Spirits were high at the UFT’s first-ever teacher leadership conference on June 4 as more than 300 educators gathered at UFT headquarters for a day of exploring teacher leadership strategies. The 2014 UFT–DOE contract created several new positions for teachers in school buildings, including master teacher, model teacher and peer collaborative teacher. The conference presented opportunities for teacher leaders to share their knowledge with fellow teacher leaders and other educators eager to learn from them. “There was so much energy in the room,” said Danielle Bertran, a peer collaborative teacher at the Pelham Academy of Academics and Community Engagement. “I was so excited for the opportunity to sit down with other educators who are passionate and share the same vision.” Teachers at the conference could attend their choice of two workshops, which were facilitated by teacher leaders. Topics ranged from designing performance tasks in teacher teams to facilitating collaborative inquiry. James Cochran, a history teacher and the chapter leader at the HS for Youth and Community Development at Erasmus Hall in Brooklyn, presented a workshop on a tool he developed. He brought his principal along as a co-presenter to share her thoughts on her practice as an administrator and an evaluator. Participants watched a video of a lesson and then used Cochran’s tool to write feedback. “The only way for teachers to grow is if we’re reflecting on our own practice,” he said. “The idea was to let teachers guide their own process to allow for genuine dialogue between teachers and administrators.” Attendees at the conference also said they felt bolstered by the words of Chancellor Carmen Fariña and UFT President Michael Mulgrew, both of whom spoke about the importance of supporting teachers as leaders. “It was very refreshing to hear Carmen Fariña say, ‘Teachers are already leaders,’” Cochran said.
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