Director's Message: August 2020

Duke TeachHouse: A first of its kind living & learning community of early career teacher-leaders committed to making positive change in education

Duke TeachHouse: A Journey of Becoming  

As I reflect about the TeachHouse journey… 

fellows throwing leaves
2019-2020 Fellows outside TeachHouse on 9th Street

It seems almost like a cliché that the idea of Duke TeachHouse came to life over a dinner conversation and notes on the back of a napkin, but that’s how it happened. I was at Nana’s Restaurant in 2014 in a lively conversation with educators from Durham and Duke. From those napkin scribblings, a vision took hold of a living, learning community for early-career teachers -- a safe, welcoming, supportive, inclusive space-- a hub for problem-solving, community advocacy, professional growth, and purposeful action.  

Now six years later as I sit on the steps of 910 9th Street St., the current home of Duke TeachHouse, I reminisce upon and hold dear the memories and lived stories of the TeachHouse Fellows (past and current) that have called TeachHouse, home.

What comes to mind immediately about these lived stories of becoming as unique humans and professional educators are the words - voice and empowerment. Too often, and in too many situations, teachers’ voices are absent, and sometimes devalued or even silenced. TeachHouse is a space that empowers and supports teachers as scholars, innovators, leaders, and change agents in education. And as TeachHouse director, I’m passionate about uplifting teacher voices and committed to having educators heard in school and community conversations and center stage in state, national, and international dialogues around public education and advocacy.

Having a seat at the table …

Fellows in DC
TeachHouse inaugural Fellows at the U.S. Department of Education in 2015

In 2015, a year after that transformative conversation in Nana’s Restaurant, the fellows and I sat at the conference room table of the U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan. I was in awe as I scanned the room. The Fellows, somewhat oblivious to the power of this moment, engaged in discussion with a group of twelve policy makers about new initiatives in public education and their own experiences, needs, and challenges as early-career teachers. 

people around table
TeachHouse Fellows and Director discuss issues of education with Relay Graduate School of Education candidates in D.C. February 2020

This year, Fellows headed back to DC to observe dynamic principals and teachers in action, dialogue with DC educators around the idea of a national teacher-led event to empower teacher voices — Voices on the Hill, and had a seat at the table with panelists from the Gates Foundation, Prince George’s County Schools, and EAB Consulting at an event at Duke’s DC Office. On return, TeachHouse alumna Emily Stout was featured as a guest columnist for The Chronicle with her op-ed entitled, “Give teachers a place at the table.” Read Emily’s inspiring article here.

Becoming present in international conversations…

From Finland to Nepal to Ottawa, TeachHouse Fellows have traveled alongside teachers, principals, superintendents, authors, and leaders at all levels in education to explore, first-hand, models and systems of education across the globe. Relationships and partnerships evolved in unexpected and unimagined ways. 

One of these special relationships began on our very first day in Ottawa with Dr. Peter Gamwell, an award-winning Canadian educator and author; Pino Buffone, Director of the Renfrew County District School Board (equivalent role to a U.S. superintendent of schools); and teacher colleagues from Connecticut led by Commissioner of Education, Emerita, Betty Sternberg.

Gamwell and fellows
Peter Gamwell with Duke TeachHouse Fellows in Ottawa, Canada

With open arms, we each received a warm Canadian welcome as we walked from the hotel and loaded into a personal van and car driven by none other than Peter and Pino themselves. We were off, along with our CT colleagues, to our first day of visits to schools and departments throughout the school district. 

Again, I was awed by the power of this moment amidst the chatter and excitement of the fellows. This up-close and personal four-day experience alongside dynamic, distinguished international leaders in education was without question more than I could have imagined and thought possible.

Over the past year and into the summer, relationships grew even stronger and Fellows’ voices more empowered as ongoing dialogues with Peter continued to engage Fellows and capture their lived stories and ideas, each with a new lens and perspective on the intersections of learning, leadership, creativity, and innovation.

Dr. Peter Gamwell, Canadian educator and author

Just recently, Peter shared that his upcoming book co-authored with Jane Daly, Seeds of Brilliance: How to Cultivate Innovation and Watch It Grow (Corwin Press, 2022), will document and feature the Fellows’ interviews and conversations. And, the Fellows will be profiled on an upcoming YouTube channel that will accompany the launch of Seeds of Brilliance.

 “It’s our goal to give the voices of these amazing TeachHouse Fellows an international stage and also recognition for this remarkable program.”
--Peter Gamwell  

An interview with Peter Gamwell will be featured in the next issue of the TeachHouse Newsletter.