Teachers Statewide Encouraged to Apply for 2023-24 Cohort

JerseyCAN, the only statewide advocacy organization in New Jersey committed to ensuring access to high-quality public schools for every child regardless of zip code, cultural background, and socioeconomic status, announced today that its NJ Teacher Leader Policy Fellowship is now accepting applications to participate in its 2023-24 Cohort. Now in its fourth year, the Fellowship and its custom-designed interdisciplinary pedagogy were created to provide a needed training and support mechanism that would ensure New Jersey teachers had more significant opportunity and involvement in local and statewide policy development while their valuable perspectives, ideas, advocacy, and leadership would serve as a needed asset to the State in developing sound legislative solutions in the future.

“JerseyCAN’s NJ Teacher Leader Policy Fellowship has become an ideal platform to strengthen the voice of New Jersey teachers and get their needed insights to state and local policy discussions,” stated JerseyCAN Executive Director Paula White. “Because of the pandemic, we continue to witness historic learning loss in all grades and all points of the State – and JerseyCAN believes we should be listening to the perspective and guidance of our State’s teachers. Through the Fellowship, we are creating the next generation of education advocates across the State while tapping into the expertise of our educators and making sure they have the training, tools, experience, and connections to have an impact and create needed positive change.”

In coordination with the timing of the pandemic, the Fellowship has developed into a program that brings teachers to assist firsthand with areas such as learning loss. For example, Fellow graduate Kristina Z. Phelan, a K-2 reading teacher at Mahala F. Atchison School in Tinton Falls, NJ, now in her 23rd year of teaching, and 2018 Monmouth County Teacher of the Year, personally developed and recommended legislation that would improve reading outcomes for all NJ students. The effort entailed extensive research on legislative initiatives in other states and, during the Fellowship, she further defined these ideas into three proposed bills. Through the Fellowship, these recommendations were presented by Ms. Phelan to Senator Vin Gopal, Chairman of the Senate Education Committee, where she eventually worked with Gopal’s legislative team in creating legislation. Currently, the recommendations are being incorporated into bills by the Office of Legislative Services for review by the Senate.

“It’s been very gratifying to use the strategies I’ve learned and contacts I’ve made during my JerseyCAN fellowship to propose practical legislation now under consideration to improve early reading education in our State,” stated Ms. Phelan. “Prior to the Fellowship, I had many suggestions on improving classrooms in New Jersey but did not know how to promote, develop and utilize these ideas. In less than a year, I know I am making a difference. The Fellowship has been an amazing, empowering experience.

The JerseyCAN’s Teacher Leader Policy Fellowship is led by Chelsea Collins, 2016 New Jersey Teacher of the Year. Now entering its fourth cohort, the Fellowship is a year-long program for New Jersey teachers across the state to engage in education policy and advocacy. For one year, New Jersey Teacher Leader Policy Fellows research and discuss the latest policy trends and issues in New Jersey education with elected leaders, advocacy experts and exemplary educators from across the country . In addition to gaining a deeper understanding of the State’s education policy landscape and expanding their knowledge of local, State, and national governance, the Fellowship allows the selected teachers to network with elected leaders and influential educational stakeholders and build strong engagement and advocacy skills. As part of the Fellowship, each teacher conceptualizes and leads a personal project representing a policy issue related to their passions and interests at the state or local level. In addition to engaging in high-quality professional learning and development opportunities, Fellows receive a $2,500 stipend for their commitment to this work.

Along with the impact that Kristina is making this year by working with legislators to write statewide reading policy, other advocacy projects that fellows worked on this past year include statewide advocacy around servicing ELL students, a call-to-action to end New Jersey’s teacher shortage, a district allocation of $20,000 to implement data team meetings, student-led conferences, and academic parent-teacher teams, and a district-adoption of the Tomorrow’s Teachers program to build the pipeline of educators in NJ. Educators can apply online to be a part of the 2022-23 cohort, with preference being given to applicants who apply before August 21, 2023. The Fellowship applications can be found HERE.

For more information on the Fellowship, please review the following video from one of the past year’s trainings, where teacher and parent Fellows joined together to discuss advocacy with leading experts across the State.


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