On Tuesday, June 11, nine teachers from Jamestown and five teachers from Edgeley began graduate coursework to earn their master’s degree in leadership from North Dakota State University. But this graduate program looks different than a traditional on campus kind; teachers from Jamestown and Edgeley won’t be travelling to Fargo to take their classes. Rather, the classes are brought to them in person, in the comfort and context of their own school.

Teacher Leadership Academies (TLA) in North Dakota are collaborations between local districts or groups of districts and North Dakota State University to offer a master’s degree in leadership for teachers. The traditional pathway to a master’s degree in leadership would have candidates attending the prescribed courses on campus, taught potentially by several different professors in “silos.” However, in the TLA model, coursework is collaboratively planned and taught between a NDSU professor or supervised adjunct, and a district liaison. Robert Lech and Tyler Hanson, the superintendents at Jamestown and Edgeley, respectively, are the district liaisons for the Jamestown/Edgeley TLA. Every academy is taught in the context of the local district, not at the university.

The model used in North Dakota was adapted from a similar approach developed by Dr. Mary Devin at Kansas State University. The first Teacher Leadership Academy conducted in North Dakota was in West Fargo Public Schools in 2014 and since then there have been seven other academies, with three more that started this summer, and at least two more planned for summer 2020.

"The Jamestown School District is excited to offer the Teacher Leadership Academy for our Jamestown teachers. The TLA provides our district an avenue to empower and cultivate teacher-leaders in our school district," Lech said. "While our teachers earn a graduate degree in educational leadership, our district improves through the professional dialogue between teachers and administrators. The Teacher Leadership Academy allows our coursework to center the curriculum around examining our school district's current reality and supporting our vision to improve.”

This collaborative investment is made possible because of support from the Burgum Foundation, which funds half the tuition for teachers in the program.

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“Burgum Foundation aims to pursue philanthropy with the same focus on innovation, service and hard work that has propelled Arthur Companies for over a century. We are thrilled that teachers from Jamestown and Edgeley can take part in this academy because we know it will directly impact the students and the community,” said Rick Burgum, chairman of Arthur Companies and founder of Burgum Foundation.

The 14 teachers from Jamestown and Edgeley will complete their master’s degree in five semesters, with an expected graduation date of December 2020. The two schools take turns hosting the courses for the duration of the program. Teachers from Jamestown include Heidi Flitton, Tiffany Hillstrom, Ashley Hochhalter, Rachel Kastet, Jeff Meissner, Lana Meissner, Cody Mickelson, Todd Roth and Brandie Ulland. Teachers from Edgeley include Paige Bondley, Sandra Dally, Alex McLean, Tina Nitschke and Shirla Wells.

“Edgeley Public School is excited that five teachers will be pursuing a master of education in educational leadership through a collaborative teacher leader academy with Jamestown Public School. This will be a wonderful opportunity for our teachers to conduct research on topics of interest to the school district that will have an immediate impact on staff, students and our community,” said Edgeley superintendent Tyler Hanson.