RFF Shout-Out: Lead by Learning

26 Mar, 2020

RFF Shout-Out: Lead by Learning

Meet Lead by Learning (formerly known as Mills Teachers Scholars), an organization geared towards helping educators design and create vibrant teacher-led learning cultures, to evolve as learners who lead systemic improvement, and most importantly, give all students opportunities to learn, grow, and thrive. They strive to create an aligned, cohesive learning experience for leaders, similar to what students experience in the classroom. “We want them to have a productive struggle, to create authentic questions, and to be met where they are and center their belonging,” says Lead by Learning’s Executive Director, Carrie Wilson.

Lead by Learning started with a small group of Mills College of Education graduates in their first year of teaching. These teachers decided to take their professional learning into their own hands, with the help of a former professor. Fast forward 11 years to today, original teacher cohort member, Carrie Wilson, and Jen Ahn, Lead by Learning’s Director of Network Partnerships, have expanded the program from 17 teachers to over 370 teachers, principals, district department leaders, CEOs, and Superintendents. The mission of Lead by Learning has held true since day one, as a Professional Learning Community, the goal is to put learning at the heart of teaching and leading and to always keep students at the center of the work.

Image courtesy of Lead by Learning

Lead by Learning’s portfolio of program offerings include partnerships with district, county, and LEAs; the Lead by Learning Network which provides custom coaching, consulting, program planning and design; individual school partnerships; and plenty of free resources for educators that can be found on their website! The most recent addition to their programming, which Jen and Carrie are most excited about, is their new certificate program. This certificate program is a combination of synchronous and asynchronous learning opportunities with an introspective component geared toward helping leaders address their awareness of their racial identity, positionality, unconscious biases, and how those impact their work.

When asked what drives them to do the work of Lead by Learning each day, both Jen and Carrie agreed that it was hands down, the educators they work with. Jen says, “I’m struck by how passionate, hardworking, and humble the work of education is.” It is clear to both leaders that practitioners on the ground are best situated to understand the issues that are preventing true equity from occurring, and that they are also the ones best situated to enact the change that is required to seek equity and support all students to learn. Jen continues, “Our mission is to empower teachers, principals, and all educators who work closely or directly with students by supporting their own learning, agency, and belonging, so they can do the same for their kids.”

If Lead by Learning could have any 3 wishes granted, Carrie and Jen say the organization would wish to:

  • have teachers voices heard in policy conversations centered around what’s best for students
  • fully fund education at the level it’s “written on paper” in order to adequately provide the services that districts and schools say they’re offering
  • and have systems prioritize and build in sense-making opportunities and spaces that are consistent, perpetual, and driven by teachers.

Image courtesy of Lead by Learning

When sharing thoughts on improving education systems, Jen urged, “If a system is out there and listening, the one thing I’d implore you to do is interrogate how you support adults.” Carrie focused on lessons we’ve learned from the current moment we’re in with the COVID-19 pandemic, “The pandemic has shown us how much we rely on school systems for everything. If we’re asking what it takes for the complex school system to improve, it’s clear we need to invest more in teachers and leaders. The entire society is dependent on our school systems. This is a moment to recognize the call out for funding.”

Interested in supporting the work of Lead by Learning? “Besides hugging a teacher when it’s safe to do so,” as Carrie joked light-heartedly, you can donate to Sponsor an Educator’s Learning, which assists educators and schools that might not be able to participate in the partnership otherwise. To keep up with Lead by Learning, check out their blog and subscribe to the newsletter, which often features pieces written by local teachers, and upcoming events and webinars, resources, and program information!

Follow Lead by Learning on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram!


written by Kate Ray
Kate Ray joined the RFF team in 2019. Prior to joining the Foundation, Kate spent two years as a middle-school science teacher, first in Fort Worth, Texas, and most recently in Oakland with Aspire Public Schools. Kate’s favorite childhood book was Matilda by Roald Dahl.Her hope for Oakland students is that each will be provided with the tools and support they need to develop and pursue their passions.