Maggie Phillips never thought she’d be addressing an auditorium full of the teacher leaders and one of the country’s top educational leadership experts. But after receiving her endorsement in teacher leadership and then becoming Teacher of the Year at Hollydale Elementary, she was an ideal choice to address the region’s Teacher Leadership Conference and talk to the theme, “Caring Enough to Lead: How Reflective Thought Leads to Moral Leadership.” Phillips was one of nearly a hundred teacher leaders from Cobb, Fulton, DeKalb, Rockdale and Atlanta Public Schools to attend the first-ever conference, “Caring Enough to Lead: Teachers Leading Teachers,” held at the DeKalb County Administrative and Instructional Complex. The conference was targeted at teacher leaders, administrators and potential leadership candidates in southeast Georgia.
Phillips told the crowd she loves teaching, and leading from the classroom, rather than leaving it for administration. She credited her former principal with seeing leadership capabilities she didn’t realize she had in only her second year of teaching. Kennesaw Elementary Principal Wanda Floyd, also there to share in the celebration of teacher leaders and their good work, took the podium to tell of Phillips’ understated but effective leadership, “leadership that inspires and guides, with enthusiasm that never wanes, that influences and improves student engagement and achievement.” Floyd said Phillips embodies the best qualities of a teacher leader; she positively impacts student learning at Hollydale and increases teacher expertise both formally and informally, and has also taken on the role of technology specialist helping teachers train and improve in their use of electronic whiteboards and other technology and equipment. Floyd was Phillips’ principal at Hollydale for her first three years of teaching.
Keynote speaker, Dr. Leonard Pellicer, author of several books including “A Handbook for Teacher Leaders,” and “Caring Enough to Lead,” said Phillips is one of many teachers today taking on a leadership role and becoming a “change agent” in order to make a positive difference in public schools. He said leadership is a “sacred trust, not a right,” and that great teacher leaders give children “power over their lives, and touch every person in the community.” Pellicer said Phillips’ willingness to take on roles outside of her comfort zone, like public speaking, shows a vulnerability and strength that’s needed for leadership growth. He says schools that make the most of their teacher leaders are the ones experiencing the most success and greatest student achievement. Pellicer says he believes in three general principles when it comes to the success of teacher leaders in schools today; that teacher leaders know everyone can do a good job, that everyone wants to do a good job and that high quality leadership – especially that of teacher leadership – helps everyone succeed.
Other sessions included “Utilizing Teacher Leaders Effectively,” a session geared toward school and district administrators, professional learning coordinators and directors; and “Teaching Tips that Work,” for teacher leader endorsement instructors. This is the third year Cobb County schools have offered the endorsement to teachers wanting to become certified in Teacher Leadership.