Teacher Leaders Taking Action through Professional Learning

by Amanda Armstrong, Teachers and Leaders division at the Tennessee Department of Education

Teacher leaders have been and continue to be the backbone of Tennessee’s work in building literacy skills in early grades through programs like Read to be Ready, providing all students with individualized supports and opportunities like RTI2, and preparing more students for postsecondary completion through initiatives like increased access to early postsecondary opportunities (EPSOs). In this fourth and final four teacher leader action brief, Developing Teacher Practice through Unit Starter Implementation, three first grade teacher leaders in Rutherford County share the power of collective growth and opportunity as they work to create learning opportunities that promote equity and excellence for the range of learners in their classrooms.

The following is an excerpt from the third action brief, released on May 31 and written by Stacey Badger, Sydni Miller, and Meghan Parks. Click here to read the complete brief.

How Unit Starters Develop Better Teacher Leaders

Truthfully, when beginning the unit starters, we were concerned about whether they would be beneficial to our students because of the complex components that we had never considered in our instruction. However, after planning, implementation, and reflection, we have realized that not only were the unit starters helpful to our students’ learning, but they were also extremely valuable in molding us into becoming better teachers. With the unit starters, every aspect of instruction becomes more intentional, higher quality, and more rigorous. We found that unit starters:

Encourage Reflective Reaching

One of the major benefits of developing and implementing the unit starters is that they require intentional thinking and/or analyzing current teaching practices in the classroom. This reflection encourages teachers to consider how instruction might be improved or altered to foster better learning outcomes. Since the unit design and instructional components offered within the unit starters might be new for some educators, it’s essential to consider your teaching practices for understanding what changes can be made to benefit student learning and growth. When we implemented the Observable Patterns in the Universe unit starter in our classrooms this school year, we were required to contemplate after each lesson what worked and what did not, how we could extend or remediate learning, what enhancements we would make to our teaching for future lessons, and how we could refine the tasks and questions to help scaffold our students to be successful. After implementation, we have continued to use these reflective techniques in our everyday instruction.


With a grant from Chiefs for Change, teacher leaders across the state partnered with the department to develop four action briefs that focus on four key areas: