Teacher Leadership Discovery

TAL Class of 2015

DEBBIE WHITE, Mountain View HS

Big image

Start at with a solid foundation, identify leadership talents and build lasting connections.

Personal Leadership Goals

  • Identify and develop my personal leadership capacity
  • Cultivate communication strategies that enhance student learning
  • Distinguish and implement effective performance feedback strategies
  • Recognize and build leaders within my department



I. FALL RETREAT | Dillard House | September 12-13, 2014

  • Module 1: Developing Personal and Classroom Direction
  • Module 2: Identifying and Developing a Personal Leadership Style

II. GSMST | Maxwell School of Technology tour | November 11, 2014

  • Module 3: Culture, Climate, and Community
  • Module 4: Designing and Leading Change

III. Grayson Tech| January 13, 2015

  • Module 5: Facilitating Learning I

IV. GSMST | February 19, 2015

  • Module 6: Facilitating Learning II

V. Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce | March 23, 2015

  • Module 7: Leading from the Classroom
  • Regional Relations, 2015

VI. Environmental Heritage Center | April 25, 2015

  • Module 8: Leading Up


This portfolio showcases my teacher leadership transformation within each of the learning modules--overview, reflection, and action plan. Leadership is a dynamic force within all organizations, and for me, specifically, Gwinnett County Public Schools (GCPS). Leadership begins with identifying and developing talents within individuals in the areas of instructional strategies and assessments, as well as cultivating meaningful relationships with the stakeholders (staff, students, parents, and community). Building these connections with people requires the consistent fostering of positive relationships; asking questions, listening to others' concerns, helping others with problem-solving, and celebrating their successes. Leadership focuses on investing in and energizing others to focus on results and data-driven practices. Asking yourself these crucial question, "Does this practice support my personal mission and vision, and will it sustain and reinforce the mission and vision of GCPS?" and "Is this action what is best for students?" Effective leaders will recognize the talents in themselves and others, be visible as an effective leader, and model strategies to promote growth in others.

ORIENTATION, August 18, 2014

As the TAL Class of 2015 gathered at the Payne-Corley House in Duluth, a sense of belonging to a larger purpose was my most resounding feeling. As the guest speakers welcomed us to TAL, they shared their experiences as leaders and motivated us to grow our talents. I am truly thankful for this opportunity to develop my talents and grow as a leader!

FALL RETREAT, September 12-13, 2014

Big image

MODULE 1: Developing Personal and Classroom Direction

Overview-Module 1:

Module 1: This session on developing personal and classroom direction allowed me time to create my vision and mission statements, as well as my core values. By learning how to clarify the "fuzzy" ideas and how to focus on core values, Dr. Mike Rutherford coached us on creating a viable personal vision and mission statement, as well as how to remain true to these core values.

Personal Mission Statement:

To balance faith, family, and integrity in all aspects of my life, I will:

  • model servant leadership,
  • create meaningful relationships, and
  • practice reflective growth.

Classroom Mission Statement:

The mission of my classroom is to create a positive learning environment where students focus on developing critical thinking and communication skills to demonstrate academic growth. Students experience the opportunity for personal learning and academic achievement as they identify how they learn best.

Reflection-Module 1:

Have you ever had a moment where all points converged into a vision of clear purpose? Before starting this journey as a teacher leader, I felt spread too thin, taking on more projects and duties than I could reasonably do effectively.

Constructing my personal leadership platform gave me the foundation I needed to remain true to my new mission. I have allowed myself to say no to projects and tasks that do not align with my core values. Dr. Mike Rutherford's thoughtful discussions allowed me to pinpoint the exact growth areas I needed to fine tune and develop my leadership talents.

Action Plan-Module 1:

By writing down my personal mission statement, I am setting clear direction and purpose to my days. A quote from Dr. Mike Rutherford sums up this rationale, "Write it down; writing it down sharpens sloppy thinking." Aligning my mission to my daily activities will allow me to commit to my personal mission statement and say 'no' to ideas or tasks that do not support my vision.

