All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

Jennifer Ponder

Advisory Committee Members

Anna McEwan

Scott Snyder

Susan Spezzini

Monique Witherspoon

Document Type


Date of Award


Degree Name by School

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) School of Education


Schools are complex and dynamic systems that require innovative leaders who are willing to invest in classroom teachers by giving them opportunities to lead beyond the four walls of the classroom. Because principals play an integral role in the academic achievement of students in their schools, it is incumbent upon principals to invest in teacher leaders to support students’ unique and multifaceted needs. The knowledge teachers gain because of leadership experiences often strengthens their professional dispositions and expands their interest in other critical roles in the system such as becoming an instructional coach, interventionist, principal, or curriculum specialist. A systematic approach, using a tool such as the distributed leadership framework, supports autonomy, capacity, and accountability which are critical for innovation and growth. The goal of this study was to identify the mentoring practices utilized by urban elementary school principals and compare their responses to what teacher leaders reported as effective strategies to support their growth and development. The following questions were explored:

1. What strategies do urban elementary school principals use to mentor their teacher leaders?

2. How do urban elementary school teacher leaders describe the mentorship they receive from their principals?

3. What opportunities do teacher leaders desire for their principals to provide them in an effort to prepare the teacher leaders to become principals?

Data analysis revealed that principals employ numerous strategies, often individualized to meet the specific needs of the teacher leaders at their schools, while also using specific strategies such as communicating, assigning leadership responsibilities, and encouraging professional learning. Teacher leaders largely echoed these strategies as beneficial, but interviews also revealed the need for a more structured leadership framework. The results of this study will contribute to the body of knowledge surrounding leadership succession planning in urban elementary schools and provide recommendations for effective strategies that can be used to build leadership capacity within a school district.

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