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New Book Explains Leadership Not Just for School Principals

CANTON — After spending 10 years as a school principal, William E. Collins decided to impart some of his practical experiences in educational leadership in a new book for future school leaders.

Collins, a visiting assistant professor of education and coordinator of St. Lawrence University’s Educational Leadership program, recently co-authored Leaders of Leaders: The Handbook for Principals on the Cultivation, Support and Impact of Teacher-Leaders (Pearsons, 2014).

“Anyone can be a teacher leader,” Collins said. “The days of hierarchical, top-down management are over. The idea here in the book is to discuss, from a principal’s perspective, fostering a culture where voices can be heard and creating a can-do culture where teacher-leaders can develop.”

Leaders of Leaders is meant for use as a textbook in educational leadership courses, and Collins is using it to teach one of his courses this semester. He explained that school principals play a key role in fostering a constructive school culture as well as the development of new teacher-leaders within a school.

Teacher-leaders, Collins explained, are non-school administrators who take on leadership roles. Development of these school leaders, however, involves principals allowing teachers to express their opinions and allowing them to take risks.

“If a teacher is not making small mistakes, then that person isn’t growing professionally,” he said. “We don’t expect students to get everything right on their first try, and we shouldn’t expect the same from teachers.”

According to Collins, schools can benefit from having multiple teacher-leaders because the role of educational leadership is no longer confined to the chief school administrator.

“Today, there are so many state and federal mandates, it’s simply too difficult of a job for one person to do,” Collins said. “For anyone to go it alone is destined for failure. We need to deputize all teachers so we’re not outnumbered by the sheriff. That’s the only way were going to protect our schools and move them forward.”

Collins co-authored the book with Hal Portner, a former public school teacher and administrator and member of the Connecticut State Department of Education. Portner also served as the Coordinator of the Connecticut Institute for Teaching and Learning and worked closely with school districts to develop teacher evaluation plans and programs.

Collins is the founder of the Pioneer Valley Literacy Conference and presents on school culture topics, including principal evaluation, new teacher induction and mentoring, and teacher-leadership.

Collins began teaching at St. Lawrence University this fall semester.