Taking this back and putting my personal mission into action is my first goal--learning to ask myself and others, "Is this action or program aligned with supporting my personal mission statement?"

Big image

MODULE 2: Identifying and Developing a Personal Leadership Style

Overview-Module 2:

In Module 2, Dr. Rutherford coached us through the DISC Assessment and how to interpret the results. We shared our findings and used the patterns to develop our personal leadership platform. The cohort members teamed up by temperament groups (DISC) to create a coat of arms as a group activity.


Big image

Reflection-Module 2:

In looking back at the Fall Retreat weekend, the single event that has changed my outlook was taking the DISC Assessment. My results indicated I am have a 'perfectionist' classical pattern with a "S" or steadiness temperament. Neither of these results surprised me...instead, the DISC outcome gave me a sense of understanding to my personality. In reading the characteristics of the perfectionist profile, I can see where my tendencies to be more restrained and cautious and focus on precision and details could work against me when dealing with other profiles that are more flexible and risk-taking.

Self-reflection plays a big part in my daily life; often, I find myself questioning my actions and reactions to situations, which is typical of the perfectionist profile. However, this attention to details can bog me down which is why I have identified it as a "blind spot" of mine to work on letting go more.

Action Plan-Module 2:

How will I reduce my blind spots to allow growth? By stopping and looking at my actions, reactions, and surroundings with clear vision, I will identify areas in my life that could impact leadership, learning, and organization. I have a difficult time letting others into my world so a goal is to continually ask students and other teachers for their feedback on what they see as strength areas and weaknesses.

GSMST/MAXWELL HS TOUR, November 11, 2014

MODULE 3: Culture, Climate, and Community

Overview-Module 3:

Gaining insight and strategies necessary to shape the cultural forces in our classroom, school, and district. Dr. Mike Rutherford emphasized that "control is an illusion" and a view everyone needs to see is through the eyes of an outsider, "making the invisible visible." Look at your classroom and school as if you were a visitor; what "dead bushes" need to be removed as potential distractions?

Reflection-Module 3:

On my paper, I wrote, "Be more clinical about seeing what others see and hearing what others hear." How does the physical setting in the room or the department influence the learning atmosphere for others? I need to be more cognizant of this "dead bush" analogy that is very much alive in my room!

Action Plan-Module 3:

Take a more active approach to truly "seeing" my classroom as others see it. Ask students and department members for feedback on what is it like to be in this classroom? Talk to other teachers who I view as at the top of their game with positive, structured learning environments.

MODULE 4: Designing and Leading Change

Overview-Module 4:

After our tour of Maxwell HS and a catered lunch by the culinary students, we started work on how to design and lead change in our classroom and school. People learn from processing their experiences; see the formula for patterns of change:


Acknowledge resistance as normal, natural, and healthy--the glue that holds the faculty together essentially. To change behavior, increase the left side factors in the minds of those involved in the change.

Focus on the timing of the change--give adequate wait time to allow for success, as that success is building, add on during the up-turn; the poorest timing is when situations are the lowest and you give up and try to do another route.

Reflection-Module 4:

Dr. Rutherford's recollection of a story of when he was being hired as a new Assistant Principal resonated with me; from Madeline Hunter, "If it has to do with teachers, then do that first...get that right and you'll be successful."

Absolutely focus on doing the right things right for teaching and learning and the natural flow will be for students to follow this path. By changing the experiences for my students, I can allow them more opportunities to learn.

Action Plan-Module 4:

Timing the change is essential. I will look for the opportunities to build up the left side of the equation (dissatisfaction, vision, and first steps) while acknowledging the natural resistance piece.

GRAYSON TECHNICAL HS, January 13, 2015,

Big image

MODULE 5: Facilitating Learning I

Overview-Module 5:

With a star line-up of opening remarks and awards from Grayson HS Principal, Dana Pugh, Dr. Craig Barlow, and Dr. Richard Holland, our day was headed for greatness. Dr. Rutherford's session on facilitated learning allowed us to differentiate for an individual experience based on our strengths. From the original discussion at the Fall Retreat, this class focused on how to capitalize on our talents and manage around our non-talents.

