Leadership in Action

Steven HerderBy Steven Herder

The iTDi Principles

Anything I can do, we can do better:
Whatever the problem, community is the answer.

  1. Every teacher matters
  2. We can always become better teachers
  3. We learn better together
  4. Every teacher deserves access to professional development
  5. We are all learners
  6. We can all be leaders
  7. Community works
  8. Education leads to change
  9. Education matters
  10. Together, we can change the future

The International Teacher Development Institute is a unique and shining example of the new leadership paradigm. For years, people have struggled to clearly understand, define and teach leadership, but as the field of leadership studies grows and takes a larger role in business and education, iTDi is at the cutting edge of online teacher education. The new leadership paradigm asserts, “Leadership is a relational, ethical process of people coming together to attempt to create positive change” (Komives, 2009). iTDi exemplifies the most current trends in leadership, including collaboration, community, and the empowerment of all. These days, smart teachers around the world are leaping into online opportunities like iTDi, and right now, we invite you to consider joining our shared mission as well.

In 2010, iTDi was an idea so strong that it brought a core group of educators together to launch the International Teacher Development Institute in the summer of 2012. An inner circle of Associates and Mentors from around the globe quickly joined us, seeing our vision and wanting to contribute. Over the next couple of years, over 5000 teachers in over 100 countries have demonstrated their commitment to iTDi by joining our community, taking online lessons, participating in iTDi Global Webinars and our popular Summer Intensives.

This kind of synergy didn’t just happen by chance. In our very busy world, we all have too many demands on our time, and precious little extra time to invest in joining new groups or associations. We are now forced to make decisions based on “What’s in it for me?” or “Am I going to get as much out of this investment as I am going to put into it?”

Therefore, in this blog post, I would like to invite you to consider the 6th iTDi Principle: We can all be leaders. However, I would like to ask you to not only consider it, but also to recognize the implications that it can hold for you and your future as an ELT educator. I would like you to experience it clearly enough that it moves you to take action and to make the decision to treat yourself as an iTDi equal, a colleague, a collaborator… a leader.

Joining us as an equal can possibly change your life. Now, you may ask, “But how are we equals? How can I talk with some of the high profile authors, leaders and teacher-trainers that lead iTDi or any other teacher communities out there?” The simple answer is that we all share one simple trait that bonds us together. This leadership trait is an earnest commitment to improve our students, our classes, our communities, and ourselves. If you also carry this trait, then we are already friends and colleagues – we simply haven’t had the opportunity to realize it yet. If you care to make yourself better, to teach better, to communicate better, then you are already a leader. You may not have recognized it yet, but you are just the same as all of us in iTDi.

The first step in becoming a leader is to decide to take on the challenges of leadership. Often, that simply means making the initial decision to become the best teacher that you can be. Once you make that decision, you are ready to pursue professional development. For those of you who lack confidence using English, there are many online opportunities to develop professionally. But the good news is that we have a great course designed just for you. The iTDi English for TESOL / TEFL Teachers Language Development Program is the only online language development course for teachers that we have been able to find online. It is not only practical and affordable; it is led by some of the most qualified tutors available online. Alternatively, if you lack confidence or experience with classroom teaching skills, then you should register for The iTDi TESOL / TEFL Teacher Skills Certification Program. These are valuable first steps that can boost your confidence and your skills. We have seen such growth over and over again with teachers from literally every corner of the planet. If you have the spirit of teacher leadership, there is nothing stopping you. In fact, not even money.

At iTDi, we don’t accept the lack of financial means as being a barrier to professional development. We offer partial and full scholarships to many of our programs, and we have an iTDi patron program for those with financial means who want to sponsor teachers with less financial means. As you can see, there is very little stopping you from making today the first day of the rest of your teaching career – as a teacher leader, as a colleague, and as an equal member of iTDi.

Please think about this. We look forward to hearing from you.



Komives, S. R., Lucas, N., & McMahon, T. R. (2009). Exploring leadership: For college students who want to make a difference. John Wiley & Sons.


What happens when every teacher matters?

Barbara Hoskins Sakamotoby barbara hoskins sakamoto

That was our question when we sat down to write the iTDi Principles more than three years ago. While teachers should matter equally, we know that in reality many teachers have been excluded from existing professional development opportunities because they can’t pay, don’t speak English well, or don’t have good Internet access.

What would happen if we tried to run International Teacher Development Institute as if all teachers mattered equally? Is it possible for a for-profit institute like iTDi to do well while still doing good? Putting this belief into practice has been a journey in equal parts challenging and rewarding.

Every teacher matters.

Think about all of the contexts where English is taught, and all of the people who are tasked with teaching English around the world. The teachers who show up at conferences and workshops, webinars and courses are easy to reach, and have a wealth of professional development choices, both free and paid. They tend to be confident English speakers who are already networking with other teachers online, they take high speed Internet for granted, and possess credit cards that can be used to pay for things online. Criteria that teachers reading this blog post may take for granted.

