Teaching and Teacher Leadership master's student Alaina Ratanapool, left-center, works with students in the Cambridge-Harvard Summer Academy in July 2022
Photo: Jill Anderson
HGSE has welcomed the first cohort of the Teaching and Teacher Leadership (TTL) master’s program — officially kicking off this groundbreaking new model for teacher education that brings together aspiring and experienced educators to learn from, and in community with, one another and their faculty mentors. This first cohort arrived on campus in July (although some of the cohort had come together months earlier, for an online spring experience designed to jumpstart their preparation for field experiences in schools this fall). They immediately hit the ground running with classroom responsibilities in the Cambridge-Harvard Summer Academy, primed to develop their skills, strengthen their leadership, and form a professional network of mission-driven educators whose support will extend beyond their time at HGSE and into their careers.
One of the defining characteristics of the TTL Program is the breadth of educator pathways it offers. First, there is the Teacher Leadership strand, for experienced teachers who are looking to explore new roles in instructional leadership, coaching, or teacher development, for example. (Teacher leaders will also contribute to research on effective teacher preparation, working to define the characteristics that lead to success, and sharing results — another of the program’s valuable distinctions.) Then, there is the Teacher Licensure strand, which offers novice teachers the choice between two approaches to fieldwork experience, both leading to licensure. The residency fieldwork model is an innovative classroom immersion in which students kick off their fall semester as half-time teachers of record — making an immediate impact in classrooms. The internship fieldwork model is a more gradual approach and ramps up teaching responsibility more slowly.
When it all comes together, the power of cohort-based learning is clear. “It has been amazing to see already how our two groups — our teacher leaders, and our pre-service teachers — are learning from one another, and how that mutual learning relationship will nourish their academic program and their experiences all year long,” says Professor Heather Hill, faculty co-chair. “We knew going in that serving both groups in a single program would be a big asset, because the skills our teacher leaders are developing during their program — providing instructional feedback, leading improvement efforts — will directly benefit our licensure students,” she says.
Across its personalized pathways, the program is built around practice, mentorship, and support — the tools teachers need for building success in the classroom. “Teaching is a profession that asks a lot of you and gives a lot to you. In our program, we support our students as educators and as people. The ways in which we get to know ourselves and our strengths and challenges are inherently connected to how we grow as educators. Our attention to that — to the intentional building and sustaining of our cohort — is one of the things that makes this program very special,” says Lecturer Victor Pereira, faculty co-chair.
As the cohort came together this summer, after so much ideating and planning, those advantages began to crystallize. In their summer experience — which included taking on immediate teaching responsibilities, with close and supportive mentorship — “our students committed themselves fully to their own new students, even as they bonded as a learning community and a strong cohort. It’s an intensive immersion, and it offers real-world experience right away, which then will shape their learning across the year,” says Lecturer Beth Simpson, Ed.M.'10, one of TTL's core faculty. Simpson has been a teacher leader and mentor in various school settings, and for the past decade has worked closely with Harvard College undergraduates with aspirations to teach, helping to steer and support many of them into teaching careers and other education roles.
We caught up with students in both strands of the program — teacher candidates and the teacher leader candidates — to ask them to reflect on what led them to teaching, how they found TTL, and their hopes for the future of education. Here’s what they shared:
My hope for the future of education is to create a space that allows students to be free; free to think, free to be their most authentic selves, and free to question the status quo. I aim to empower students to disrupt and transform the existing state of societal structures. They will create a new narrative wherein their identities will be recognized, accepted, and valued. I realize this is a tall order, but I have much hope because without hope for the future, what do we have?
Teacher Licensure Resident (Biology)
My interest in education stemmed from the fact that I hated school for most of my K–12 experience. I could never sit still or keep quiet, and it took me a lot longer to understand new concepts than my peers. School was something I wanted to avoid until I made it to my freshman year of high school, and my biology teacher changed the way I thought about learning. She presented it as an opportunity, and her job was to do everything she could to help her students have access to that opportunity. The way that she ran her classroom, so centered on the needs and interests of her students, made me excited to be in school for the first time in a long time.
Two years after I took her class, I began student teaching in a special education classroom at a local elementary school where I was able to bring that individualized and empathetic approach to my own teaching. I continued to interact with education in college through special education and early intervention programs, and am now utilizing the amazing resources in the TTL Program to scale up the kind of work I’m interested in, and to obtain a high school biology license with a moderate disabilities add on. I hope to show students that learning can be fun, exciting, and a crucial addition to their lives by making sure they have access to the material and giving them the agency to take charge of their own experience within education.
After undergraduate, I found myself at a desk job at a corporate company. I left each day feeling pretty empty. The office was closing and offered to transfer me to the Panhandle in Florida when a friend offered me a chance to teach in an alternative setting in Lynn for repeat eighth-graders instead. I said OK not realizing how it would change my life. Being with young people all day — being allowed into their lives and a part of their learning journey is such a privilege. Teaching is nothing short of magical and an amazing way to earn a living and exist in this world. I felt so alive going to work each day and knew I had found my purpose.
The TTL Program appealed to me because I have been teaching in a district that has had both excellent and incompetent leaders. I see how the school, the community, and the students are impacted by both, and I want to be a part of the positive impact a great leader has on young people — not just in the classroom but beyond the classroom.
Teacher Licensure Intern (Math)
In college I studied International Relations, but during my summers led bike tours for high school students for a company called Overland Summers. It was during those summers that I realized I loved being with kids; that I was my best self around young people. After college I decided to switch gears and teach algebra in the South Bronx. ... After teaching in NYC I moved to Baltimore for a middle school mathematics position. At this school, I cemented my belief that I am just someone who belongs in a school: I love the rhythm of a school day, the goofy conversations in passing time, the antics in the cafeteria, the sports and clubs after school. A career in teaching puts me in this rhythm — this momentum — every day. And I love that.
I'm a believer in Relational Teaching, that a strong relationship with students must precede content and curriculum. There needs to be an establishment of trust, and a genuine love within a teacher to know and care for their students. I am hopeful that future educators will share this opinion. To me, the most hopeful schools are filled with teachers that know their students perhaps even more than they know their content material.
Teacher Licensure Intern (Math)
During my stint at my undergraduate school, where I pursued a degree in actuarial science, I got the opportunity to dabble in different fields of work. From data analysis internships to working in a bank, I was able to expose myself to a plethora of different career possibilities. However, the internships that truly stuck with me were the ones I spent as a STEM instructor. I learned that my personality and interests were best suited for becoming a teacher. For me, there's a certain joy to be found in helping students appreciate the beauty that lies within math and science.
My goal is to teach math to middle school students. I want to guide students through an edutainment method by using entertainment to help scaffold their learning and build on their mathematical thinking. It is pivotal to innovate in education by assisting students in developing their interests and strengths.
I am still learning, developing, and refining my pedagogical skills. For me, [I chose TTL] so that I could be in an environment where I'd be surrounded, not only by people of similar interests but successful people who would push me to be the best I could be. That, and the plethora of applied learning opportunities and resources that the program can give me access to.