For me, my teaching talents are:

  • Mental models
  • Neural Downshifting
  • Connection
  • Mid-course corrections

Working as large and small groups, we investigated the importance of performance feedback. The feedback has to be actionable, timely, and specific for the learning situation.

Reflection-Module 5:

My favorite take-away from this session was identifying the specific artisan teaching talents to which I feel most attuned. I loved Dr. Rutherford's quote, "Figure out what you're good at and do more of it...do less of what is not." Increasing the time I utilize and build my talents by 10% will make me a more effective teacher leader. Giving timely and constructive performance feedback was my biggest growth area in this session. The pen toss activity was a truly relevant example of how performance feedback can guide and encourage our students to meet their goals; immediate, positive, and actionable feedback is motivational!

Many times during the discussions I found myself jotting down reflections, such as "how do I acknowledge when a student re-enters the room or the re-entry ritual?" and "how would a colleague describe me and my strengths?". I have always been a fan of self-reflection and TAL has reinforced my passion to look within and see the real me.

Action Plan-Module 5:

I will continue to capitalize on my artisan talents, help others identify their talent areas, and focus on managing the non-talents. Sharing the nuggets from the Artisan Teacher book with the science department will promote a closer bond between the team and help us build a team of self-aware, talented people.

Big image

GSMST, February 19, 2015

MODULE 6: Facilitating Leadership II

Overview-Module 6:

In Module 6, Dr. Mike Rutherford provided a meaningful day in our TAL learning journey. Using the Quintile Scale, we discovered the importance of recognizing, rewarding, and retaining talent in our schools. A discussion of the Information Processing Model (IPM) provided insight into how we process information within the sensory register and short-term working memory, and then how to "hook" and store our new content within long-term memory using correct past learning experiences (PLE).

To mitigate "chunking" overload, teachers must capitalize on four Artisan Talents to negate this overload:

  • Connection
  • Personal Relevance
  • Mental Models
  • Locale Memory

Reflection-Module 6:

Each time I leave a session, I feel that I have soaked up such authentic knowledge and instructional tips...this particular class spoke to my teacher heart. In the classroom, connection is the most widely shared talent, which also extends to the administration connecting and knowing their staffs' talents to recognize these strengths in a meaningful way.

From the snowman activity, to the VARD explanation--Valuing talent, Appreciating these strengths, Recognizing talent (number one attraction for teachers), and Developing talents, and our discussion of the IPM, I found personal insight in this module.

Action Plan-Module 6:

Next steps for me include putting VARD into action--I will focus on helping others identify their talents, recognize their contributions, and challenge our team to be more than we are today.

Big image


Big image

MODULE 7: Leading from the Classroom

Overview-Module 7:

Dr. Tim Elmore delivered a heartfelt lesson on "Leading a Generation of Paradox." He pinpointed the importance of re-thinking context shaping for today's students. Explaining the paradox component where two realities contradict and collide; examples include:

  • social...yet isolated by technology
  • adventuresome...yet fearful of risk
  • high achievement...yet high maintenance

Dr. Elmore likened this generation of learners to having a buffet-style option where students want to do certain actions yet have no consequences attached. This group is a generation of firsts; 24/7 stimuli with ready information through technology. However, as Dr. Elmore pointed out, "A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention."

Reflection-Module 7:

Today was a pivotal day of parenting therapy for me! The crucial remark that drove the message home was "Adolescence is extending; age 26 is the new 18!" Wow...what a truthful remark that hits the expectation level of the young adults today. The profound statement that students risk too little, get rescued too freely, and rewarded too much explains the rationale that may drive (or not) today's youth. Even though this generation has multiple avenues to access information, I completely agree with his quote, "they don't need you for content, they need you for context and interpretation." Teachers need to change our role in the classroom to encourage growth.

