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Three educators share their major takeaways from this year’s event. What transforms an educator into a teacher leader? Tough question. Teacher leadership is just as unique as a student’s learning style — it is complex, personalized, and authentic. Teacher leaders grow and evolve over time, gaining

Aug 21, 2017

Three educators share their major takeaways from this year’s event.


What transforms an educator into a teacher leader? Tough question. Teacher leadership is just as unique as a student’s learning style — it is complex, personalized, and authentic. Teacher leaders grow and evolve over time, gaining depth as passion and experience merge.

At this year’s Teacher Leadership Institute (TLI), leaders in the profession gathered to connect, share stories, and fan the flames of risk-taking and change. We chatted up teacher leaders Audra Damron, Eve Rifkin, and Joy Hallett on how they’re aiming to make a difference this school year.

Audra Damron

A preschool teacher at Desert Oasis Elementary School in the Tolleson Elementary School District, TLI featured teacher Audra Damron leads the Parent Empowerment Project. The program which bridges gaps between parents and teachers through monthly training that provide resources, increase participation, augment skills, and strengthen community relationships.

“My biggest takeaway from this summer's TLI was that we as teachers are truly the difference makers. Every single teacher sitting in that room was an expert and had valuable input that could be useful toward moving Arizona's students, and the profession as a whole, forward.

“For the 2017-2018 school year, my goal is to open up more from within the four walls of my classroom and make sure my voice is being heard through social media, my work with the Arizona Hope Street Group Fellows, blogging, and whatever additional opportunities may pop up throughout the school year. Important decisions are being made every day about what we teach, how we teach it, funding for programs — the list goes on. We as teacher leaders need to be a part of those decisions, either directly by being in the room where it happens or indirectly by providing the feedback and insight of how those decisions will impact students. Students are and should be everyone's No. 1 priority.”

Eve Rifkin

National Board Certified and TLI featured teacher Eve Rifkin is Director of College Access, and co-founder of City High School, a small charter school in Tucson focused on fostering a caring and rigorous academic environment.

“I was most compelled this year by Dennis Shirley and Liz MacDonald's workshop on achievement with integrity. It was incredibly affirming and provided some important insights for me as a small school co-founder. I have spent two decades trying to make the case that achievement without integrity is simply not achievement. Too often, educators believe that they must make a choice between striving for high marks and operating from a place of care, honesty, and respect. This year's institute's focus was a solid reminder for me and deepened my conviction to keep working with integrity, no matter what.”

Joy Hallett

Joy Hallett graduated from NAU in 2016 with a bachelor’s in elementary education and a minor in global studies. She teaches at Crockett Elementary School in the Balsz School District.

“The Teacher Leadership Institute was an incredible opportunity to connect and learn with other passionate educators. I was given the chance to build my professional learning network in a supportive environment. While building connections, I became knowledgeable on the subject of Adverse Childhood Experiences, also known as ACES. These are childhood experiences that create lasting effects on our students. It is important to understand that each child comes into our classroom with a different story and it is imperative that we be mindful of that. As a teacher of students with varying cultures, demographics and experiences, I will be able to take this knowledge back into my classroom and better support my students.

“During the Teacher Leadership Institute, I sat in on the AZ TELL survey results. These results provided insight to the difficulties happening in our profession. As a Hope Street Group Fellow and fairly new teacher, I go into this new school year being cognizant of these difficulties and how I may be able to help with solutions and push our profession forward.”

Teacher leaders are many, many things, but perhaps most importantly, they offer hope for our communities, our state, our nation — and beyond. They transform passion into action and inspire us all to do the same.

Keep the inspiration flowing with the story of Mike Vargas, another TLI featured educator.

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