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OTLA program helps develop teachers into leaders

OTLA program helps develop teachers into leaders

Allen Hisken conducts Truesdell's Jazz Band Around 30 teachers this year are building their leadership capacity in the Opportunity Teacher Leader Academy, a program that created last school year by Terrell Davis. OTLA provides teachers strategies and tools to become leaders in their schools. The program is designed for teachers who want more of a leadership role in their school, but who don’t necessarily want to become administrators.

“It empowers us as teachers. It gives us a bump as having more responsibility, but we’re still in a teaching role,” said Keely Tolbert, language arts teacher at Southeast High School. Tolbert completed the program last year. “I love the idea of not having to be an administrator to be a leader. I want to stay in the classroom because the students are my motivation.”

“OTLA provides a lot more insight on what I could do as a teacher,” said Truesdell music teacher Allen Hisken, who began the program this fall. “I want to evolve how I approach things and wanted to have more tools in my box to help students.”

“We want to create a bridge between teachers and administration,” said Ben Reed, Opportunity Program Specialist who oversees the OTLA program. “Teacher leaders can rally other teachers to get their building going in the right direction.”

“We are investing in our staff to improve student achievement. That makes it all worth it,” Reed added.

The OTLA program not only gives teachers the skills to be leaders, those in the program are also taught how to be mentors for other teachers.  The teachers share ideas on how to improve each other to become more effective teachers.

Keely Tolbert teaches a language arts class. “Sometimes teachers are more comfortable talking to other teachers for ideas and guidance than administrators,” Tolbert said. “I feel I am able to do that now that I have had the training through OTLA.”

“I’ve always liked talking with my peers and providing my perspective to a situation to come up with solutions,” Hisken said.

After completing the first year in OTLA, teachers are encouraged to continue in the Impact 2020 program, which the district is piloting this year. The Impact 2020 program encourages teachers who have completed the OTLA program to have at least 25% of their class be made up with the lowest-performing students.

“The goal is to have the teachers use the skills they learned in the OTLA program to improve student achievement for the students who are struggling,” Reed said.

“We really want to see them become successful students,” Tolbert, who is now in the Impact 2020 program. “Thanks to OTLA I am really able to serve those students and be there for them to help them be successful.”

Those who are in the OTLA program say it’s an investment in themselves that is very worthwhile.

“OTLA gave me back some of my passion for teaching and allows me to grow myself and share big ideas,” Hisken said.

“I love the energy of OTLA and I leave the class with lots of ideas and rejuvenation,” Tolbert said. “We’re all super excited about our students and our jobs and that is pure gold.”