surfers riding a wave

Riding the #EdWave and Diving Deeper into Teacher Leadership

Amethyst Hinton Sainz Current Affairs, Education, Education Policy, Professional Development, Teacher Leadership, Uncategorized

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Last spring, when 70,000 teachers flooded the Capitol to make five demands known, there were as many leaders as followers.

Educators flexed the bullhorn, organized a band, wrote initiatives, arranged meetings with lawmakers, trained people to circulate petitions, set up tents with shade and water for their colleagues, texted relentlessly, recorded live video, made the best-crafted protest signs you ever saw, designed t-shirts and stickers, and marched.

For some, this leadership was in their blood by this point. They may have grown up in families of activists, or come from states where actual teacher strikes happen. Some had already been active in the Arizona Education Association or other political groups. Some had been department chairs, or had administrative certificates bursting in their files.

For many, though, this was the first time they had taken on what they recognized as a leadership role. Most had never done anything so… what is the best word? Massive? Pronounced? Rebellious? Revolutionary? Transformational?  Who would have known at the beginning that we would have been headed toward a six day walkout from our classrooms? This was not something that most people anticipated or savored. Facebook groups helped these teacher leaders sort out their thoughts, values and beliefs, and helped communicate logistics, but where did this massive wave of teacher leadership come from?

Much of the wave has continued through to the election Tuesday, as teachers organized canvasses, worked on campaigns, and even ran for office.

Will the wave roll on? Or crash upon the shore of election day, for better or worse?

This weekend, I began working with a group of teachers that will have the opportunity to strategize around this issue, or really any issue they choose. We began the 2018-19 NEA Teacher Leadership Institute with our Arizona cohort. I am one of three coaches, along with Heather Robinson, and our leader RosaMaria Cordova, both NBCT’s. Nell Pederson, AEA staff, will support the work and coordinate the association side of things, keeping us connected to the national effort.


AZ TLI Team Left to Right: Heather Robinson, NBCT; RosaMaria Cordova, NBCT, Nell Pederson of AEA; Amethyst Hinton Sainz, NBCT

Several of the new fellows this year are teachers who led important aspects of the Red for Ed movement. They will come to our program seasoned by what Nell refers to as our “professional development down at the Capitol.” It is intriguing to think about what it will mean to coach a group of teachers many of whom are already powerhouses in their own right.

As I think about how we will help this group move forward, I keep coming back to the power of reflection. Although #RedforEd, #InvestinEd and #EdWave have accomplished much in the past several months, not every battle has been won, not even close.  And I can recall many rocky moments when online discussions and debates threatened to derail momentum, and yet there was always an attempt to re-assess the situation and allow new ideas to provide answers.

The main tool  we will use to reflect is Teacher Leadership Competencies.  Developed by through a partnership among the Center for Teaching Quality, NEA and the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards, they provide a simple yet powerful matrix that any teacher can use to evaluate herself as a leader.  

The competencies are not a checklist or a how-to manual by any means, and I appreciate that. Our fellows will come to us with a wealth of experiences, accomplishments, goals and ideas when it comes to teacher leadership. They may even have doubts, fears or insecurities. The competencies will give them a language with which to discuss, reflect on and strengthen their own abilities, within the contexts of their work and goals for their capstone project.

Will the #EdWave continue to roll? I believe it will, and it will deepen in its capacity, powered by the opportunities all of us take to reflect on where we are, how we got here, and where we need to be next.



Amethyst Hinton Sainz is National Board Certified Teacher in Adolescent and Young Adult English Language Arts, and is constantly trying to live up to that standard! This year she will begin teaching at Westwood High School in Mesa, Arizona as an interventionist. She has taught junior high ELD and high school English in Arizona for 25 years. She has been a Stories from School blogger since 2012. Amethyst’s alma maters are Blue Ridge High School, the University of Arizona and the Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College. Her bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing and Philosophy led her toward the College of Education, and she soon realized that the creative challenges of teaching would fuel her throughout her career. Her love of language, literature, and culture led her to Bread Loaf for her master's in English Literature. She is a fellow with the Southern Arizona Writing Project, and that professional development along with, later, the National Board process, has been the most influential and transformative learning for her. As a board member of the Mesa NBCT Network, she works with other NBCT’s to promote this powerful process throughout the district. She supports candidates for National Board Certification, and loves seeing teachers realize and articulate their teaching and leadership power! She enjoys teaching students across the spectrum of academic abilities, and keeping up with new possibilities for technology in education. Last year she had the privilege of running our school garden, and will really miss that this year. She is currently learning more about social and racial justice and is striving to be an antiracist educator. She lives in Mesa, Arizona with her family. She enjoys time with them, as well as with her vegetable garden, backyard chickens, and the two dogs. She also enjoys reading, writing, cooking (but not doing dishes), kayaking, camping, and travel, among other things.

Comments 4

  1. Jess Ledbetter

    Great post! Wishing you and the cohort the very best as you determine goals and action steps. I love the Teacher Leadership Competencies. We used them a lot as the AZ Hope Street Fellows. I wish that district teacher evaluations included competencies about teacher leadership. Have you seen the AZ K12 Center Professional Learning Plan kit? It has some great reflective tools for goal setting, documenting growth, and reflecting on the journey. They’re about $15. I hadn’t seen them until Hope Street Group, but really enjoyed using it. Hoping my school campus uses them for all teachers next year :)

    1. Amethyst Hinton Sainz

      I saw that there WAS a professional learning plan kit, but I haven’t explored it. Our district uses the Danielson framework for evaluations, and the Domain 4 includes a lot of language about teacher leadership, especially at the highest level of the rubric.

      But yes, the competencies are so explicit, and that’s what I think really makes them practical for self-reflection and growth. You can see when you move along the continuum, and it’s exciting to know when you are making a difference! It’s also helpful to realize those areas where you need to build your own capacity before you can have an impact. (I know I realized a lot of those when I did the TLI! I am still growing in many areas for sure!)

  2. Jaime Festa-Daigle

    I love this aspect of Red for Ed. We have seen a huge rise in teachers who identify themselves as leaders. These teachers worked to communicate effectively, hear multiple perspectives, and make decisions based on what they see as best for students and their work with a group. Since Red for Ed, a number of these teachers have gone back to school to start working on becoming administrators. This byproduct of the Red for Ed movement is one that will help schools grow for the next generation.

  3. Susan Collins

    I have seen relationships develop and movements solidify through my envolvement this past year. Through the #RedforEd movement I am connected with people and information sources previously completely unknown to me. I am seeing myself and others take on the roll and title of teacher leader through our actions and not a job title. It’s so encouraging to be in this fight together!

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