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Centered: The Arizona K12 Center’s Executive Director, Dr. Kathy Wiebke, offers her education insights in this monthly column.


Over the years, I’ve met some incredible teachers. As I got to know them, I often realized they are no different from me or friends who have the same job. Ultimately, they have the same passion and desire to make the lives of their students better.

I repeatedly refer to these individuals as ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Things that, quite frankly, we are all capable of doing. I think what turns the ordinary into extraordinary can be summed up in one word: passion. With gusto and confidence, they have moved an idea into action.

This summer, at our Teacher Leadership Institute, we had the unique opportunity to showcase the work of six Arizona teacher leaders. Using Dennis Shirley’s book, The New Imperatives of Educational Change, we set out to find anchoring illustrations of leadership. At the foundation, Shirley talks about “educators step[ping] forward to advocate on behalf of their students.”

In preparation, we ventured to find examples of teacher leadership in Arizona with an international, national, state, district, school, and community focus. The leaders were given the opportunity to showcase their unique story fueled by their own passions. This summer, we met:

  • Julie, who left the classroom to start a multifaceted center for refugee students.
  • Danielle, a teacher in a rural community, who found her voice on a national stage as a teacher fellow with the Hope Street Group.
  • Mike, who was frustrated by the lack of science educators and worked with the Arizona Legislature to increase the number of physics teachers.
  • Christie, who watched colleagues leave her district in droves, which prompted her to establish a mentoring program that uses the expertise of their most accomplished teachers.
  • Eve, who worked alongside two colleagues to establish a charter school in downtown Tucson.
  • Audra, who recognized and strengthened untapped resources for parents within her community, thereby creating a series of learning opportunities for them.

All six teachers turned their passions into actions. Each was an ordinary teacher who took an idea and made it extraordinary. They showed us what is possible, and through their example we now know anything is possible.

As an organization, the project motivated us to do more. These stories illustrate the endless opportunities in front of us, as educators. At the Arizona K12 Center, we want to continually showcase teacher leadership throughout the state. We are looking for new stories to share. To this end, we invite you to tell your #AZTeacherLeader story on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram by December 2017. Ultimately, your courage will drive the discussion at the 2018 Teacher Leadership Institute. Tell your story or articulate the story of a colleague. No matter what, we urge you to share your #AZTeacherLeader story.

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