TEACHING MATTERS Newsletter--February 6, 2012--Special Teaching Ambassador Fellows Edition


Teaching Matters

Spotlight on Teaching Ambassador Fellows

February 6, 2012  |  Sign up to receive Teaching Matters

Arne walking with Fellow

Become a Teaching Ambassador Fellow!

We have a set of amazing teachers each year who spend a year with the Department and help drive our policy discussion…I have come to rely on the Teaching Ambassador Fellows for their invaluable feedback and their ability to facilitate dialogue with teachers across the country. - Secretary Arne Duncan

According to the Fellows themselves, the Teaching Ambassador Fellowship is an amazing opportunity for professional development and an important recognition of teacher leadership in the field... Indeed this is what it was always intended to be. Our hope is to enhance teachers’ knowledge of policy and to add this to their classroom expertise to help them lead the kinds of changes in education that we all hope to see. However, the Fellowship was also designed to create better partnerships between policy-makers and teachers and to allow teachers to contribute directly to the work of the Department. Teaching Ambassador Fellows' purpose is two-fold: they help us get our programming right from the beginning, and they also inform other teachers, parents and students about our policies and resources so that they are better understood and implemented in schools. Fellows give us credibility with a range of stakeholders around the country, and they represent the millions of smart, passionate and hard-working teachers in America who go to work every day to make a difference in the lives of children.

While we hope this Special Edition of "Teaching Matters" shows the impact that the Fellowship can have on the special group of teachers who are selected to participate, we here at the Department know that - by listening to teachers around the country and bringing those voices back to the work at ED - Fellows have a big impact on us. Ultimately, the Teaching Ambassador Fellowship program partners the policy-makers at ED and the teachers in the field in collectively striving to improve learning opportunities for all students. Please consider applying for the Teaching Ambassador Fellowship and share the news with all the teacher leaders you know who might want to partner with us in that endeavor. To access additional information and the application, click here.
- Gillian Cohen-Boyer, Director
Teaching Ambassador Fellowship program

TAF Application Virtual Information Session

Join the U.S. Department of Education’s Teaching Ambassador Fellows on Tuesday, February 7th at 7pm EST for a one-hour webinar discussion about the Teaching Ambassador Fellowship program and application process.

To register, please send an email to TeacherFellowship@ed.gov with the subject line: “Webinar.” Please provide questions that you would like to make sure we address in this email. We will reply with the web address, log-in, and call-in information for the session.

2011 TAFS

Ask a Fellow

Thinking about applying for a Fellowship? 
2011 Washington and Classroom Fellows answer questions about the program, the application, and the implications of the Fellowship.
What is it like to be a Washington Fellow? What is a “typical” day like? 
Every day as a Fellow is different. Unlike the predictable schedule of teaching, each day at ED brings a different meeting, convening, or event. You may start your day at a senior staff communications meeting where you learn about the events and initiatives the Secretary and other staff are participating in. Then, it’s off to a team meeting where you work in a smaller group with your advisor and colleagues around a particular issue like Early Learning or Education Technology. Hopefully you have some time to return to your desk to answer emails, return phone calls, or do some required reading. Then it’s off to a local school to hold a round-table with a group of teachers around elevating the teaching profession. Every day at ED brings new opportunities and lots to do.
- Geneviève DeBose

Why do the Washington Fellowship? What is the value to you?
As full-time employees of ED, Washington Fellows gain more in-depth policy knowledge and have greater opportunity to contribute their ideas and classroom and school experience to ED staff on a regular basis. As teachers, we are often engrossed in, and consumed with, our everyday important work on the ground. The Washington Fellowship allowed me to gain a view from 10,000 feet above and really get an inside look at how federal policy is made and what this means for my work in my district, school and classroom. It has given me the unique opportunity to see how things on the federal level translate to the local/state level. Prior to coming here, I was very actively involved with local and statewide reform efforts, so the Washington Fellowship has given me the opportunity to ramp up my knowledge of federal policy and gain a clearer perspective about how all the pieces work together.  
- Shakera Walker
What do Classroom Fellows do? 
My role as a Classroom Fellow is to serve as a channel for educators at all levels to connect to ED. For example, I have presented to my own district and state on current issues, held round-table discussions and interviews with educators and educational leaders, traveled to places around the U.S. to assist the Secretary and other senior ED officials during their visits, and written blogs about educational issues and my own experiences.
 - Sharla Steever
What has been the biggest surprise to you as a Fellow?
By far, the biggest surprise has been the awareness that teachers really ARE listened to at the federal level.  And by this, I don't just mean the teacher ambassadors.  The feedback taken to the Department from our various round-tables and meetings is taken quite seriously.  Sometimes, people wonder if individuals are really heard at the federal level.  I am convinced that they are not only heard, but their voices are desired and help mold our educational vision.
- Kareen Borders
Read more answers from the Fellows to common questions about the Fellowship.

