Mort Teacher Leader Academy (MORT)
When I first started teaching, I would hear the words 'teacher leaders,' and I only thought of administrators. Now when I hear the words 'teacher leaders,' I think of all kinds of positions within a school that could fall in that category.
Amy DiSalvo, Mort ESE Teacher
Mort Teacher Leaders participating in a Morning Meeting during one of their classes in the Mort Teacher Leader Academy.
Teacher education is entering an exciting era. Scholars and practitioners alike are calling for teachers to be educated differently (NCATE, 2010), which means that the way we prepare teachers and the way we support teachers' ongoing professional development must change. In lieu of "one size fits all" "sit and get" professional development, teachers' professional development must be ongoing, differentiated, sustained, supported, and rooted in issues that they face on a daily basis. Such is the experience for the teachers of Mort Elementary School in Hillsborough County Public Schools who participate in the Mort Teacher Leader Academy (MTLA).
MTLA a clinically-centered model of teacher leader preparation. Clinically-centered models of teacher education place the school community, including the PreK-12 students and their classrooms as the center for teacher learning. In this model, the PreK-12 classroom actually becomes the university classroom (Dennis, et al, in press), which is exactly what is occurring with the MTLA. The issues and tensions of teaching and leading an urban school become the foundation for understanding the goals and objectives of teacher leadership and a meaningful curriculum for a graduate certificate. The purpose of MTLA is to develop a cadre of teacher leaders who are able to systematically study their own practice, effectively coach in-service and pre-service teachers, facilitate meaningful job-embedded professional learning, and become a facilitator of change for the improvement of student learning.
MTLA has benefits for both HCPS and USF. First, HCPS receives the benefit of a professor-in-residence who works closely with the principal to create meaningful, job-embedded professional development for HCPS employees, USF benefits in that the program generates graduate student credit hours, and teachers and students benefit from teachers' learning. The program has been so successful that teacher leadership has become a tenet of the Urban Teacher Residency Partnership Program's goals and mission, and HCPS is interested in considering mechanisms to "scale up" this innovation.