Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Timothy Lafferty


State and regionally recognized New Jersey teachers struggle to use their professional knowledge in their schools and districts in roles other than teaching. The purpose of this study was to discover the perceptions of highly recognized New Jersey teachers who were interested in taking on additional roles and responsibilities in schools. Guided by Sergiovanni's concept of school communities, DuFour's vision of school culture, and Lieberman's professional development practices, this study examined the connection among these 3 concepts and explored approaches to the creation of trusting communities of teachers who work collaboratively to improve schools. The research questions focused on teacher leaders' perceptions of teacher leadership roles and the skills, knowledge, and dispositions they most valued. The participants were 12 state teachers of the year in New Jersey with 3 or more years of teaching experience. A case study design was used to capture the insights of participants through interviews, online discussions, and a focus group. Emergent themes were identified from the data through open coding, and findings were developed and validated. The key results were that teacher leaders have a desire to engage with school leaders to find ways to share their knowledge and skills with colleagues, and that they value big-picture thinking, fearlessness, and a clear commitment to their students. A project of customized content was designed to guide interested classroom teachers who aspire to be teacher leaders in order to develop the awareness and capacity to take on new roles in schools. Implications are that teachers will be empowered to become more deeply involved in school leadership and that school administrators will foster a culture that supports emerging teacher leaders.