Teachers Want to Lead the Transformation of their Profession

“Teachers matter. So instead of bashing them, or defending the status quo, let’s offer schools a deal. Give them the resources to keep good teachers on the job, and reward the best ones. In return, grant schools flexibility: To teach with creativity and passion; to stop teaching to the test; and to replace teachers who just aren’t helping kids learn.”
– President Barack Obama, January 24, 2012, “State of the Union”
In response to the President's State of the Union Address last week, the Washington Fellows weigh in on teachers' desire and need to be at the forefront of what is proving to be a critical turning point in the history of American education.  Read more...
2011 WTAFS
Past Fellows

Once a Fellow, Always a Fellow

While he expected to embark on new frontiers, 2010 Classroom Fellow Steve Owens never dreamed that participation in the Fellowship would lead to the exponential growth of his own networks and to his own advanced ability to effectively “[advocate] in the public interest from a teacher’s perspective.” The Fellowship is not the peak, but rather the beginning of a new chapter in teacher leadership. Read more...

What is Missing in Teacher Leadership? A Roadmap & Destination

In his most recent blog, 2010 Teaching Ambassador Fellow Patrick Ledesma discusses the importance of his Fellowship experience as well as the challenges of expanding one's leadership role as a teacher. Read more...
TAF school visit and roundtable
Arne and TAF

Where Are They Now? 

Teachers have come to the Department to learn, to share, and to lead. After their formal Fellowship year is over, Fellows continue to lead with new partnerships, knowledge, and missions. As TAF Director Gillian Cohen-Boyer often says: "once a Fellow, always a Fellow." Here is a snapshot of what 2008 Fellows have done after their year working with the Department - in schools, state governments, unions, institutes of higher education, policy advocacy groups, and professional associations around the country:
          Read what other 2008 Fellows are doing now.

Top 5 TAF Quotes 

Wisdom from and about Fellows

(Heard by ED)

Arne talking in midst of group
5.  On what Fellows do: “We listen and help educators articulate the perceived and actual gaps between the intent and impact of policy and take that feedback to Department policymakers to close them.” (2011 Classroom Fellow in Texas)
4. In sharing the Fellowship application with colleagues on Facebook: “It was an amazing year in Washington." (2010 Washington Fellow in California)
3. On the Fellowship experience: “Greatest. Opportunity. Ever.” (2009 Classroom Fellow in South Dakota)
2. On the involvement of Fellows at an ED technical assistance event: “I underestimated the positive impact that Fellows would have on the facilitation of the discussions. Without having a teacher’s voice in the room to help them keep perspective…this meeting would have taken on a much different, less 'practical' tone.  The only reason we were able to accomplish everything we wanted to was because of the Fellows.” (Race to the Top Technical Assistance team member)
1. On the importance of including Fellows' voices on key policy issues: “The Fellows represent some of the best professionals in our field…Skilled and highly effective educators who have credibility must remain center to the vital conversations about transformation! Thanks for your response to the State of the Union!” (Marilynne, on ed.gov blog)


Some of Nation’s Finest Talk About Teaching in Rural America

Recently, the Teaching Ambassador Fellows hosted the newest National Board Certified teachers for discussions at the White House and at ED on the future of the teaching profession. A number of the honorees represented Rural America. During their visit, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Rural Outreach John White caught up with these rural teachers to hear their stories about teaching in rural America. Read more...
Arne at round table

Duncan Tells Teachers to Lead the Transformation of Teaching

Washington Fellow and Teach Plus Policy Fellow Alum Shakera Walker had the opportunity to listen as the Secretary urged the new class of D.C. Teach Plus Fellows to lead their colleagues in rebuilding the teaching profession.  Read more...

 Fellows Recommend Fellow Reading

  • From James Liou: Tokata - Moving Forward in Indian Education. I recommend viewing teacher Sharla Steever's compelling video on educational issues and opportunities in South Dakota's American Reservation schools. The highlighted challenges of balancing perceived federal pressures and tribal educators' desire for local determination should be required watching for all of us across the country.
  • From Maryann Woods-Murphy: Labor-Management Collaboration District Case Studies. If you’ve ever wanted to really understand what Labor-Management Collaboration looks like at the district level, read the Ambassador Fellows’ Labor-Management Collaboration District Case Studies. It’s exciting to read the real stories of 12 districts that have worked hard to have tough conversations and change practices to ensure that students succeed. From these fabulous case studies, we learn that it’s possible and practical to collaborate when all partners “make student achievement the heart of their relationship.”
  • From Genevieve DeBose: Restructure Time to Transform Teacher Preparation. Feel like there aren't enough hours in the day to get everything done? You aren't the only one. 2010 Washington Teaching Ambassador Fellow Linda Yaron tackles this problem and advocates for a restructuring of time to transform our profession. Read to find out what's possible....and sustainable.