Developing Educator Leaders

American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Teacher Leaders Program  

Taking a leadership role for change in education policy

The AFT noticed the lack of educator voice in education policy discussions in our country and decided to do something about it. 

“Why weren’t experts at the school site being asked for their input on how to ensure that our students have the best opportunities to learn?” 

In response, the AFT designed the Teacher Leaders Program in 2011, based on Ellen Meyers’ Teachers Network, to help prepare educators to facilitate discussion of the issues that affect our profession—both locally and nationally. Seventeen locals have participated in the program since its inception. 

The Teacher Leaders Program brings together a selected group of certificated and classified union members and empowers them to assume active leadership roles in their schools, unions and communities. These educators then serve as catalysts to build their profession and strengthen their union and its connection to the community in order to generate support and understanding of public schools. Teacher Leaders will continue to use the skills they develop in the 8 month program throughout their careers.    

AFT brochure:  From Practice to Policy 

Link for Teacher Leaders application  
The application form, essay and two letters of recommendation are due by September 13, 2021

All UESF members are invited to apply — Counselors, Nurses, ParaEducators, T10s, Speech Language Pathologists, Teachers, Social Workers, Central Office staff, etc.  Not yet a member?  Fill out the membership form Here 

Stipends for participants. Ongoing support; and access to AFT’s nationwide online community of teacher leaders engaged in this work.  

Program Goals: 
Participants will be able to 
(1) understand and engage in local action research to create avenues of change in educational practice and discuss education policy with guest speakers; 
(2) complete assigned tasks between meetings; and 
(3) attend and fully participate in the required monthly meetings.

Please contact Diana Mueller at with questions.

Quotes from past participants
“It was a tremendous gift to have the opportunity to engage in such important research and to hear from actual Special Education Teachers what they need to thrive and sustain a career in this district. It was a powerful experience and extremely affirming after 20 years of teaching in this district.  The question still remains, do we want to sustain and retain our Special Education Teaching force? What is the real cost of not actively addressing this issue?”  Diane R. Thompson, SFUSD C&I/PGD, TSA:  Special Education Induction Coach, cohort 2019-20

“The Teacher Leaders program allowed me to have necessary conversations with colleagues to gauge their needs and awareness of the issues I presented and to contribute meaningful policy recommendations.”  Daniel Ryan, Paraeducator, Access SFUSD: The Arc, cohort 2020-21 
“Being an AFT Teacher Leader was an inspiring and comforting project.  I cannot say enough good about it; I was able to share ideas with dedicated colleagues in confidence, develop insight into my more profound interests, and I was challenged to complete my research design and its development by knowledgeable AFT educators.  My experience helped me learn more about myself and drove me to seek in-depth information about the students and communities we serve. I feel like a more fully realized human being from my experiences being an AFT Teacher Leader.”   K. Rolph Morales – Spanish Immersion educator – SFUSD, cohort 2020-21
“The AFT Teacher Leaders Program brought valuable fellowship with other educators within SFUSD. It was a wonderful way to collaborate with our fellow educators and bring our important issues to the table. This program is a way to create future positive life changes for all of our educators and students. It’s one of the best ways to have those in charge of our educational system to hear our voices in order for them to make the necessary changes in future policies.”  Ramona T. Aviles, Marina Middle School, Special Ed ParaEducator, cohort 2019-20
“The AFT Teacher Leaders program is an amazing opportunity for impacting REAL change.  You learn how to develop and recommend policy that will help shape the future of education.”  David Greenbaum (Mr G) – Visitacion Valley Middle School, SFUSD, cohort 2020-2021

“Being a part of the Teacher Leaders Program was an eye-opening experience on the process and work it takes to make policy.  I really enjoyed my time listening to others share the many topics that affect us and our communities.  At times, it was challenging and frustrating, but it was rewarding when it was over.  I hope my topic on wages for paraprofessionals can be further explored deeper and put into practice and policy.”  Josh Rosen, paraeducator, Access: The Arc, cohort 2019-2020
“Participating in the AFT Teacher Leaders Program allowed me to develop my ability to research education policy to leverage change. By learning how to conduct a cycle of inquiry and action research, I obtained specific evidence on how the policy impacted student learning outcomes. Knowledgeable and supportive educator leaders facilitated every step of the process, and each Saturday we met was informative and productive. I also benefited from listening to and engaging with leaders ranging from policymakers to district and city supervisors. The AFT program is a terrific opportunity to hone research skills and present findings to create more equitable learning environments for all students. Lavinia Lindsay Meeker, James Denman Middle School Physical Education Teacher, cohort 2020-21

Past UESF Teacher Leaders Research Topics

⧫⧫ Social-emotional support for students in the midst of a pandemic ⧫⧫ LGBTQ+ cultural competency and staff PLCs  ⧫⧫ Effective systems of support for Special Ed Teachers ⧫⧫ How “High School Readiness” Perpetuates the Achievement  Impact on Student Self Perception and Learning Outcomes ⧫⧫ Using play to promote learning in public school early childhood students ⧫⧫ Implementing Ethnic Studies in SFUSD ⧫⧫ Interpersonal Communication skills for teachers and paras ⧫⧫ Special Ed teacher caseload versus workload ⧫⧫ Transforming the teacher evaluation process to better support student engagement and learning ⧫⧫ What EES/PreK Inclusion Model in SFUSD is most effective ⧫⧫ What is the effectiveness of the  mandated attendance intervention protocol on reducing chronic absenteeism ⧫⧫ How does teacher-para training on AAC systems positively impact student success ⧫⧫ The effects of teaching mindfulness to students ⧫⧫ How can SFUSD retain paraprofessionals by making it an economically sustainable career ⧫⧫ SFUSD Teacher pay vs. other Bay Area Counties ⧫⧫ How does SF Residency model benefit students and participating teachers ⧫⧫ Para-to-teacher-program and workplace diversity ⧫⧫