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February 21, 2018

Leadership Series: Teacher Leader or Coach?

Leader or Coach? Combine and go for the win!

Leadership in singularity is becoming a thing of the past. Great teacher leaders strive to coach team members to bring individual skills to light to better the school and strengthen the team. Quality coaches step into leadership roles as needed or as desired to continue to challenge and grow as a person.

Author Elena Aguilar, in her book, The Art of Coaching Teams: building resilient communities that transform schools,1 addresses several key points for leaders as they attempt to coach and grow team members.

The chapter on building a culture of trust was of most interest to me. Among Ms. Aguilar’s several points within this chapter, she notes the importance of a leader admitting if a mistake was made, or if the answer is unknown. This modeling of vulnerability is of upmost importance in setting up relationships of trust and growth.

Listening continues to be a goal for all leaders and coaches. As a coach, it is important to model listening and provide specific feedback to what was said not only between leader and staff, but just as important, what was said between colleagues. This is where coaching plays a large part; as you model skills, you are also coaching others- providing the expectations between all members in the conversation. The listening model could be transferred to all meetings by building a template for meeting structure in which all staff at the meeting can share ideas, while all others listen and provide specific feedback.

Showing appreciation, celebrating and just having fun are also addressed in the book and are top of the list for me when it comes to coaching teachers as a teacher leader. It takes so little to show appreciation, but, it seems to be one of the hardest skills to master. Be in the hallways and engage with your staff about their weekends, remember their children’s and pet names, ask how they are and truly listen. Coach your staff to incorporate appreciation into team or grade level meetings; you may also have to coach your colleagues on how to accept a statement of appreciation with a simple thank you. Tie celebrations into full staff and team meetings too; as we learn to play and have fun again as adults we lower stress levels, become more creative and happy. Play allows connections to be built, engaging trust and appreciation of each other.

Teri Aulph, says it best in her Educational Leadership article: Leaders who Coach.2

Leaders who coach are strong in adaptability and secure in their roles. They equip their people with the knowledge and tools they need to make sustainable decisions on their own. In these environments, performance and flexibility are a passion. These adaptive leaders value differences of opinion and encourage the healthy debate. As a result, employees feel valued and loyalty is the norm”.


  1. Aguilar, Elena. The art of coaching teams: building resilient communities that transform schools. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2016. Print.
  2. Aulph, T. (n.d.). Leaders Who Coach. Retrieved April 15, 2017, from


Looking to explore additional resources on how to be a successful teacher leader? Explore Learners Edge’s Leadership courses and help build yourentire school’s capacity to improve.


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