On Friday, Sept. 18, Gov. Chris Christie approved legislation intended to provide a new career pathway for New Jersey’s educators who choose to remain in the classroom rather than moving into an administrative or supervisory role.

P.L.2015, c.111 (S-165/A-448) establishes a “teacher leader endorsement” that would be attached to the instructional certificate and available to a teacher who completes a program of study with a New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE)-approved provider (e.g. institution of higher education, educational organization, or other non-profit entity). The bill creates an 11-member Teacher Leader Endorsement Advisory Board that will consist of one individual appointed upon the recommendation of the NJSBA as well as representatives of the New Jersey Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers-New Jersey, the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association, the New Jersey Association of School Administrators, and the New Jersey Association of Colleges for Teacher Education. Once organized, the advisory board will be tasked with making recommendations to the state education commissioner and the State Board of Education regarding the eligibility requirements and the program of study for the endorsement. Within five years, the advisory board shall evaluate programmatic and other data and make recommendations to the State Board of Education regarding non-supervisory roles and responsibilities for which a teacher leader endorsement should be required.

Upon signing the bill, the governor stated, “The reality is that we know great teachers are already leaders in their schools and communities, but this law honors and recognizes those contributions and designates that leadership in a real way, without making them go outside the classroom to pursue those opportunities. This goal – to provide teachers with career ladders – is an essential component of this Administration’s education reform agenda.”

Sen. Jim Whelan, primary sponsor of the legislation, described a teacher leader as “someone who ‘goes the extra mile’ to help not only his or her students but other teachers with less experience to make a profound difference in their students’ lives. Schools are at the center of a child’s educational and recreational life and play a significant role in the prospects of a student’s future success. Experienced teachers recognize this, and find ways to meaningfully connect with and mentor students and other teachers so they can achieve long term success. This endorsement will further encourage teachers to continue leading the way.”

“Teacher leadership goes beyond the four walls of a classroom,” stated Assemblywoman Mila Jasey, the bill’s main proponent in the lower house. “We must encourage and support our most dedicated, innovative educators to expand their roles and become professional leaders in their field. Fellow educators, schools, and students will benefit greatly from their expertise.”

The new law goes into effect 90 days following the governor’s approval.