Teacher leaders

The school bell has rung and students at Northshore School District have left for home, but the day isn't over for 25 of the district's teachers.

Representing all grade-levels and content areas, Leslie Tuomisto and her colleagues are coming together on a mid-February afternoon to wrap up a 20-week online course on coaching and mentoring adult learners. The course, provided by the University of Washington's Teacher Leadership program, is part of an effort to boost the leadership capacities of Northshore teachers and TOSAs (Teachers on Special Assignment).

Tuomisto, who teaches at Skyview Junior High, says it's already paying dividends in the form of greater confidence in her skills and understanding.

“I feel I am equipped to go into any classroom and use one of the tools or strategies I have learned in this course to facilitate and encourage teacher growth as well as promote student learning,” she said.

Over the past three years, UW’s Teacher Leadership program has partnered with Anacortes, Nooksack Valley, Mercer Island, Kent and Northshore school districts to offer cohort-based learning opportunities for more than 100 teacher leaders.

“We recognized that many teachers want to improve their leadership capacities, but don’t necessarily have the capacity to return full-time to graduate school,” said Sylvia Bagley, director of teacher leadership at UW. “So, in partnership with UW Professional and Continuing Education, we’re offering our teacher leadership courses on a contract basis.”

The coaching and mentoring adult learners class is one of three core online courses in the teacher leadership master's program at UW, all designed to assist teachers in working together to improve instructional practice. Participants in the coaching course engage with recent research on working with adult learners, using coaching strategies (such as observing instruction and engaging in coaching conversations), and collaborating with administration to bring about effective coaching and mentoring programs.

In addition to watching audio-narrated slideshows and participating in online discussion forums, teachers practice coaching skills with a colleague at their school and create an action plan for a site-based project implementing their new knowledge.

The fully online class, typically offered during the fall for the College's full-time graduate students, has been turned into a unique hybrid experience for districts, with extended time between lessons and supportive in-person seminars hosted at school district offices.

This mix of independently-paced online work and in-person gatherings has been beneficial for busy teacher leaders. Participants do coursework when they’re able to fit it into their schedules, with bi-weekly forum deadlines to keep them on track.

During the in-person seminars, participants check in with each other about progress on assignments, ask clarifying questions of their instructors, and practice coaching.

“I’ve enjoyed the hybrid nature of the course,” said Andrea Haas, a Nationally Board Certified TOSA for Northshore. “It allowed for flexibility, yet it had important in-person components.”

In their culminating seminar, Northshore's participants shared their final action plans, which include ideas such as implementing a book club on best math instructional practices, crafting a coaching position for a new high school, and making peer coaching cycles a regular part of the school culture.

“I was stretched and challenged [in this class], but it was well worth it,” said Hollywood Hills first grade teacher Christina Berg.


Sylvia Bagley, Director, Teacher Leadership Programs


Dustin Wunderlich, Director for Marketing and Communications

206-543-1035, dwunder@uw.edu