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Scott Conlan

EDAD 543
Assignment #1
Why did you step into a teacher-leader role?
I stepped into a teacher-leader role for several reasons. First, I see a compelling need for the
pedagogy among science teachers in our district to improve. In my opinion too many teachers are
using lecture, textbook, or worksheet-based instruction in their classrooms, which research has
shown to be ineffective at changing students thinking about the world and, aside from a small few,
does not motivate students to learn about science. Second, I believe that scientific literacy is
important. Scientific literacy can make have a profound impact on a students life and the
opportunities that are open to them. Scientific literacy is also critically important to our global society
and will play an essential role in our ability to find solutions to the many environmental problems we
are facing. In summary, I believe science education is important and we need to be doing a better
job of teaching science.
What is the purpose of a TOSA or teacher-leader?/ How do you define yourself as a teacherleader?
I think the purpose of a TOSA is, ultimately, to improve student learning. I believe this is the metric
that should be used to evaluate the effectiveness of a TOSA. However, this simple, measurable
outcome is tied to an incredibly complex task. First, a TOSA must earn the trust and respect of
colleagues by building solid, healthy relationships. If there is distrust or a perception of
incompetence by staff then it is extremely unlikely that the TOSA will be effective in implementing
the changes for which they are working. TOSAs must also have solid content knowledge in their
discipline and have a sound understanding of current, research-based instructional strategies,
especially those that may be specific to their content area. They also need to understand how to
effectively work with adults, as they will likely need to plan professional development for groups of
teachers and work one-on-one with individuals.
What is the most gratifying aspect of your current position?
I feel very satisfied when I am working on projects that I believe will improve the educational
experience for students in science classes. However, my greatest sense of satisfaction has occurred
when I have been in a classroom and seen students responding positively to something I have
helped to create or helped a teacher learn. It is in these moments that I feel most convinced that
from my current position, removed from a position where I am directly working with students every
day, I can have an even greater reaching effect on student learning in our district.
What is the most challenging aspect of your current position?
The most challenging aspect of my current position is working with colleagues who are reluctant to
really engage in professional growth. It is not often that I encounter an individual that simply refuses
to do something I have asked them to engage in. More often, I encounter teachers that are reluctant
to engage deeply and put forth genuine effort to improve their practice. One reason I find it
challenging is that I have difficulty identifying with these teachers because I am constantly seeking
growth and improvement. I am never satisfied and always believe I have room for improvement. I
also have a difficult time with this behavior because I know the students in their classrooms are not
getting the quality science education they deserve. It is one thing for students to receive a poor

education because teachers lack expertise, but quite another for teachers who have access to
quality professional development to choose not to apply it in their classrooms.
Who is (are) your role models? Why?
I feel very fortunate to have many role models within my district that I turn to for inspiration or
direction. The principal at our high school is a person I deeply respect. I aspire to care for all
members of the educational community as much as she does. She really puts relationships first and
it has paid huge dividends in terms of the improvements she has been able to make in the culture
and student learning in the building. Another individual I see as a role model is our assistant
superintendent. I respect his competence around current, research-based instructional strategies
and his courage to insist that all teachers should be using these strategies, all the time. I also
respect the fact that he doesnt just pay lip service to these ideas. He is committed to supporting the
professional development of teachers with both time and money.
How do you measure your professional growth?
While teaching, I created an area of focus and subjectively measured my growth based on whether I
was trying a new instructional strategy and how effective that strategy was in reaching my student
learning goal. I havent measured my professional growth objectively or quantitatively. I suppose I
could use the evaluations completed by my supervisors over the past few years to calculate
differences in my scores over time. I have measured my growth using more subjective means,
however. I think I have measured my practice against a standard of best practices that I have
constructed by reading current education journals, attending conferences, and observing colleagues.
In my TOSA role I am expected to set measurable goals early in the year and evaluate the degree to
which I meet these goals at the end of the year.
How do you measure the growth of your teachers/ colleagues/ teams?
In the case of measuring the growth of teachers, or teams of teachers, I think a measurable goal
needs to be established. Then, I would measure their growth based on student learning and based
on observations of teacher practice. I say I would do these things because I am only a few weeks
into my new position.
How does your current district leverage the talents and strengths of teacher-leaders?
The district has supported my work as a teacher leader with considerable financial support. This
support has allowed me to attend professional development and become a member of several
professional organizations. For example, their financial support has allowed me the opportunity to
enroll in the TOSA program at WWU. This financial support has also provided me with time to work
with teachers in the form of all-day professional development meetings.
How can your district better leverage the talents and strengths of teacher-leaders?
I think that our district has leveraged the talents and strengths of teacher-leaders quite effectively. I
think the district could leverage these strengths further with professional development for teacherleaders around running effective PLCs. Our district has made a commitment of time to our teachers,
two hours each week, to pursue professional growth goals within PLCs, but too often I see this time
used for common planning. I think teacher-leaders throughout buildings in the district would be
strong agents for improving PLCs, but either dont have the knowledge to do so or are operating
within a larger culture that is resistant to these changes.