Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Leadership, Research and Technology

First Advisor

Dr. Louann Bierlein Palmer

Second Advisor

Dr. Patricia Reeves

Third Advisor

Dr. Katharine Cummings


teacher leadership, egalitarianism, seniority, fears, teacher leader, administrative gatekeeping


It is undeniable that leadership is necessary for any organization to succeed. However, educational leadership is often compartmentalized and relegated to the hierarchical leadership found in schools such as principals, superintendents, and those with a formal title. The concept of teacher leadership has begun to surface in progressive schools and districts throughout the country, as is evidenced throughout both the professional and scholarly (research) literature. Teacher leadership is occurring in practice, yet it lacks a clear definition and/or a consistent employment in K-12 education. Teachers have historically stepped out of their traditional role as a teacher and into formalized roles within the school hierarchy in order to lead. Teachers also have begun, in recent years, to lead without leaving the role of classroom teacher.

Sanocki’s (2013) study provides an understanding of the process of becoming a teacher leader and how teacher leadership is distributed within a school vis-à-vis grounded theory methodology. The study was conducted in a Midwest state, using face-to-face interviews and multiple e-mail correspondences with eight teacher leaders who were selected by their respective principal as possessing the characteristics of a teacher leader as operationally defined in the study. The study’s duration was three months time. The constant comparative method of qualitative research was employed whereby continuous memoing occurs throughout the open, axial, and theoretical coding phases of data collection and analysis.

Sanocki’s (2013) grounded theory provides a detailed graphical model and is supported by the study participant’s experiences, resulting themes and subthemes, and the relevant research literature. The major findings of this study are as follows: (1) Teacher leaders are classroom teachers first, who are primarily focused on positively impacting students; (2) teacher leaders are introspective about their roles; (3) teacher leaders overcome their fears; (4) teacher leaders successfully navigate egalitarianism, seniority, and administrative gatekeeping on their path to action and agency; (5) teacher leaders positively build, maintain, function and communicate in a learning community; and (6) teacher leaders engage themselves and others in positive change within the school.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access