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

Jeffrey C. Eargle

Abstract


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.

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