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Ohio Teacher Educators, PK-12 Partners Collaborate at Teach to Lead Equity Summit

The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of AACTE.

Last month, faculty from Ohio University’s Patton College of Education joined with teachers from a partner school to participate in an equity-focused leadership summit in Chicago. Two Federal Hocking (OH) Middle School teachers – Robin Hawk, an eighth-grade social studies teacher who led the team, and Tessa Molina, a seventh-grade math teacher – took part in the Inclusion, Equity, and Opportunity Teacher Leadership Summit December 2-4, along with Patton College faculty Bill Elasky, instructor of teacher education and a board of education member at Federal Hocking Local Schools; Mathew Felton, assistant professor of teacher education; and Lisa Harrison, associate professor of teacher education.

The summit was a product of Teach to Lead, an initiative created by the U.S. Department of Education, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, and ASCD. Teach to Lead seeks to expand opportunities for teacher leadership by providing resources, facilitating stakeholder consultation, and encouraging professional collaborations to develop and amplify the work of teacher leaders. Numerous summits have been staged across the country to help advance this work.

The purpose of the equity-themed Chicago summit was to incubate ideas to leverage teacher leadership for social justice on behalf of high-need students. Following the model of other Teach to Lead summits, participants applied to attend by submitting a team-driven “idea” for action, and a limited number of teams were selected through a peer-review process. The summits support teams in developing their ideas through (a) sharing and learning from examples of existing teacher leadership; (b) identifying shared issues, developing ideas to address those issues, and creating actionable leadership plans to execute in schools, districts, or states; and (c) working together, networking, and building relationships with other educators and leaders.

The Patton College has had a long-standing relationship with Federal Hocking through the Creating Active and Reflective Educators (CARE) partnership, which is a cornerstone of the college’s clinical model of education.

“The Patton College has a strong clinical model, so faculty are often in schools and working with teachers and administrators within different capacities,” said Harrison. “However, it is a rare opportunity to spend two full days with teachers to specifically focus on K-12 learning.”

The teacher-leadership idea proposed by Hawk, Felton, Harrison, Elasky, and Molina sought to improve cultural responsiveness to Appalachian learning content among Federal Hocking students, theorizing that students who are engaged in culturally relevant curriculum will feel more motivated and empowered to understand and learn about their history. One of Federal Hocking’s operating principles, in fact, stipulates that students “have a personal connection to or interest in what they are learning and can see how it applies in the world in which they live.” Hawk wanted to do a better job of that in her classroom.

The project idea, “Creating Culturally Responsive Teaching in Appalachian Content Areas,” resulted from conversations between Hawk and partners at the college.

“Creating a culturally responsive social studies curriculum has been [a priority for me] since my first day on the job,” said Hawk. “I believe if I don’t [achieve that], I’m not doing my students justice. I can look at my lessons and easily decide how to make it relevant to my students. Yet I lack the ability and experience to make my curriculum culturally responsive.”

The Patton College faculty helped bridge the gap, offering suggestions to foster a more culturally responsive curriculum, including the creation of an exploratory class involving a CARE cohort. With a revised and more personalized curriculum, Hawk’s team posited, Federal Hocking students would find learning content more relevant and could better articulate the strengths of the community, culture, and region. Eventually, through the use of surveys or an app, Federal Hocking teachers could provide data supporting the new curriculum, which might convince teachers to adapt and implement these revised methods in their classrooms.

“I admire the collaboration that takes place between teacher leaders and the college faculty and staff,” said Hawk. “The Patton College saw the summit as another opportunity to bridge its resources to Federal Hocking Middle School students.”

To help guide discussion, summit participants listened to a series of presentations and panel discussions featuring U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King, Eric Brown of the National Education Association Executive Board, and others. The ideas discussed at the summit will be implemented at Federal Hocking this spring and next fall.

Hawk couldn’t be more excited.

“I believe that all social studies teachers should be cultivating classroom experiences that provide students with opportunities that allow them to connect with their culture,” she said. “[It’s important] that teachers seek support, training, and resources before attempting to teach culturally responsive content.”

The university faculty were honored to help. “This summit provided another opportunity for us to collaborate to support student learning and further develop our partnership,” said Harrison. “I was able to learn a lot from the teachers because they were the experts. They knew their school, community, and their students. This allowed me to develop a better and more nuanced understanding of the local context. Staying connected with what happens in schools is very important because it informs my pedagogy as a teacher educator and ultimately allows me to better prepare teacher educators.”

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Tony Meale

Staff writer for Ohio University’s Patton College of Education