Democracy Prep’s Road Map to Talent Development

On Thursday, May 27th at 5pm EDT, Democracy Prep will host a webinar about talent development & pathways in our organization. Evan Burns, who is the Assistant Director of Leadership Development, will lead this session to give insight on the various programs we offer and help interested candidates find their best fit. In preparation for this webinar, we met up with Evan to ask a few questions about what to expect!

Can you go into more detail about what talent development pathways there are at DP?

Teacher Leader Institute: We know that teachers bring leadership skills to the classroom, and they refine them there as well. We also know that intentional training can help accelerate that process. We call that Teacher Leader Institute. It’s a program for elementary through high school teachers who are grade level chair, department chair, or in other positions on their campuses that straddle leadership on the campus while also remaining true to their full-time teaching role.

Emerging Leaders: This is a program designed for more experienced, campus-based teacher leaders. For example, it could be someone who has participated in the Teacher Leader Institute, or someone who has been in their role for two to five years and is really excelling. This program enables candidates to work on a set of higher-level leadership skills.

Leader U Residency and Leader U Fellowship: These two programs definitely go hand in hand and are roles that internal as well as external folks can apply for. Interested candidates have the option to complete a (1) one-year or (2) two-year on-ramp into school leadership to assistant principal or principal positions.

Master Teachers: Master teachers are teachers who have been incredibly successful in their classrooms over time. This program is one designed for teachers who may not be interested in formal leadership positions, but they do desire to sharpen their craft in a community of other excellent teachers. This includes working with other master teachers to refine their skills over the course of the school year.

Mentor Teaching: The Mentor Teaching Program is also designed for teachers who want to really focus on their classroom instead of a formal leadership position, while also having an impact on newcomers to education. This is a program in which a small group of experienced teachers are paired with teachers who are new to the profession. Given their limited experience in the classroom, this program provides a support system and what we call a “mentor teacher” to work with them over the course of an entire year. Mentor teachers work hand in hand with this individual with the goal of the mentee being ready for lead teaching the next school year.

Can you go a little more in-depth regarding the difference between a Leader U Residency and a Leader U Fellowship? How do the programs intersect?

The greatest distinguishing factor is that the Residency is a two-year program. By contrast, the Fellowship is a one-year program AND also acts as the second year of the Residency. If a candidate is joining the program with a strong background in teaching and leadership, they will be placed in the Fellowship. In this case, they will just participate in the one-year Fellowship before they become an assistant principal or principal, rather than undergo the two-year Residency program. Ultimately, a candidate’s placement in either program will depend on their level of experience.

Here is a broad overview of the Leader U Residency. In terms of content or experience difference, a Leader U Resident has a two-year on-ramp and will start with a smaller set of responsibilities, which means they will have a more scaffolded experience. They begin with coaching another person, and as their Residency year goes on, the Leader U Resident will move from coaching one teacher to becoming a broader leader at the school. They will take on more responsibilities based on the needs of the school and their principal’s perspective. A lot of times, this may look like being a grade level chair or a department chair.

During the first Residency year, we’re really focused on foundational coaching strategies and techniques. Therefore, a Leader U Resident will work on building up their toolkit of skills and strategies that they will make use of on a daily basis as a leader.

Residents also come together approximately ten times over the course of the year with our Academics Team experts to receive specific, content-based training. The Academics Team leads professional development sessions in specific content areas to prepare Residents to be successful coaches in math, science, literature, and other school subjects.

The Leader U Fellowship shares some similarities with the Leader U Residency. For example, our Fellows and Residents are grade level chairs, department chairs, and run teams. However, Fellows have the additional responsibility of running initiatives on their campus. So Fellows do not teach and instead focus on practicing project management over a long-term timeline. The fellowship is designed such that Fellows spend the year acting as a quasi assistant principal and assume a lot of responsibilities typical of assistant principals. You can see the gradual release of more and more responsibilities as you move from the Residency to the Fellowship.

A big part of the Fellows’ year is observing other excellent schools and unpacking the practices of these model schools. In the past, we’ve traveled to the schools within our own network, Boston, Baton Rouge, other regions in New York, and spend a day at these campuses to observe and study their practices and operations.

Both programs have a summer orientation and weekly coaching sessions with a coach who supports them throughout the year or two years in their respective program.

Lastly, we started a leadership speaker series that’s open to both Residents and Fellows. Leader voice is such a crucial part of being an effective leader at our schools. We know that every leader voice must be authentic and true to their character. To help discover and refine this important skill, we want to expose our Residents and Fellows to many different leadership voices within our organization. We’re also giving Residents and Fellows opportunities to practice, plan, and refine their own leadership story.

Why is it important for school leaders to authentically share their story?

We know that a leader’s authenticity is key for staff to trust them and be invested in their vision. We’re developing training around intrapersonal soft skills that you build and refine over time, which is not possible in just a single professional development session. We also want to recognize that leadership development is identity development. In workshopping and getting exposure to other leaders and campuses, people begin to reflect on their own self and identify. They gain confidence and understand that “these are the things that make me a strong leader. This is who I am. I know it, I embrace that, and that’s what I’m going to take into my leadership position.” We think that when people undergo this process of growth, you truly feel their presence. Our families, our staff, and our scholars need to feel your presence, and that requires authenticity.

Can you speak about how Democracy Prep stands out when it comes to talent development?

We provide opportunities at every level of career development. Let’s say I’m a second-year teacher, and have built self-confidence in the classroom. Now, I would like to try to take on more responsibility outside of the classroom. At Democracy Prep, I have the ability to join the Teacher Leader Institute and become a grade level chair or department chair. By entering this program, I will explore and unearth leadership concepts that I may not have been exposed to as someone who was solely a teacher. If I am excited about this role, but want to gain more dynamic leadership skills, I can apply to be an emerging leader. Wherever I may be in my career, I know that the opportunities for growth are vast!

Our team has seen many people grow from their original roles as a teacher to being teacher leaders, to residents, to fellows. Once you have gone through our talent development pathways, you have gained the experiences you need to lead a school. If you have any interest in what the next level of leadership might look like for you, we help you figure out your best fit so that you feel prepared to lead with absolute confidence and support. Remember that Democracy Prep is a place where you can explore your potential as a leader.

Are you interested in joining our DREAM Team? We’re looking for teachers, leaders and staff who want to educate responsible citizen-scholars for success in the college of their choice and a life of active citizenship. Explore all of our current openings here and apply today!
Want to learn more about talent development pathways at Democracy Prep? RSVP for our webinar happening on Thursday, May 27, 2021 at 5pm EDT by following this link.

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