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 Chelsea Collins, Education Policy and Instructional Consultant, 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, often as exemplary educators themselves, 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.

Studies have confirmed 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 have a minimum of two years of experience teaching in New Jersey’s schools and commit to attending all convenings as well as completing any associated readings or activities for the convenings.

What can I expect?

Convenings will be rich with current research, expert discussions, and exploratory activities designed to expand participants’ knowledge and understanding of the current NJ education policy landscape, as well as support them in taking action in advocating at the state or local level.

Fellows will work in a small cohort to engage in research, learn more about the advocacy process, and achieve a short-term milestone.

What is the time commitment and stipend?

The Fellowship will consist of nine total engagements; this includes three 4-hour convenings where the whole cohort of Fellows will come together to learn and engage with one another. There will also be small group working sessions where Fellows will work with a smaller group of Fellows who share similar passions and interests, and who will work together to achieve a short-term milestone. The Fellows will also will engage with state and local education and policy experts on two virtual Q & A panels. All of the 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 apply to join us! You must fill out the application by October 11, 2021. Just 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 JerseyCAN’s NJ Teacher Leader Policy Fellowship.

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