I teach high school Spanish, serve as chairman of the National Network of State Teachers of the Year (NNSTOY) and am an FFT Fellow. All three of these roles converged in December when I co-led a group of 50 Connecticut FFT Fellows in a one-day workshop asking the post-fellowship question, “What’s Next?”
NNSTOY is a professional association of teachers leading in policy, practice and advocacy. Our national organization’s primary membership consists of State and National Teachers of the Year, as well as finalists. NNSTOY’s mission is to engage ALL educators in leadership opportunities that promote relevant policies and best practices. One way we accomplish this goal is by providing workshops designed to train and grow teacher leaders. The sessions are rooted in the Seven Domains of the Teacher Leader Model Standards. It was my privilege to host this opportunity for my FFT peers and guide them in developing the skills and dispositions that will allow us to extend our impact beyond the classroom.
As FFT Fellows, we are committed to integrating into our classroom practice the learning that results from our fellowships. We learn, return and can’t help to reflect on the question: “What’s next?” It is easy to create lessons as a result of our fellowship experiences. NNSTOY’s Teachers Leading workshop is special because it allows Fellows to explore how to scale the impact of those lessons beyond individual classrooms. During the session, we spent the day discussing our current and potential roles as teacher leaders and agents of change and considered how we could shift teaching in a way that ultimately impacts more students.
In my presentation, I elaborated on the shift from teaching students to collaborating with adults. The goal was for Fellows to consider how they could expand their impact post-fellowship and promote positive, sustainable change in their schools, districts and beyond. Practically, this meant demonstrating how to facilitate highly effective teams, navigate the change process, and create and implement action plans – new skills for most teachers. In the weeks ahead, NNSTOY will virtually reconvene the Fellows on a webinar to assess how they’re doing and how we can further help them scale their fellowship impact.
As a Fellow I am extremely grateful for the professional learning experience that FFT made possible for me, and through my sharing of NNSTOY’s work on teacher leadership, I felt that I could pay it forward. And so, while our Teachers Leading workshops are normally fee-based, I asked the executive director of NNSTOY if we could provide this training to FFT Fellows at no cost in order to extend their summer learning. She enthusiastically agreed and shared that only by empowering great teachers to lead will we be able to effect real change in education. With teachers leading, I firmly believe that we can improve outcomes for all children and help them to live the lives they dream.
A previous Connecticut Teacher of the Year, Chris Poulos (Joel Barrow High School – Redding, CT) is National Board Certified and teaches all levels of Spanish, while also serving as an adjunct professor at Fairfield University. He previously served for two years in a hybrid role, splitting his time between teaching in his district and working alongside policymakers as a Teacher Leader-in-Residence at the Connecticut State Department of Education.