student success, teachers can become role models for their colleagues and become leaders for their school and their district and in their profession.

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