What does it mean to include all teachers – including those who are lack confidence in their English, may live in a part of the world where high, speed, and Internet are simply three words in the dictionary, and live with currency restrictions or no credit card?

For iTDi, it means providing excellent teacher training that isn’t difficult to understand. (Since one of our faculty includes authors also responsible for the Celta Course, A Course in English Language Teaching, and Teach English, we know that quality training and accessible English are not mutually exclusive.) It means providing a safe place for teachers (no spam!) that can be accessed from Internet cafes and computers still living in an XP world. It means making sure that teachers who need some help finding their way around online get mentored. It means looking for new ways for teachers to pay and offering scholarships when teachers are unable to pay.

While we’ve provided scholarships to hundreds of teachers since our launch in 2011, we only started keeping data about scholarship recipients for our Advanced Teaching Skills courses in 2014. Since then, we’ve awarded over 200 scholarships to teachers in more than 30 countries. We know that the average monthly income of these teachers is about $500. This amount is actually a bit skewed because some of our teachers make $1000 – $1700 a month, but live in countries with a high cost of living or currency restrictions. Seventy percent of the teachers receiving scholarships earn less than $500 a month and thirty percent earn $200 or less.

Every teacher matters.

What qualifies someone to be an English teacher? Is it completing a one-month course? Earning a college degree in TESOL? Acquiring a teaching license? Being fluent in English? Being hired by a language school? Deciding to start teaching neighborhood children?

If all teachers matter, then we need to accept that there are many paths that lead to teaching English and embrace teachers no matter how they come into the profession. The reality is that the standards for language teachers vary widely around the world, depending on the teaching context, teacher nationality, and availability of trained teachers.

What matters isn’t where you start. What matters is where you want to go in your professional development. All teachers have something to learn, and all teachers have something to share. That’s why all of our courses are social and collaborative — because we learn best when we learn together.

iTDi prices courses so that most teachers can afford to participate. However, the reality is that while $59 for an intensive course might be a bargain for teachers in many countries, it’s a challenge for the teachers who apply for one of our scholarships.

If teachers who can pay, do, then we can afford to include all teachers.

Every teacher matters.

If ongoing professional development is a kind of conversation teachers share, then more voices in the conversation means we all grow, and our profession becomes stronger. Teachers who receive mentoring become mentors. Teachers who commit to becoming better teachers also become leaders in their own schools and teacher communities. They teach other teachers what they’ve learned, attend and present at conferences, and ultimately raise the level of the language teaching profession.

If, like us, you believe that every teacher matters, and deserves an equal chance to improve, what can you do?

  1. Enroll in one of iTDi’s Advanced Teaching Skills courses, or one of our TESOL / TEFL certification programs. Every paying teacher means we can afford to include more teachers who can’t pay.
  2. Become an iTDi Patron by making a donation to our scholarship fund. 100% of all money donated goes toward including an ever-increasing number of teachers applying for scholarships.
  3. Share information about what iTDi offers, what we believe, and what we’re trying to do in order to make sure that every teacher has an equal chance to improve. Our Share the Care page includes ecards that promote our principles and other things we believe about teaching and learning, perfect for sharing in your social networks.

When every teacher matters, we all win.

Education Matters

Chuck Sandyby Chuck Sandy

The best way to change the world for the better is to provide quality education for all learners. The best way to do this is to give all teachers the opportunity to become the best teachers they can be. If we do this, we really can change the world. – iTDi Principle #9

Growing up in a small farming community with extremely limited resources, I saw first-hand how education can change lives and how those changed lives can go on to change the world. Despite having grown up in a background that many would call impoverished, my classmates and I were lucky enough to have had a handful of truly great teachers who not only took their work and their learners seriously, but who also worked tirelessly at becoming better teachers.

I didn’t know much about education back then and certainly nothing about professional development, but being in the classroom with these teachers after they’d attended workshops and seminars – which of course they told us all about – was one of the things that made me fall in love with teaching. These great teachers weren’t just teachers. They were learners, too, and as their learning changed them, that learning changed us. Now, almost forty years later I look out and see the ways that more than a few of my classmates went on to change the world.

From my small graduating class at Eden Senior High School in rural New York State came a labor organizer, an advocate for the homeless, an engineer who has worked on several world-changing technology projects, a musician who wrote some of the advertising jingles we’ve all had stuck in our head, an actor, a politician, a couple of social workers, a number of successful business people, some very innovative farmers, and more than a few teachers. Although we’ve all had different lives, what we all had in common were those very good teachers who got us started by first being the best teachers they could be. Education matters.

Recognizing this some long years ago now is what first led me to devote my life to becoming a better teacher myself and then later to founding the International Teacher Development Institute (iTDi) along with colleagues who believe as strongly as I do that the best way to change the world is by giving all teachers the opportunity to become the best teachers they can be. Since its launch in 2012, iTDi has worked with 1000s of teacher in over 100 counties and I’ve seen first-hand how that work has changed lives. I know that those changed lives will go on to change the world in ways I can now only imagine. As teachers get better at what they do, everything changes. Education matters.

