Teacher leadership

Richard Fulton

Exactly 100 years ago in 1913, Fort Lewis College created the first teacher-training program in the Four Corners, with education courses focusing on dairying, soils, hygiene, cooking and sewing in a three-year academic program. A century later, FLC will begin a new innovative chapter in its history of teaching teachers with its first graduate programs, a master of arts in education-teacher leadership and a teacher leadership certificate.

The profession of teaching has evolved significantly over the last 100 years, when instruction for all grade levels occurred in one-room schoolhouses, which were the norm in this region.

In the 21st century, educators have been overloaded with the multiple layers of expectations from students, parents, communities, colleges, and state and national legislatures.

To create ideal learning environments in response to these demands, teacher leadership is essential.

Both nationally and locally, teachers are taking significant leadership roles to implement significant school reform.

The recent explosion of innovation in our region’s schools is unprecedented in rural Colorado. For example, Ignacio is launching one-to-one laptop programs in its secondary schools to meet individualized learning needs of all students.

The International Baccalaureate curriculum that focuses on interdisciplinary, culturally rich studies is now in place at Florida Mesa, Needham and Animas Valley elementary schools, Miller Middle School and Durango High School.

The San Juan Board of Cooperative Educational Services’ eSchool delivers online instruction to nearly 70 students in the region. Expeditionary Learning has found a home at Escalante Middle School, DHS and Silverton schools.

As part of DHS, the DiVinci program integrates arts into a science, technology, engineering and mathematics framework. Big Picture, another innovative program, highlights internships and individualized studies for high school students.

All of these initiatives were introduced and supported by teams of educators and brought to fruition through significant teacher leadership. By starting graduate studies in Teacher Leadership, FLC is partnering with local school districts to prepare the next generation of teacher leaders. That is FLC’s commitment to support educational excellence in our region.

Both the master of arts in education-teacher leadership option and teacher leadership certificate will prepare educators to engage in significant educational reform.

Courses will emphasize how educators create new 21st-century assessments and blend the latest teaching technology with more personalized instruction for students. Students in FLC’s program will learn how to be effective in an increasingly diverse world and teach, not only their students, but also their fellow teachers and school administration.

Teacher-leadership faculty will guide their students in effective leadership practices and individualized research projects that will support the evolutions that are happening now and will happen in the future in our local classrooms and communities. These research projects will become an integral part of an on-going Southwest Educational Summit, offered each year for area educators at FLC. The college’s Teacher Education Department’s highly qualified tenure track faculty and experienced local adjunct faculty will engage a motivated cohort of local educators who can learn together, support each other, and create the schools we need for future generations.

Students in the FLC Master of Arts in Education program can expect to receive a high-quality education from expert professors with real-world experience, accessible courses featuring both face-to-face and online instruction, all with affordable tuition.

Offering courses on campus and, when possible, in outlying areas such as Cortez, Farmington and Shiprock, will allow full-time teachers to access graduate studies without traveling to larger cities or relying on strictly online programs. Because of a generous $15,000 donation to our Teacher Leader Scholarship Fund by former FLC President Joel Jones, the college is making great strides to offer affordable programs for all educators who wish to engage in advanced studies and become dynamic change agents in education.

The world is changing, and our educational systems must evolve to meet the needs of tomorrow. That is precisely why FLC is now offering its master of arts in education-teacher leadership option.

The time is ripe to support teachers’ efforts to bring about significant positive change in their classrooms, schools and districts, and create a regional educational system of professional growth that benefits all people in our local communities.

Anyone interested in finding out more about the program can visit http://graduate.fortlewis.edu/teacher-leadership or contact the Teacher Leadership Program at 247-7097 or Teacher-Leadership@fortlewis.edu.

Richard Fulton is director of Fort Lewis College’s Teacher Education Department. He holds a doctorate degree in educational leadership and policy studies from the University of Northern Colorado. Reach him at Teacher-Leadership@fortlewis.edu.

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