Action Plan-Module 7:

First action...go home and hug my own children and thank them for letting me into their lives when they could easily plug in to technology and ignore their parents! I am so fortunate to have continued what I learned growing up and instilling those values in my children. Second action...take Dr. Elmore's advice about parenting with few rules and many equations and apply it to teaching and life in general.

Big image


Reflective Quotes that resonated with me from the four Superintendent guest speakers:

  • Dr. Jeff Beardon, Forsyth County: "Silence the clutter, make sure your teachers are supported."
  • Dr. Geye Hamby, Buford City: "Get out in the community and be an advocate for yourself and the district; talk about all the great things being done."
  • William Schofield, Hall County: "Education has a bad reputation for being against everything. Come up with two transformational ideas to support and quit fighting about the little issues/items."
  • J. Alvin Wilbanks, Gwinnett County Public Schools: "The GAEC common message must resonate with our people; agree on the things that make a difference and see the good being done in other districts."
Big image
Big image


MODULE 8: Leading up

Under Construction...based on the previous classes, I am sure to be in awe of the leadership talents! Thank you for this life-changing experience!


Big image
To say that my life has been changed for the better may sound cliche; however, the multiple epiphany moments I have experienced during my Teachers as Leaders Journey are real.

Professionally, I have learned how to interact with both students and teachers at a deeper level that encourages growth and development. The value of actionable performance feedback and timing of change has transformed my relationships and given them new direction and meaning.

Personally, I have learned the importance of recognizing and capitalizing on my talents and strengths for effective growth. And, just as vital, allowing myself to let go of the non-talent areas and to manage them, not let them manage me. The discovery of the artisan teaching expertise areas encouraged me to own my presence in the classroom...be confident in all I do, facing my areas of need as well to build other talents up.

Ultimately, my wish is to share the talent training from my TAL experience with other faculty members. While preserving the structure of the learning modules, portions of this program can be modified for staff development re-delivery, tailored for the specific instructional and developmental needs for the stakeholders at Mountain View.


Big image


A. General Board Meeting, February 19, 2015 at the J. Alvin Wilbanks Instructional Support Center. The focus of this meeting revolved around the following topics:

  1. Recap of the executive work session.
  2. Recognition of GCPS of the Technology Team at Meadowcreek HS and a Latin teacher at Parkview HS. [personal reflection that recognition of talent was a key starting point]
  3. Superintendent's Report with an emphasis on Social Studies, Safety Project (SPLOST), the Large Countywide and Suburban District Consortium, framework areas, and the new high schools themed for career readiness.
  4. Citizen address session with a varied focus--disgruntled employee, parent grading concern, and multiple ELA and APUSH concerns.
  5. Reflection of the board with appreciation of the guests' comments.

B. District II Area Board Meeting, March 31, 2015 at Mountain View High School. The focus of this meeting revolved around the following topics:

  1. Opening remarks from the School Board Members; specifically, Mr. Dan Seckinger spoke about opportunity school districts.
  2. Mr. Wilbanks delivered his message on a) strengthening strategic initiatives through civic engagement, transforming teaching and learning through academy models, characterizing what it means to be "world-class", STEM/STEAM, the value of creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship in the new high school models, eClass analytics, data, and the opportunity to differentiate and individualize learning; b) sustaining success through the Broad Prize and planning with effective trajectory models; and c) the FY2016 budget.
  3. Cluster representative remarks--highlights included project-based learning at Lanier, and multiple Reading Recovery Program success stories at both Mill Creek and Central Gwinnett.


Our team decided in the fall to create and fill birthday bags for the Southeast Gwinnett Co-Op as our TAL Community Service Project. Between the four of us, we were able to deliver two dozen fun-filled gift bags...ages varied from elementary to high school.

Our study group team consisted of: Angela Brown, Sally Burkett, Kimberly Dorris, and Debbie White and our TAL study group leaders were Amanda Acres and Emily Heend.

Big image