By Susan Ott
Teachers often reach a point in their careers where they want to become leaders who can affect change in their schools and communities. But not all of them want to leave the classroom to do it.
A masters degree in teacher leadership is unique because it can help boost your career as an educator, but give you a choice of two career paths. You can either:
- focus on improving your teaching and curriculum development skills to become more effective in your current job as a full-time classroom teacher, or:
- move towards splitting your time between teaching and a new role that involves leadership. If you choose this path, the part of your job that happens outside the classroom can involve mentoring colleagues, becoming a program developer (department head, curriculum specialist or technology specialist), or acting as a liaison between your school and community.
The masters in teaching leadership degree can be a good choice if you want to help students on a deeper level, but don’t want to become a full-time administrator. It often appeals to teachers who want to advance their careers without totally giving up classroom teaching.
A masters in teacher leadership is less about management (as in an educational leadership degree) and more about taking the skills and knowledge you already have as a teacher to the next level. Within a teacher leadership program, you’ll focus on subjects such as school improvement, technology, special education, school law and specific subject area content. Most of these areas were probably touched on in your undergrad degree, but with a masters, you’ll become more of an expert, able to then lead and teach others.
With this degree, you’ll have the expertise and ability to be a leader in three main areas: your classroom, your colleagues and your community. Teacher leaders are able to devise new methods within the classroom to improve student performance and reach students who are struggling. They are also able to serve as leaders and mentors to their fellow teachers, sharing and teaching current methods of instruction, discipline, technology and more to improve the overall performance of their school. Some schools have mentoring and leader programs in which veteran teachers with this degree spend a portion of their professional time teaching newer teachers tricks of the trade. And other teacher leaders go beyond the walls of their schools and into the community to devise learning opportunities for adults and others besides their students.
A certification in teacher leadership also exists. While this is not included in your masters program, your academic advisor or department head should be able to help you through the process. Much like your initial teacher certification, this process will require a series of tests, and earning the certificate shows that you are a consummate professional in this field.
What Specific Jobs Can Your Get With This Degree?
Since most teachers who earn this degree do so to stay in the classroom, you may not receive an actual title change after graduation. But this all depends on what your goals are with this degree.
For teachers whose main goal is to improve their instruction and leadership in connecting with students and parents, you’ll probably receive a pay raise for earning your masters, but not a new job title. However, if you’re looking to stay in the classroom, yet advance your title as well, you might consider being a program coordinator or department chair. Teachers in these positions usually trade a period or two of classroom instruction for prep periods in which they can work towards improving the academic programs in their school at large or specific subject area. This job also could include mentoring other teachers.
Other jobs within this field include technology integration specialist or teacher on special assignment, either within the school or in the community. As described above, teachers will usually hold on to some of their classroom and teaching responsibilities, yet split their time in one of these positions. If you wish to improve the technology within your school, you’ll probably work closely not only with other teachers in helping them use integrated computer programs, smart boards and more, you’ll also work with your school librarian(s) as well. Many librarians are now counted upon to have a comprehensive understanding of technology, so you may mentor or team up with your librarian in this position. And if you choose to be on a special assignment, the opportunities vary quite greatly. You could do anything from improving the curriculum in a certain subject area to being a liaison between your school and the community. The great thing about this position is that you can use your strengths to really make a difference in your school.
Schools that offer a masters in teacher leadership may call their courses by slightly different names, however, the courses below outline the majority of topics you’ll cover in your program. Be sure to check your school’s course catalogue for more specifics, such as exact course names and numbers, as well as credit hours earned for each.
- Intro to Teacher Leadership
- Curriculum Organization, Theory and Policy
- Research and Analysis of Classroom Practice
- Creating an Effective Classroom Learning Environment
- Instructional & Organizational Leadership
- Educational Research
- Cultural & Community Relations
- Legal & Ethical Issues in Education
- Coaching and Mentoring
- Educational Technology
- Practicum Seminar