Leading From the Classroom-A New Look at School Improvement

By:  Jean Pingel, Amy Dow, Jennifer Newman, and Natalie Berkhousen, classroom teachers at Gateway Elementary School, St. Johns, MI

Our Gateway North Leadership Team has spent the past two years working with Learning Forward Michigan on Leading From the Classroom. Leading from the Classroom is a two-year program designed to build teacher leaders’ capacity to design, implement, and evaluate standards-based professional learning.

As a result of our engagement in Leading From the Classroom, we gained new perspectives on teaching, learning and leading, which have influenced how we think and operate on a regular basis. Through this process we have become a strong, collaborative unit within our leadership team, which has expanded to our entire building. We operate on a philosophy of joint leadership = joint responsibility. You will often hear, “The answer is in the room” when we get together as a team. This means, if we work together, we can figure this out – no matter what we might be dealing with.  We not only say it; we live it!

We began our journey by looking at the teaching and learning cycle and thoroughly examining our data, goals and practice. Collaborative inquiry is now commonplace as we use it in each of our school improvement content workgroups to guide meaningful change in our practices.

Each content workgroup is guided by a teacher leader. We work together in these content groups to collaborate, inquire, and discover how we can make teaching and learning better at all levels within our school.  Action research, data, and school improvement goals guide the changes we make.

We have opened our doors and welcomed more eyes, more ears and more ideas from each other and the larger learning community. Many of us are spreading our leadership by sharing our work with our district and beyond. Additionally, our school has now formed a partnership with Central Michigan University, where we expand our work to include their College of Education students and professors.

We are thankful to Laska Creagh, Amy Colton, and Lauren Childs for leading, challenging, and inspiring us to lead from the classroom. It has been a positive change in our building!