Grant Funds Teachers to Complete Leader Endorsement Program
In the spring of 2015, Dr. Rosemary Gornik, Assistant Professor in Educational Administration, and Director of Professional Development and Outreach was awarded $450,000 from the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) to conduct research on how school districts can build an infrastructure to support teacher leadership. Partners in this research initiative are the Aurora City School District and the Maple Heights City School District. This work aligns perfectly with Dr. Gornik’s research interests, which began in 1995 while investigating teacher leadership as part of her doctoral studies here at Kent State University.
One of the qualifications for teachers in Ohio to obtain the Lead Professional Educator License is to earn a Teacher Leadership Endorsement. Dr. Gornik explained that Ohio teachers are not pursuing this endorsement at a desired rate, and asserts that the hierarchical structures in Ohio’s education system do not support the distributed leadership required to tap this latent leadership potential. She believes that successful and effective teacher leadership requires changing the culture of schools so that teachers are accepted as leaders among their peers and that old norms of teachers working in isolation are replaced with new norms of collaboration and teamwork.
“There is a whole level of human resource that is being untapped,” Dr. Gornik said. “There is a sleeping giant of teacher leadership…educators who have incredible leadership skills, but do not want to leave the classroom—they want to lead from the front of the classroom.” Dr. Gornik has first-hand knowledge of this reality. She retired from the superintendency in 2013, after serving as a school leader in the K-12 public schools for 28 years.
This is where Dr. Gornik’s award and future research comes in. Part of the award money is being used to pay graduate tuition for 40 teachers Aurora and Maple Heights to complete the Kent State Teacher Leader Endorsement Program (TLEP). The grant activities will end in the spring of 2018. Dr. Gornik and her team hope to influence leadership policy at the state level ultimately opening doors for teacher leaders to lead from the front of the classroom, while guiding students on their own journey of understanding.
“The Kent State TLEP is very different than other endorsement curricula around the state,” Gornik said. “What distinguishes ours is that we prepare teachers to learn a kind of leadership that is more transformative than for the sole purpose of meeting accountability mandates.” The goal is to “raise student achievement by preparing visionary, collaborative educational leaders with a strong commitment to professional integrity,” she said. To achieve this goal, the program introduces experienced teachers to lead-learning study that advances sophisticated curriculum and teaching problem-solving designed to uniquely prepare students for the rigors of life in a society with democratic ideals. “High scores on a standardized test is not the best or only measure of a quality education.” Gornik said.