Case Study: Branding Teacher Leadership (Part 1)

Is your exciting new initiative at risk of death by edu-speak?

School districts across the country are embracing teacher-leadership initiatives, and many are looking to the example set by Denver Public Schools. In 2013, DPS was among the first in the nation to create a “hybrid” teacher-leader role: highly effective teachers spend about half of the day in the classroom with students, and about half of the day observing and coaching fellow teachers.

But in its third year, the program suffered from an identity crisis. Calling it “differentiated roles,” district leaders sometimes struggled to communicate the program’s value to its stakeholders, including teachers themselves. And heading into the 2015-16 school year, the district was working to expand participation in the initiative from 72 to 120 schools.

DPS engaged Springboard Communications to create a clear and compelling brand for the program, and we couldn’t be happier with our progress so far. We began our rebranding work by developing a clear, crisp name for the program: Teacher Leadership & Collaboration. The new name immediately identifies what the initiative supports, and cuts through the education jargon that can dominate school-district communications. Watch the launch video incorporating the new program name (we got to help produce that, too).

“Marissa organized a lot of disparate ideas and messages into a cohesive set of strategy documents to clarify how we talk about our work with various audiences,” says Kate Brenan, associate director of teacher career pathways for DPS. “Her most beneficial contribution was leading us to a marketing decision that had been delayed for over a year: what to call our work and why.”

Because no district initiative can escape its acronym, our recommendation also considered the phrase that is commonly associated with TLC: “tender loving care.” Serving as a counterpoint to meta-narratives about how education systems affect teachers — such as backlash against evaluation, standards and testing — TLC first and foremost represents “care” for teachers, or support for teachers’ growth, advancement, collaboration and sense of community.

The TLC brand also creates space to portray the fun, joyfulness and even irreverence that are part of most every teacher’s days but are rarely reflected in school district communications. TLC connotes a playful idea of love that can be represented, for example, in tongue-in-cheek applications of “I ♥” statements, such as “TLC ♥s Self-Reflection” or “Teacher Leaders ♥ Data-Driven Planning”.

Springboard Communications is currently engaged in developing a visual identity for Teacher Leadership & Collaboration, following our work to develop communications strategy and key deliverables to support the Fall 2015 rollout to 120 schools. We can’t wait to show you!

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