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Butler’s ‘Teach to Lead’ Idea: Strengthening Connections Between Teacher Leaders, Preservice Candidates

A version of this article also appeared on the Butler University website.

When the federal Department of Education went looking for ideas on how to prepare teachers better, Butler University’s College of Education answered.

After the nationwide call for teacher preparation programs to submit innovative practice ideas with the potential for growth, Butler became the first Indiana school to be invited to present at a Teach to Lead Summit, the goal of which is to develop and amplify the work of teacher leaders. From nearly 100 submissions, 17 teams were invited to the Teacher Preparation Summit, held November 3-4 in Washington, DC. Participants spent 2 days in intensive strategic planning sessions aimed at identifying obstacles and solutions for spreading innovative best practices in teacher preparation across the country.

I joined Pike Master Practitioner and coteacher Rick Mitchell in leading the Butler contingent, which shared how an ongoing partnership between Butler and Pike Township Schools supports a cycle of professional development benefiting both preservice and in-service teachers. Our message to D.C. was clear: When teacher educators and school districts are able to work together, they can prepare the kinds of teachers that schools need.

Kaija Bole, a math-education double major from suburban Chicago, also represented Butler at the summit, along with recent master’s graduate Amanda Huffman. As part of her thesis research last fall, Huffman was able to develop a curriculum based on gaps she knew existed from her own preparation at Butler and used her prep period once a week to provide an hour-long workshop to the math education majors focused specifically on methods for teaching complex mathematics.

Huffman’s work represents a model of teacher leadership. She was an excellent preservice teacher who was hired by Pike Township after completing her student teaching with the district. She immediately began participating in ongoing professional development opportunities made possible by the Butler-Pike Partnership where as a novice teacher she continued to gain both content and pedagogical knowledge from Butler faculty members.

The Butler students loved the experience, but Huffman’s prep period changed this academic year, making her unavailable to devote time to teaching future teachers like Bole.

Bole is lucky – Huffman is her practicum mentor now, and Bole will be student teaching with Huffman in the math department at Pike High School this spring.

Bole said, “I wish we could be doing what she did last year.”

This is the problem we are trying to solve at Butler: How to make sure teacher leaders like Huffman have the time and resources to continue to work with future teachers like Bole.

Bole said after spending 2 days at the summit and comparing Butler’s teacher education to other programs, she’s convinced that Butler is serving as a model – through its partnerships with school districts such as Pike and Indianapolis Public Schools and the way it prepares students to teach.

The proof, she said, is in the College of Education’s 100% placement rate for its graduates.

“To hear about other programs, it made me realize how special we are here,” she said. “We’re doing great things.”

Shelly Furuness is associate professor of education at Butler University.

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Shelly Furuness

Butler University