This presentation offers insight into the development and characteristics of teacher leaders by highlighting the pathways to leadership of eight Texas teachers. The teachers, drawn from more than 200 teachers who participated in three NSF-sponsored geoscience education projects, were tracked from 2007 to 2017. A multi-method study of these teachers utilized surveys, classroom observations, focus groups, and interviews, which sought to address the following: (1) What role did participation in NSF projects play in the transformation from teacher to teacher leader? (2) What influences within the context of the projects acted as sources of support or obstacles to leadership? (3) How did the school and/or district environment act to support or hamper teacher-leaders? (4) What factors beyond project participation motivated or challenged teacher-leaders? (5) What intellectual and personality factors influenced teacher-leader development? (6) To what extent have teacher-leaders developed a leadership identify? The results of this research indicate different styles and practices of teacher leadership, key factors that contributed to their emergence as teacher-leaders, and document the qualities and behaviors that set them apart as change agents from others in our projects.
The small number of Earth Science teachers in Texas school districts restricts opportunities to assume leadership functions locally. Therefore, preparation of Earth Science teacher leaders must extend beyond leadership in the classroom and district or school level to encourage participation in networks, professional organizations (e.g., NESTA and NAGT), and the geoscience education research community. Participation in these communities fosters a sense of belonging, allows teachers to establish a network of colleagues, and offers a safe space to grow and flourish such that they step into leadership positions that can spill over into the larger STEM education arena. Additionally, teachers who attend meetings of the AGU, GSA and the Earth Educators Rendezvous are able to build important understandings across the practices of Earth Science teaching, learning, and research. Our findings help clarify what constitutes teacher leadership in the Earth Sciences and offer guidance on strategies for supporting teacher leadership.