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The purpose of this qualitative research study was to describe the experiences of secondary teachers who were actively involved in positions of teacher leadership in their schools and to discover the meaning that leadership activities had for them in their work. The informal teacher leaders performed their leadership functions in an environment of educational reform and change, voluntarily, and on their own time.

The study was framed and described by data gathered primarily through a series of in-depth interviewing, based on a structure for phenomenological interviewing by Seidman. The individual interviews were audio taped and transcribed in full text. Other forms of data collection included a survey and e-mail reflections from the participants, and researcher reflections. Data was coded by topics, organized into themes based on an inductive analysis of the transcribed data, re-visited to discover new meanings, and re-organized into themes.

Results of this study indicated that teacher leaders found great satisfaction, both affectively and cognitively, in their involvement. They found meaning in their work because of a positive school environment, through collaboration with colleagues, participation in curriculum writing and committee work, and involvement with innovative activities. They indicated the biggest rewards came from their work with students. In addition, the teacher leaders frequently made reference to something inside themselves, their personality, and their drives. They found they needed the stimulation and the challenges that teacher leadership activities presented.

The findings of this study contribute to the knowledge base on teacher leadership. They have implications for teacher educators who prepare future teachers for leadership roles, particularly at the secondary level and in an educational reform environment. Knowing the experiences that teacher leaders find most meaningful in their work, particularly curriculum work and collaboration with colleagues, will inform teacher educators as they prepare pre-service teachers to be knowledgeable and confident in these activities. In addition, administrators who want to encourage teacher leadership activities in their school may benefit from understanding what motivates teachers to become leaders and will be more knowledgeable about the needs of their staff when planning staff development opportunities. The study concluded with recommendations for further research on teacher leadership.

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