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One Year In… Reflections from CEO Tommy Chang

One Year In… Reflections from CEO Tommy Chang
New Teacher Center CEO Tommy Chang

The holiday season and new year marks both closure and new beginnings — a perfect time to reflect on my first year as CEO at New Teacher Center. Over the past 12+ months I’ve embarked on the first chapter of a new and rewarding learning journey.

I joined the organization after more than 25 years of teaching and leading in classrooms, schools, and districts. As a lifetime educator, NTC’s mission to disrupt the predictability of educational inequities through accelerating educator effectiveness spoke to me and my story.

Even though I left the classroom many years ago, at my core, I am still a teacher. My leadership motto has always been to “lead as if one’s a teacher.” This approach undergirds my leadership approach and how I cultivate relationships with others. Recognizing that teaching and learning is a dynamic relational human exchange, I have focused my time on engaging and building internal and external relationships while learning about NTC’s research-proven services and strategy.

I want to share a few insights and reflections from my first year at the helm of this dynamic organization.

Creating Belonging

At NTC, our core business is relationship building. It’s essential for our work and our mission. We’ve transformed into a fully remote organization, with team members living and working nationwide. Despite distance challenges, we are committed to investing in each other’s humanity. We’ve deliberately tackled individual and organizational learning by confronting bias, embracing feedback, and creating the conditions for trust-enabled collaboration.

I was only a few days into the position when NTC held its annual retreat in October 2022. We engaged in collective knowledge-building around our now released Elephant in the (Class)room. We considered what needed to change in us, our organization, and our work to disrupt decades of perpetuated systemic inequity. It was a powerful moment for me. One that showed the magnitude of the deep work it will continue to take to deliver on our mission’s promise and how that touches every person and every function across NTC. Now, fast forward to a few weeks ago. One year later, our retreat continued from all of our learning (and un-learning) to shift us to action, to taking concrete steps to build belonging. Like our coaching-based professional learning leverages trusting connections to inspire teachers to stay, grow, and develop, NTC’s staff rally around our founding heartbeat: relationships, relationships, relationships.

As I pause now, I keep returning to one steady takeaway: NTC is an organization of coaches, collaborators, and conveners. Three roles and ways of being that are relationship-driven and dependent for success. Without question, prioritizing strong professional relationships is our secret sauce, our foundation. It will stand the test of time for how and why we continue to have a meaningful impact in our partnerships nationwide.

Leaning into Leadership Moments

In every organization, there are times when we need to step up. These leadership moments are not bound by hierarchy or job title. At NTC, I’ve experienced a community that moves together and elevates talents — everyone here exhibits leadership. We call it: a Culture of We. Here are a few leadership moments:

  • Our five-year strategic plan, written pre-pandemic, has necessitated thoughtful pivots for us to successfully land what matters most for our internal systems. As we approach the final 18 months of its life, the hard work of many individuals stepped up to redefine our service mindset and build a pathway to actualize it in our internal operations while continuously improving our high-quality experiences for our school and district partners.
  • The process of launching our point-of-view on education, The Elephant in the (Class)room, demanded an honest assessment and alignment of our program offerings to our anchors for equity- and student-centered learning. We’re bringing the best of what we’ve always done forward while evolving our work to better support educators serving systemically underserved students.
  • We’ve stepped up into national conversations, supporting the efforts of The Research Partnership for Professional Learning and the Coalition to Reimagine the Teaching Role. We’re leaning in to share our voice, unique insight, and learnings to increase teacher engagement and improve conditions for educator learners.

I found another key takeaway in these leadership moments: NTC’s resilience. For an organization that’s navigated leadership changes, a global pandemic, a new mission statement, and an ever-shifting educational sector, we’ve done so with tremendous attention to people. It’s true shared success. This is only possible because of our commitment to be a strengths-minded and collaboration-forward team.

Teachers: The True Change Makers

NTC envisions a world where every young person reaches their potential in classrooms, communities, and beyond. While we work tirelessly to achieve this vision, we must never forget that teachers are the true change makers. They are on the front lines, shaping future leaders and innovators. Teachers deserve the highest quality support to be highly effective in their craft and remain committed to teaching.

Our work wraps around this idea of teachers as change makers and agents. It means:

  • supporting the development of professionally prepared and motivated educator communities grounded in learning, collaboration, and the deep intellectual work of teaching;
  • creating relationship-rich, assets-oriented, academically rigorous learning environments where students feel they belong;
  • and supporting schools to be aligned and energized by an instructional culture rooted in equity, rigor, and growth — ecosystems where every adult in the building makes an impact.

Reflecting on my first year at the New Teacher Center, I am grateful for the insights and experiences gained. I want to share my appreciation to our staff, board of directors, philanthropic supporters, and the schools and districts that privilege us to work in partnership and invite us to be a part of their communities. Everyone has given me gifts of genius and joy, meditation and growth. The path ahead is filled with the promise of a brighter tomorrow but also challenges known and some to be revealed. I’m excited for what’s ahead and am more committed than ever to co-create the conditions so every teacher and student can grow, thrive, and shape their futures.

My best wishes for a holiday season and New Year full of well-being, love, and peace as we commit to the journey ahead. See you in 2024.

In gratitude and inspiration,

Tommy Chang
CEO

– – –

NTC offices will be closed December 18 – January 1 in celebration of a winter break and new year. We’ll return on Tuesday, January 2, 2024.

Filed under: Blog, News

Vivian Nnachetam
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