The New Jersey Teacher Leader Policy Fellowship is a paid opportunity for exceptional New Jersey teacher leaders to gain knowledge and experience in education policy. The following is a Q & A with policy and instructional consultant, Chelsea Collins, who is planning and leading the Fellowship.

What are teacher leaders, and why are they important?

Teacher leaders are educators who take on leadership roles while continuing to instruct students in the classroom. They are essential to our education system. Research suggests that teacher leaders are able to see the “big picture” of education systems and policy; they understand the importance of high-quality curriculum, instruction, and assessment, and they implement best practices in real time. They have credibility with decision makers, school leaders and policymakers, as well as colleagues. On top of that, as exemplary educators, they are the biggest in-school influencer on student outcomes. Quite frankly, teacher leaders are the heartbeat of the education system.

What is the purpose of this Fellowship?

There are various ways that teachers can engage in teacher leadership. While some teacher leaders gravitate toward influencing education research and instructional practices, others lead in collaboration and community outreach. Policy is another area where teachers can grow and engage in teacher leader opportunities.

Research suggests that teachers want to be more engaged in education policy and decision making, so this opportunity will allow them to understand, discuss, and engage in experiences related to education policy.

Who should participate?

To apply for this Fellowship, participants must be open to We Raise New Jersey’s mission and values, have a minimum of two years of experience teaching in New Jersey’s schools, and commit to attending all four convenings and completing any associated readings or activities for the convenings.

What can I expect?

Convenings will be rich with discussions and activities designed to expand participants’ knowledge and understanding around various topics related to education policy, including statewide policy topics and their impact on local contexts, influential stakeholders and teacher leadership, and advocacy for the future. There will be opportunities to hear from panels of policymakers as well as learn from and network with educators across the state. Furthermore, Fellows will meet with parent and student advocates to learn and grow in their perspectives as well.

What is the time commitment and stipend?

There is one initial Meet & Greet as well as four convenings; all meetings will be virtual or in-person and will run approximately 2 – 4 hours each. Convenings will take place outside of school hours.

Teacher leaders so often willingly go above and beyond their call of duty, so in this case, we are happy to compensate teacher leaders for their time; they will receive a $2,000 stipend at the completion of the Fellowship for their commitment.

How can I participate?

If you meet all of these qualifications and are a New Jersey teacher leader who is interested in learning about and engaging in education policy, please fill out the application by May 10, 2020. Be sure to let a supervisor know that you are applying, because we know that shared leadership is critical for teacher leader work to take root.

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Chelsea Collins is the 2016 New Jersey State Teacher of the Year. After working in a New Jersey public school as a sixth grade teacher and team leader, she led teacher leader and exemplary educator policy initiatives at the New Jersey Department of Education. She is currently an education policy and instructional consultant for education organizations and districts across the state. Chelsea is designing and leading the NJ Teacher Leader Policy Fellowship.

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