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Mort Teacher Leader Academy wins prestigious Claudia A. Balach Award

September 29, 2016 - Employee Excellence

The Mort Elementary School Teacher Leader Academy has been awarded the prestigious Claudia A. Balach Teacher Researcher Award.  This award, which is sponsored by the American Education Research Association, was presented to the Mort team based on criteria that emphasizes true P-12 and university collaboration while in the investigation of critical issues that impact student outcomes.  In addition,” the Mort team evidenced an ongoing interest in teachers as researchers.” Mort’s Teacher Leader Academy members include Dr. Rebecca West Burns, USF College of Education, Amanda Bellas, Mort Teacher Leader, Francesca Perrone, Mort Teacher, Kristen Hodges, Mort Teacher, and Woodland Johnson, Principal. The team has been invited to travel to the AERA’s Annual Meeting in San Antonio to receive their award.

According to the AERA, the award “honors the true spirit of school-university collaboration by supporting research conducted by school district and university personnel.”  Because teacher preparation is constantly changing, educators agree that it’s essential that professional development must change as well.  According to Dr. Burns, the professor-in-residence, The Mort Teacher Leader Academy was created in 2013. The goal was to create a cadre of teacher leaders that could help the principal renew the school. If we really wanted student learning to increase, the first step was to create a school climate that was built on trust and collegiality. When you walk into classrooms at Mort now, you can feel the energy. You can feel that passion because teachers and children want to be at school.  The most important part is that the Mort Teacher Leader Academy is responsive to the needs of the teachers and students at Mort.” The Mort Teacher Leader Academy is supportive and innovative in its quest to develop teacher leaders who can conduct their own research, coach other teachers, and become change-agents for improving student outcomes.

To find out more about the Mort Teacher Leader Academy, the following article was written by two members of the team: Developing Urban Teacher Leaders Together: The Mort Teacher Leader Academy.  Visit the Mort Elementary School website at, or call the school at (813) 975-7373.


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