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Passion and Purpose Symposium: News and Events Article

Six teacher leaders in the Los Angeles area participated as panelists in Mount St. Mary's "Passion and pps-news-events -01Purpose: Teachers Leading the Way", a symposium hosted on Wednesday evening, September 23rd from 6-8 p.m. Panelists spoke about their experiences in diverse roles as teacher leaders, balancing leadership duties with regular classroom teaching, and following one's passions as a leader.

pps-news-events -02Panelists included:

  • Cicely Bingener, a Kindergarten teacher at Beulah Payne Elementary School in Inglewood who co-founded a parent empowerment group called Parent Teacher Partners;
  • Justin Betzelberger, a high school science teacher at East Valley High School also working as a Professional Learning Community Facilitator for Teach for America, mentoring first and second year life science teachers;
  • Aisha Blanchard-Young, a high school continuation teacher who co-founded Parent Teacher Partners with Cicely Bingener, currently serves as Inglewood Teacher Association's president, and is an adjunct professor at Mount Saint Mary’s University; 
  •  Cecily Feltham, a history teacher at Animo Justice High School who mentors all of her school's new teachers; pps-news-events -03

  • Mary Frances Smith-Reynolds, a second grade teacher at Ivanhoe Elementary School in Silverlake, who has served as a Literacy Coach and SchoolImprovement Coordinator at her school site;
  •  Catherine Underwood, an English teacher at East Valley High School who has served as department chair and lead teacher for her school's Performing Arts Academy, and is currently pursuing her National Board Professional Teaching Standards Certification.pps-news-events -04

In addition to talking about the specific roles they've taken on as teacher leaders, each of the impassioned panelists offered words of general wisdom and advice to the audience of teachers and teacher candidates.

Smith-Reynolds opened the panel discussion, reminding audience members that all leadership roles – whether large or small – are crucial to your school site, and that once you start taking on leadership duties, colleagues, parents, and students will begin to see you in a different light. Bingener then spoke, noting that teachers can and should be agentpps-news-events -06s of social change identifying areas of need and working to improve them from the ground up. Blanchard-Young called upon all teachers to pay attention to their gifts and talents, to find like-minded colleagues, and to be open to taking on different challenges as leaders in their school community. Feltham humorously warned teachers against the dangers of "time goblins", encouraged them to prioritize their energies, and noted tpps-news-events -05hat effective teacher leaders are those who are willing to take risks and allow other teachers to come and "see them fail". Betzelberger advised teachers to draw upon the diverse leadership skills they've developed in other areas of their lives, and to pursue roles that are particularly of interest to them. Finally, Underwood provided audience members with a "top ten" list for staying vibrant as a teacher leader – including taking care of your personal health and well-being, paying attention to what energizes you (and doing more of it!), and making sure to rotate leadership roles with other teachers.pps-news-events -07

After speaking, panelists facilitated small discussion groups with audience members, who had the opportunity to brainstorm ideas for teacher leadership roles in their own lives. pps-news-events -08As one participant noted, "I was pleasantly surprised by the volume of knowledge that was shared by the guest speakers. I found it quite refreshing to hear the struggles and the successes from those who share some of the same responsibilities that I do in my career. So often, teaching can be quite overwhelming and we feel like we are alone. It was great to hear that these teachers were able to balance their lives and be quite successful in the process."

Video clips from the symposium will be posted in the near future, so stay tuned!pps-news-events -09








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