This past year, we’ve had the good fortune of being introduced to an organization whose work supporting teachers exemplifies this principle, and we are proud to announce our growing collaboration with Gallery Languages and the addition of Gallery Languages’ Giovanni Rottura to our board of directors. We first collaborated with Giovanni and his organization on the iTDi / Gallery Teachers Summer Intensive which is now a collection of almost 30 archived presentation videos any teacher can view free. We’ve also provided a way for teachers to use this archive to obtain Professional Development Credit Hours, and since our relationship with Gallery Languages now allows us to reach even more teachers around the world, even more change is possible.

Although we’re now working together on a number of projects, our most visible collaboration is the newly launched GalleryTeachers.com where we aim to provide ideas, materials, and activities for every English teacher with regularly updated columns and downloadable activity sheets. It’s free to subscribe, so please do have a look.

As we increase our reach and our offerings, we increase the likelihood that the work we do will lead to even greater change in the years ahead. Still, just as it was impossible for me to know more than forty years ago where the work the good teachers I had would bring about, it’s now impossible to know where the work iTDi and Gallery Languages is doing with teachers will one day lead. What we do know for sure is that the best way to change the world for the better is to provide quality education for all learners. The best way to do this is to give all teachers the opportunity to become the best teachers they can be. If we do this, we really can change the world. Education matters.

Giving Back II

Mentors help us become better teachers. But sometimes they do even more than that, sometimes they help us become fuller and more aware people. In the second issue of the iTDi blog dedicated to the mentors in our community, Michael Griffin, Maria Bossa and Kevin Stein celebrate the teachers who have helped us to feel that what we have to say is important. The mentors in our community remind us that the act of giving is also an act of receiving, how reaching out and helping someone else enriches us all. ‘Giving Back’, a tribute to the mentors in our community.

Kevin SteinTO LISTEN

A teacher by any other name

Michael Griffinby Michael Griffin

This is a post mostly about me. One teacher plays a very prominent role here but she will remain nameless. Perhaps she would prefer the anonymity anyway. She is quite humble.

I’m not even sure when or how we met. I only know it was online. I’m guessing it was in 2012. Late 2012, probably. I know iTDi was somehow involved. If I recall correctly, she took the “English for Teachers” course at some point. She now regularly takes advanced iTDi courses. I don’t actually remember any of our initial interactions. It was as though, all of a sudden, she was there and she’d been there all along. I do remember having a great impression of her from the very start even though I don’t know exactly when that was.

Although I have never met this teacher in person I have been lucky enough to hear her speak in webinars as well as video and audio recordings. In these moments, her compassion could be clearly seen and heard. Her compassion and passion are also clear in her writing. Her blog is one of the few blogs I make sure there are no other tabs or windows open on my computer before reading because I want to savor every word.

Although I have never met her face-to-face I have bonded with other teachers sharing our respect and admiration for her both on and offline. My opinion of others changes when I learn they know, like and interact with her. Just three days ago I was meeting someone in person for the first time and he mentioned how welcoming, kind, knowledgeable, and helpful she is. She is a connector, whether she is in the room or not.

Although we have never met in “real life” we talk online on Twitter and Facebook. We don’t chat all that often but in our conversations seem to pick up right where we left off before things like sleep, work, and life got in in the way. A few times a quick clarification or question on Facebook turned into an hours-long conversation. On these occasions it was easy to lose track of time because of the interesting and honest conversations we had about teaching, development and our respective contexts.

She has helped me see many things in different ways and I think she is a great model of how to communicate effectively and honestly with those we disagree with. I see her as a positive force and a non-selfish person in world where this is too rare. She has helped me to consider the reasons behind decisions made by myself and others even if the answers are not always pretty or flattering.

One of the most important things she has helped remind me of is the realities of many teachers around the world when it comes to money and time. As an example, flying off to the IATEFL or TESOL Conferences is not realistic for many teachers around the world. Similarly, having the latest fancy tools and gadgets for teaching is impossible for many teachers.  She has helped remind me of such realities. It is very easy to fall into certain bubbles and ignore much more important issues happening in the field. I appreciate her helping me see this more clearly.

In terms of teaching, her views on giving students choice and autonomy are things I consider throughout my teaching and planning. I cannot always implement as much student choice as I’d like to but it is something I keep in mind more often now. I feel more capable of finding small ways of doing so.

Rose Image for MichaelI am filled with gratitude when I think about her and all the other fantastic teachers I have met online. She is a wonderful model of passion, empathy, kindness, compassion, humility, and honesty so I sincerely thank her for that. She is also a great model of being onto others what we want others to be. I thank her for being a fellow learner, fellow traveler and fellow human.

If I were to share a private and personal message to her (publicly on this blog) I would say that there is hope and that good can still win. The world just needs more people like her sharing their light.