The Outsized Effects of Equating Teaching with Leadership: Implications of Teach for America’s Vision for Engaging Teachers in Reform

Laura Gutmann


Although Teach for America (TFA) members encompass a tiny portion of the teaching workforce, the organization both attracts and creates disproportionate attention as part of its quest to develop educators with strong leadership skills.  Because TFA’s mission goes beyond individual classrooms, it has strategically grown its presence in policy arenas and other venues for advocacy and reform in order to create broad influence.  This approach is a controversial departure from traditional preparation programs that prioritize developing sound pedagogy and teaching strategies over leadership capabilities or public activism.  However, it distinguishes TFA participants by positioning them as empowered to drive a particular brand of change.  We can better understand how TFA characterizes their role by examining the messages within their Teaching as Leadership manual and comparing them to themes within mainstream preparation texts like The First Days of School, while considering the implications of differences in the way teaching is defined.


Teacher Leadership; Teach for America; Alternative Certification; Teaching Identity; Textual Analysis; Teacher Education; Education Reform

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ISSN 1920-4175 Critical Education