TLC program shifts around teachers in effort to build leadership


Kathryn Ikeda

P.E. teacher Deb Nicholson talks to a small group of teachers about how they can better students’ education as part of the TLC program. The meeting took place in Government teacher Tom Griffin’s room Sept. 16.

Grace Coleman, Staff Writer

A few high school teachers have been pulled from teaching in the classroom in order to be part of the state-wide Teacher Leadership and Compensation program, also known as the TLC program.

The program has moved past the pilot stage and is now entering its second year.  Funded by the state, TLC puts a variety of teachers into different styles of leadership positions.

Former band director Pat Kearney is one of the teachers who has switched positions.  He went from being a band director to being the facilitator for this program across the district. “My job is to align all [the] learning so that what’s going on at Beaver Creek Elementary has some connection to what’s going on at the high school,” Kearney said.

The TLC program consists of three leadership-position layers: instructional coaches, lead teachers and model teachers.

Instructional coaches do not teach any classes.  “(An instructional coach’s) job is to literally coach teachers with instructional practices, help support professional learning teams in the building, and to provide professional learning opportunities for the whole staff,” Kearney said.

Last year Jill Versteeg changed from a special education teacher to an instructional coach. “It was a natural progression for me,” Versteeg said, “I wanted to take my teaching to a different level and try something new.”

Versteeg taught in the classroom for 11 years prior to becoming an instructional coach and wanted to place an emphasis on teacher input and collaboration within the TLC program.  “I think teachers having a voice is really important and anyway (that) I can empower teachers to have a voice is a good thing,” Versteeg said.

Unlike instructional coaches, lead teachers teach classes for 75% of their time and spend the other 25% of their time leading and assisting small groups of teachers as part of the TLC program.

Health teacher Jackie Sapp is in her first year as a lead teacher.  “I am one of the leaders along with Mr. Knight and Mrs. Thompson for feedback,” Sapp said, “Our teachers signed up for three different groups; feedback, collaboration, and questioning.”

For example, Sapp and two other lead teachers will discuss with a group of teachers on how to give better feedback to students in order to enhance their learning.

Model teachers are also dispersed throughout the high school and all over the district.  “(Model teachers’) role is really just that- to model innovative practices,” Kearney said. Model teachers spend the same amount of time teaching as regular teachers do but are available for other teachers to observe and learn from them.

With the exception of model teachers, teachers that fulfill leadership positions within the TLC program spend less time teaching students and more time leading teachers. This has caused some controversy from parents and students in the district.

Sarah Henry was a student of Kearney’s before he became the facilitator of the TLC program this year. Kearney’s band students learned of his change in positions in the spring of last year. “At first it was a big surprise because he loved his job so much and it took a while for me to understand why he wanted to leave,” Henry said. “(But) he talked to us about it and explained why he was doing it.”

Students like Henry were at first frustrated with the situation but were then able to visualize Kearney as a leader within the teaching community.  “He always had a vision of what we were going to be doing and what we needed to accomplish,” Henry said, “I think he would apply that really well to what he is going to be doing now.”

Teachers like Kearney are applying and being chosen for the TLC program because students and staff see them as good teachers.  And although it may be a difficult transition from the classroom to the TLC program, the goal of the program is to put teachers in leadership programs.

“You could tell he was taking the passion that he already had for teaching and taking into what he was going to be doing,” Henry said “He cared a lot about it and everyone could see that.”