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13 Steps to Teacher Empowerment

Taking a More Active Role in Your School Community

By Steven Zemelman, Harry Ross
Foreword by Stephanie Harvey

Experts talk about teacher empowerment— here’s the first book for teacher self-empowerment. Steve and Harry help you take steps toward more effective teaching, deeper job satisfaction, better collaborations, and more resources and professional opportunities.

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“What is teacher empowerment? It’s not just some formal administrative position exercised from above. It starts with expanding our professional roles in small everyday actions that make our jobs more fulfilling and less difficult. And then we can take on larger school-improvement tasks as we become ready to tackle them. . . . This book, then, is about extending one’s professional role in small ways and large in the school community, in order to improve one’s teaching, one’s work life, and the school as a whole—and that is what we mean by teacher empowerment.”

Steven Zemelman and Harry Ross

Experts talk about teacher empowerment, but this is the first book with direct, easy-to-take steps for teacher self-empowerment. Drawing from research, the experiences of practicing teachers, and the principles of community organizing, Steven Zemelman and Harry Ross prove that school leadership isn’t just for those at the top of the ladder. Whatever your position, use the 13 Steps to Teacher Empowerment to deepen your professionalism and achieve:

  • more effective teaching and deeper job satisfaction
  • more enjoyment in your work
  • more exciting collaboration with your colleagues
  • more resources and professional opportunities.

Listen to a podcast where Steve Zemelman and Harry Ross interview two teachers who used the principles in the 13 Steps to get the teaching life they wanted.


Take one step at a time or pick and choose the strategies you most need right now. Or use the study guide with colleagues in PLCs or teacher study groups and together bring the 13 Steps of Teacher Empowerment to life. You’ll not only develop your own professional power—you’ll help make your school community more supportive and productive.

“As I sat down and began to read this book, the voice in my head first whispered, then spoke a little louder, and finally screamed—Where have you been all my life?...I can’t overemphasize the importance of this book. We need this book and we need it now. It is a road map to a vibrant, thriving, long-lasting teaching life.”
Stephanie Harvey
Coauthor of Comprehension & Collaboration

(click any section below to continue reading)



Introduction: Leadership as Everyday Participation in Your School’s Professional Community

1. Start with Yourself

I. Understand the Kids More Deeply

2. Shadow a Student

3. Look Inside the Black Box

II. Connect with Fellow Teachers

4. Open the Classroom Door

5. Build Bridges

III. Take Action in the Building

6. Go Meta

7. Speak Up

8. Deal with Committees

9. Mount a Campaign

10. Talk to the Man

IV. Reach Outside

11. Reach Out to Parents

12. Get Grants

13. Forge Partnerships

The Bigger Picture: Distributed Leadership and Whole-School Development



Companion Resources


This book is a must read for teachers, regardless of their position or experience. While reading the book, I felt like the authors were in the room with me, encouraging me to reflect upon my practices, challenging me to see beyond my group of students, and showing me how to take control of my own professionalism. It doesn't take long to read, and it isn't encumbered with difficult jargon. Read a chapter at at time, or read the whole book at once, either way you will easily reflect upon your own teaching situation, and you will come away from the book empowered with the affirmation you need to make a difference in your community and our profession.

Patricia Braun (Oak Park, IL), 11/8/2009

As an NBCT, I sincerely encourage anyone who is looking to begin their journey in local or schoolwide empowerment to read this book.

Trisha Dotts “faithful teacher” (Deer Park, WA), 2/1/2010

"It’s been a tough year for educators.  Even the hardiest of teacher geeks can fall into ruts, holes, and downer experiences in their professional careers. We’re only human.  It’s easy to get sucked into a Great Vortex of Teacher Negativity where suddenly, your once plucky, glass-half-full self is blaming administrators, the public, lack of money, or colleagues for your angst and you don’t know how to get yourself out of it.  But the truth is, just like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, your ability to affect change is inside you all along.  This book, 13 Steps to Teacher Empowerment: Taking a More Active Role in Your School Community, by Steven Zemelman and Harry Ross (Heinemann, 2009) can help you find your ruby slippers again."

Nancy Barlow
Teacher Geek Book Reports

Related PD Services


Email if you would like to contact Steven Zemelman directly about professional development support. Email if you would like to contact Harry Ross directly about professional development support.