2024 NIET National Conference Recap: Unleashing Teacher Leadership

March 13, 2024

2024 NIET National Conference Recap: Unleashing Teacher Leadership

The NIET National Conference builds the leadership and instructional capacity of educators from across the country through high-impact, collaborative learning designed for immediate transfer to classrooms, schools, districts, and state departments of education. On February 29 - March 1, more than 1,400 educators traveled to Dallas, Texas to attend the 23rd annual NIET National Conference and engage in professional learning around Unleashing Teacher Leadership to support student learning and growth. During the two-day conference, educators dove into collaborative professional learning sessions – allowing participants to walk away with actionable strategies that can be implemented in their districts and schools immediately. 

This year, the conference offered 28 professional learning sessions, including interactive sessions and the always-popular “bubble” sessions for educators to observe collaborative meetings in action. Sessions were offered across five learning strands: 

  • Unleashing Collaborative Structures
  • Maximizing Individualized Coaching
  • Implementing Evidence-Based Practices
  • Creating Positive Learning Environments
  • Bridging Early Career Support 

Learning Highlights from Popular Sessions

Breakout sessions focused on the problems of practice and best practice solutions identified by partners throughout the year. Over the next few weeks, NIET will release new resources from the conference for all educators to access in the Resources section of the NIET website. 

Here’s a look at some of the learning that took place at the 2024 NIET National Conference. 

Maximizing Teacher Support by Leveraging HQIM

By providing teachers with high-quality instructional materials (HQIM), they are empowered to guide, support, and appropriately challenge their students. Simply providing HQIM is not enough though. Teachers also need support in how to use the material in a way that has a positive impact on student outcomes. Teacher leaders are the link between HQIM and strong classroom instruction through the support and coaching they provide to teachers. Research shows that coaching and supporting teachers in the use of instructional materials positively impacts student outcomes.

In the session “Maximizing Teacher Support by Leveraging HQIM,” participants explored strategies to leverage HQIM when coaching teachers. The session focused on empowering teacher leaders to understand and channel the power of HQIM to impact the instructional skills of teachers. Participants left with practical insights and strategies to apply in their schools right away to better use HQIM and thus enhance the quality and consistency of instruction. “I am walking away with a clear process and entry point to supporting my teachers,” said one conference attendee.

Supporting Individual Needs to Enhance Cluster/PLC Impact

Collaborative learning in clusters/PLCs ensures positive student outcomes by providing opportunities to address the needs of individual teachers and students. It can sometimes be challenging, however, to ensure that every teacher receives the support and coaching that they need based on their individual needs and those of their students. Teacher leaders and other instructional leaders have the important task of addressing this challenge and any gaps in the support structures of their school. 

“Supporting Individual Needs to Enhance Cluster/PLC Impact” took on this challenge by exploring strategies to enhance the impact of weekly professional learning. Specifically, participants examined the challenges they face in addressing the diverse needs of teachers and students. Participants also uncovered modifications that can be made to ensure that tools and strategies from collaborative learning time effectively transfer to the classroom. 

“I really loved that real-life artifacts were used,” said a conference attendee. “It made the session feel very applicable.” The reflection that happened during this session will ultimately help teachers take ownership of new instructional methods as their teaching practices progress–leading to increased student achievement. 

Bubble Session: Instructional Leadership Team 

Bubble sessions allowed educators to observe collaborative learning being modeled by school and district leaders. This year, educators from Winona Independent School District in Texas, modeled their school instructional leadership team (ILT) meeting. 

The Winona leadership team meeting focused on how ILT members would support teachers in developing strong success criteria for student learning. The ILT members first worked collaboratively to develop a deeper, shared understanding of what success criteria should look like, asking, “What should we expect to see in classrooms?” Next, they planned how to support cluster/PLC leaders to facilitate collaborative learning around success criteria for teachers in professional learning and follow up through individual coaching in classrooms. In this ILT meeting, the superintendent participated and made connections to how district leaders are supporting school leaders to be successful in building the capacity of ILT members through coaching. 

Participants left this bubble session with clear next steps and strategies to strengthen and align their own district and school meeting structures. “This was the best session of the day for me with a lot of great takeaways that I can immediately implement at my school,” said a conference attendee.  

Honoring Excellence in Teaching

During the conference, NIET recognized school and district excellence in building educator effectiveness and advancing student success. 

North DeSoto High School in DeSoto Parish Schools, Louisiana, was named the 2024 NIET Founder’s Award winner and received the $50,000 grand prize. The school received the Founder’s Award because it exemplifies NIET’s work with schools to develop teacher leaders, collaborate on successful instructional practices, and provide feedback and support to address teacher and student needs. The other four finalist schools were also honored for their achievements with $10,000: Clinton Elementary School (Clinton City Schools, Tennessee); Desert View Elementary School (Gadsden Elementary School District #32, Arizona); Lockett Elementary School (Orangeburg County School District, South Carolina); and Winona Middle School (Winona Independent School District, Texas).

In a surprise announcement, Avondale Elementary School District in Arizona was presented with the 2024 NIET District Award of Excellence in Educator Effectiveness and $50,000 for its unwavering commitment to investing in educators’ professional growth, fostering teacher leadership, and increasing student success. In 2011, Avondale partnered with NIET to implement the TAP System for Teacher and Student Advancement, a whole-school approach to improving teaching and creating opportunities for teachers to grow as leaders. The TAP System helped Avondale schools establish a cadre of teacher leaders who, alongside school leaders, facilitate job-embedded professional learning and provide teachers with individual coaching and support.

Building Educator Excellence Together

The NIET National Conference is a culmination of our mission – building educator excellence to give all students the opportunity for success. Partners are already implementing strategies learned at the conference in their states, districts, schools, and classrooms that will have a lasting impact on student achievement. NIET is proud to support these leaders and educators in strengthening their impact. We look forward to building on this work throughout the remainder of this school year and into the next. 

Check out photos of NIET's 2024 National Conference in our photo gallery.