Registrar’s Report

Exploring the role of teacher leader

Mentors help to shape school culture. And the learning and leadership you spark could be your own.

by Michael Salvatori, OCT

Annie Sullivan and Helen Keller. Merlin and Arthur. Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker. When you think of famous mentoring relationships, whose names come up?

Better still, whose name surfaces as your mentor?

Personally, I can point to Ella “Frau” Almassy and Frank Leddy.

Frau Almassy taught me high school German. She introduced me to the great German authors, even though my fledgling skills didn’t allow me to fully understand what I was reading, and her passion for teaching and learning German ignited my own for languages. I recall thinking how much effort she put into creating her own teaching materials and how she strived to connect language learning to our lives.

Frau Almassy inspired me to continue German at university, where I completed a combined specialist degree in German and French language and literature.

Leddy was a new vice-principal at London’s Catholic Central High School when I taught there. He’s now a superintendent with the St. Clair Catholic DSB. Highly intelligent and a master math teacher, he never paraded as a know-all. He was willing to learn. Leddy put students and teachers first. His compassion, patience and understanding are palpable. By example, he inspires and encourages others. The man exudes integrity and continues to act as a sounding board, never providing answers but asking the right questions to help me frame the issue and find the solution.

I am indebted to both. Both remind me that the importance of the link between teacher and student, expert and apprentice, mentor and mentored cannot be overstated.

There’s a critical link between mentor and student – trust. And the learning and teaching roles between the two are often reciprocal and interchangeable. Mentors often learn as much as they teach. They also model leadership and contribute significantly to school culture.
To reflect mentoring’s vital importance in teaching, the College has developed a Schedule C Additional Qualification course to help teachers understand the mentor’s role and to develop the skills and knowledge mentors require.

Mentors often learn as much as they teach.

We are also, at the request of our members, looking at developing an AQ on the broader role of teacher-leader. We’re keen to hear more from you and our education stakeholders about how we can help to develop the role.

Teacher initiative, however, rarely waits. This issue of Professionally Speaking throws a spotlight on the Education Ministry’s Teacher Learning and Leadership Program and celebrates teacher research projects that enable many members to enjoy the teacher-leader experience. See, for example, what Brigitte Lepage, OCT, and Mélanie St-Jean, OCT, are doing at école secondaire Louis-Riel to promote student success. And read what teachers Lisa Galvan, OCT, and Kevin Alles, OCT, are doing to promote the arts and to support teachers that has caught on throughout the Greater Essex County DSB and the province. (See Leading and Learning)

In Oh, The Places You’ll Go! that wisest of doctors, Theodor Seuss Geisel (also known as Dr. Seuss) tells his readers they will move mountains. Sometimes, however, new teachers just need to be able to climb the mountains. Their mentors become guides who can provide expert advice and a helping hand.

Mentoring is an opportunity to teach and learn.

So whether they demonstrate the deft handling of a light sabre or provide advice on ruling the kingdom, mentors play an essential role in education.

My advice? Learn to lead. And lead to learn.

Michael Salvatori, OCT