Oakland University Teacher Leadership Initiative the only one of its Kind in Michigan

Former SEHS dean Robert Maxfield and wife fund teacher leadership initiative at OU

When Robert Maxfield joined Oakland University’s Educational Leadership faculty, he brought 40 years of teaching and leadership experience in Michigan’s public school system. Much of his career was devoted to helping teachers become effective leaders, and he was one of the architects of the Galileo Consortium. Formed in 1997, the consortium provides a two-year teacher development program – called the Galileo Academy – for educators in 29 school districts and two community colleges in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties.

The program was so successful that in 2005, after retiring as superintendent of Farmington Public Schools, Dr. Maxfield spearheaded the launch of the Galileo Institute for Teacher Leadership at Oakland University. The institute was designed to support the work of the Galileo Consortium by providing academic programs, research on teacher leadership, yearly conferences and special events.

With a mission centered on teaching, scholarship and service, the institute has given Oakland University a national reputation for promoting teacher leadership. It has also provided opportunities for alumni of the Galileo Academy to continue developing leadership skills and become ambassadors for positive change in their classrooms, districts and beyond.

Robert and Sara Maxfield

Robert and Sara Maxfield

Now, Dr. Maxfield and his wife, Sara, are taking another step to empower teachers. The couple recently made a $50,000 cash gift to start an endowment at OU. The endowment will help the Galileo Institute to support teacher advocates on behalf of the teaching profession and education reform. The initiative, known as Galileo 3.0, is intended to provide resources for Galileo alumni to “tell the leadership story” to legislators, media and the public.

Suzanne Klein, who became director of the Galileo Institute when Dr. Maxfield stepped away to become interim dean of the School of Education and Human Services, said that Galileo 3.0 builds on the two-year Galileo Academy teacher development program. She explained that teachers spend the first year, Galileo 1.0, studying their own leadership using the framework of Stephen Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. In the second year, Galileo 2.0, teachers focus on how their leadership can advance the goals of student and staff learning in their school and district. Galileo 3.0 takes teacher leadership to a third level.

As Dr. Klein put it, “The Galileo 3.0 project is rooted in the strong belief that teacher leaders can further develop advocacy skills to influence, reclaim and reframe the local and state agendas for education.”

Dr. Maxfield noted that the gift is intended to allow two Galileo Academy alumni to be released from part of their teaching duties to serve as Galileo fellows.

“Someone needs to be telling the good news about teachers,” he said. “(Galileo) 3.0 is the teacher who goes out and testifies before a legislative committee, who writes an op-ed piece for the Free Press, who speaks to the rotary club about the importance of teachers.”

According to Dr. Maxfield, this initiative would be the only one of its kind in Michigan and would help current and future teachers become a voice for school reform.

“The beauty of an endowment is that long after we’re gone, it’ll still be here,” he said. “They’ll be able to continue the momentum that was created.”

Sara Maxfield shares her husband’s fondness for the Galileo Institute, recalling the kinship and enthusiasm of Galileo leaders who dined at the couple’s home.

“The Galileo people just asked different kinds of questions, they just had this fire in them . . . there is a bond that they have,” she said. “What greater gift could we give, than the vision that (Dr. Maxfield) had and the excitement and the intelligence of those teachers, and watch it grow.”

Since it was founded, the Galileo Institute has provided opportunities for teachers to expand their knowledge and influence, both locally and nationally. Examples include assistance to local school districts seeking to promote teacher leadership, annual Saturday Ed Camp workshops where teachers learn from each other, podcast interviews with local and national leaders, and support for the growing teacher lab movement. The institute is also the only university-affiliated sponsor of Teach to Lead, a joint partnership between the U.S. Department of Education, Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, and National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

In addition, the institute has supported faculty members who have published research on teacher leadership and spurred creation of a master’s program in teacher leadership at Oakland. The University was the first in Michigan approved to offer a certificate in teacher leadership.

Dr. Klein said the institute continues to look for ways to promote teacher leadership and that Dr. Maxfield’s leadership has helped guide the institute toward a bright future and that the Galileo 3.0 gift promises to make an indelible mark on teacher leadership at OU and in the surrounding community.

“Galileo 3.0 is a logical extension of the work we’ve been doing at the institute,” Dr. Klein said. “Advocacy is so important when it comes to improving the quality of education that children receive. Teachers can take a leading role in making our education system the best it can be. There are many challenges ahead, and the Maxfield’s gift will help ensure that teachers have a voice in finding solutions.”

To contribute to the Galileo Teacher Leadership Endowed Fund, visit the web page or call (248) 370-4504.

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