Teachers possess many leadership talents that, if put to use, can improve American education. Robert Maurais from Maine said:
Every teacher brings one unique aspect of being into his or her classroom and his school. Whatever it is that you love to do, you need to take that and run with it. Mine's technology--weather satellites, amateur radio, computer aviation, aerospace. When I talk to young teachers--and I support a number of student teachers--I say, 'Find one thing that you really love to do, then do it with a passion, and do it the best that you can. People are going to flock to you because they know that you're really passionate about that one thing. If everyone in your building did that, it would make a big difference.
For many years we have honored the contribution of teachers to our society through awards. But as Terry Dozier, former National Teacher of the Year and teacher adviser to Secretary of Education Richard Riley explained to Forum participants, the greatest honor we can bestow upon a teacher is not a title like "Teacher of the Year," but acknowledging and using his or her expertise to improve American education.
Teachers need opportunities to share their knowledge with other educators, policy makers, and the general public. Teachers must also be treated as equal partners, as individuals worthy of dignity and respect who come to the table with a voice that must be heard in order to improve teaching and learning.
When Americans listen to this voice, the impact of teachers can reverberate throughout districts, schools, and classrooms. Leadership opportunities move teachers beyond the structured isolation of their profession and broaden their perspectives.
No one benefits more from teaching leadership than America's children. Jeff White from Georgia explained, "We sometimes forget that the reason we become teacher leaders outside the classroom is that it will make a difference inside the classroom." This benefit alone makes efforts to support teacher leadership worthwhile.