"I'm Not a Bystander": Developing Teacher Leadership in a Rural School-University Collaboration

Jeffrey C. Eargle


Rural teachers need ongoing, flexible professional development designed to encourage collaboration and curriculum development. Furthermore, rural school reform requires successful collaborations between schools and colleges to create leaders within schools. Therefore, this case study is a program review that investigates how social studies teachers at Timberwood High School, a rural high school in the American southeast, are emerging as teacher leaders through a school-university partnership to improve their practice, mentor pre-service teachers, and generate reform. Interviews were conducted with members of the social studies department, all of whom were involved in the project. The findings indicate that the school-university partnership encouraged experimentation with new strategies, stimulated reflective practices and teacher growth, and created a more cohesive social studies department. However, while it was evident that teacher leadership did develop through the process, traditional school norms of egalitarianism and structural hierarchy prevented teachers from fully embracing their roles as teacher leaders. Study findings suggest that rural administrators and rural school-university partnerships must focus on developing teacher leaders to initiate school reform and grow professionally.


Anderson, K.D. (2008). Transformational teacher leadership in rural schools. Rural Educator, 29(3), 8-17.

Babione, B. (2010). Rural and small community educator responses to state academic standards. Rural Educator, 31(3), 7-15.

Blum, H.T., Yocom, D.J., Trent, A., & McLaughlin, M. (2005). Professional development: When teachers plan and deliver their own. Rural Special Education Quarterly, 24(2), 18-21.

Bryant, J.A. (2007). Killing Mayberry: The crisis of rural American education. The Rural Educator, 28(1), 7-11.

Cozza, B. (2007). Transforming teaching into a collaborative culture: An attempt to create a professional development school-university partnership. The Educational Forum, 74(3), 227-241.

Darling-Hammond, L. (2006). Constructing 21st-century teacher education. Journal of Teacher Education, 57(3), 300-314.

Dempsey, R. (1992). Teachers as leaders: Towards a conceptual framework. Teaching Education, 5(1), 113-120.

Feiman-Nemser, S. (2001). From preparation to practice: Designing a continuum to strengthen and sustain teaching. Teachers College Record, 103(6), 1013-1055.

Fullan, M. (1993). Change forces: Probing the depths of educational reform. New York: The Falmer Press.

Guenther, J., & Weible, T. (1983). Preparing teachers for rural schools. Rural Education, 1(2), 59-61

Hamel, F.L., & Jaasko-Fisher, H.A. (2011). Hidden labor in the mentoring of pre-service teachers: Notes from a mentor teacher advisory council. Teaching and Teacher Education, 27(2), 434-442.

Harris, S. (2005). Improved professional development through teacher leadership. The Rural Educator, 26(2), 12-16.

Huberman, M. (1989). The professional life cycle of teachers. Teachers College Record, 91(1), 31-57.

Katzanmeyer, M., & Moller, G. (2001). Awakening the sleeping giant: Helping teacher develop as leaders. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press, Inc.

Kirschner, B.W., Dickinson, R., & Blosser, C. (1996). From cooperation to collaboration: The changing culture of a school/university partnership. Theory into Practice, 35(3), 205-213.

Lefever-Davis, S., Johnson, C., & Pearman, C. (2007). Two sides of a partnership: Egalitarianism and empowerment in school–university partnerships. The Journal of Educational Research, 100(4), 204-210.

Lortie, D. (1975/2002). Schoolteacher: A sociological study (2nd ed.). Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Masumoto, M, & Brown-Welty, S. (2009). Case Study of Leadership Practices and School-Community Interrelationships in High-Performing, High-Poverty, Rural California High Schools. Journal of Research in Rural Education, 24(1), 1-18.

Myron, S., Sanzo, K. L., & Clayton, J. (2011). Tracing the development of a rural university-district partnership: Encouraging district voice and challenging assumptions leadership. Journal of School Leadership, 21(5), 684-703.

Rogus, J.F. (1988). Teacher leader programming: Theoretical underpinnings. Journal of Teacher Education, 39(1), 46-52.

Salazar, P. (2007). The professional development needs of rural high school principals: A seven-state study. The Rural Educator, 28(3), 20-27.

Smylie, M.A., Brownlee-Conyers, J. (1992). Teacher leaders and their principals: Exploring the development of new working relationships. Educational Administration Quarterly, 28,150-184.

United States Census Bureau. (2000). Genealogy data: Frequently occurring surnames from Census 2000. Retrieved from http://www.census.gov/genealogy/www/data/2000surnames/index.html

Warren, L.L., & Peel, H.A. (2005). Collaborative model for school reform through a rural school/university partnership. Education, 126(2), 346-352.

Weiner, J.M. (2011). Finding common ground: Teacher leaders and principals speak out about teacher leadership. Journal of School Leadership, 21(1), 7-41.

York-Barr, J., & Duke, K. (2004). What do we know about teacher leadership?: Findings from two decades of scholarship. Review of Educational Research, 74(3), 255-316.

Full Text: PDF


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Publication of the National Rural Education Association - http://www.nrea.net

Report problems or questions about to the website to jshedd@library.msstate.edu