Students and Faculty Benefit from Teacher Leadership

Student Stories: Steven Bainer, MSTL ‘19

Steve Bainer is a passionate social studies teacher and coach at Derby High School who has so much to offer his students while advocating for teachers. The master's in teacher leadership program at Quinnipiac University taught him how to articulate his ideas for school improvement. His main goal is to provide a safe, challenging and rewarding experience giving students a strong foundation in academics and life lessons.

Steve’s passion for teaching is inspiring. The teacher leadership program gave him the tools and confidence to participate in discussions, ask for improvements and to confidently ‘step out of the box.’

A few years ago, Steve asked the administration for an AP Government class. He felt students were too limited in their course offerings. The next year, he asked again. By the third year, he asked for the course to be part of the curriculum and included the need for it: “We focus on the kids that need support and lose the kids that are on the higher end,” Steve explained to the administration.

It took him some time, but the strategies he learned in his online courses taught him how to ask. Steve is now teaching the AP Government class designed to challenge the highest achieving sophomores.

Steve Bainer, MSTL '19, and daughter.

Steve Bainer is fulfilling his passion for education while making time for his family.

Throughout the teacher leadership program, Steve learned strategies to communicate his needs, how to present his ideas, and back them up with data points to create change within his school.

He admits that he doesn’t always get what he asks for, but he is passionate and persistent and will advocate for what he feels is important. Learning how to become a more effective teacher leader is something that Steve tries to do daily. “There is no place for complacency,” he reminds us.

Steve was casually talking with a parent who is very involved in town politics. Steve said something like, “It would be great if our students can work on the mayoral campaign.” That idea became a reality. Twenty students worked on the 2019 Derby mayoral election.

The students have been recognized by the principal, the superintendent, and many others in the community. A very special guest, Senator Murphy, stopped by to visit the students. That was such a highlight. “You never know what doors you are opening: the student working in the mayor’s office, could be a mayor one day,” Steve says with pride.

This incredible experience all came from one passionate teacher and an excited parent who saw an incredible opporutnity. The MS in Teacher Leadership program has allowed Steve to emerge as a leader in his school and community. He is excited to create positive change, and recognizes that this is done through a lot of support including teachers, administration and his mentors.

AP Government students participate in visit from the mayor of Derby.

Derby's Mayor Rich Dziekan speaks with AP Government students about his re-election campaign.

Steve has always had natural leadership qualities and his high school baseball coach recognized this early on. They had a close relationship and still do. His coach saw Steve as a teacher and a coach. Steve had plans to become a lawyer. After he earned his bachelor’s degree, his passion drew him to coaching and then to the classroom. He credits his mentor and friend for believing in him and guiding him throughout the years.

Steve draws from those early years and teaches students how to become leaders in the classroom much like his coach did for him. He puts his students in classroom leadership roles, values them and tells them that they matter. Students want to be heard. Steve believes in them and that makes all the difference.

Coach Bainer, MSTL '19, teaches players the benefits of leadership skills by being part of a team.

Steve takes lessons and leadership to the baseball field where his players benefit from his teacher leadership foundation.

He models leadership everyday and shows students that advocating for what you believe in makes a significant difference. Steve says, “The world is telling them they have to live their life outside the box, and education tells them they have to find their answers in the box. So, in the classroom, teachers need to find creative ways to teach the kids the material in an engaging way so that they remain interested while meeting the curriculum. It can be challenging, but it can be done.”

“At the end of the day, it’s about the kids, not us.“

Steve and his wife, Kelly, are both educators who lead through example.

Steve and his wife, Kelly, both educators, share a lifelong commitment in helping students reach their fullest potential.


Q & A

What is the most inspiring thing you’ve learned to-date?

I learned how to better support my colleagues, students, and school community through all of the academic coursework at Quinnipiac, both in the Teacher Leadership program, as well as the Educational Leadership program that I am currently enrolled in.

Was there one class, project, paper, capstone that made a memorable impact?

The project in EDL 601 Leading and Managing the Contemporary School was a huge shift in the way that I looked at a school community, and the changes that could be made to better support students. This course has a field-based experience that looks at district policies and resources that impact teaching and learning. It is a deep dive into better understanding how leadership address current problems and issues.

How well did Quinnipiac prepare you to take on a leadership role at your school?

Quinnipiac did an incredible job of developing my toolkit of ways to better support our students as well as our school community. Learning a variety of ways to work with our administration and stakeholders has made me far more well-rounded as a teacher in the ways that I can lead within my school community.

What kind of interaction have you had with Quinnipiac alumni?

I have spoken with some alumni about the Educational Leadership program and their experiences. The alumni have indicated that Dr. Gilmore and all of the other members of the School of Education have been supportive, accommodating, and extremely valuable in their experiences.

What’s next for you?

Education is never a finished product. Currently, I am enrolled in the Educational Leadership program at QU which is an administrative degree. I am gaining a fuller understanding and appreciation of the administration side of things, and someday I may want that role. Right now, though, I love the classroom and feel that I have so much more to learn and to offer as a classroom teacher.



Leading from the classroom empowers teachers to create meaningful change. A masters in teacher leadership can help teachers further their role in shaping the future of our schools. Learn more how this degree can benefit students and faculty: MS in Teacher Leadership



Related Articles