Nifemi Ogunsuyi is a teacher leader in New York who participated in Teaching Matter’s Emerging Teacher Leadership Program (ETLP) to develop teacher leader skills, as well as their Master Teacher Program, an advanced micro-credentialing program that allows teachers to demonstrate her competence in leading other teachers. Jennie Brotman sat down with Nifemi to dive deeper into her experience earning their micro-credentials. The interview as presented has been condensed.
How would you describe a micro-credential to a teacher who has never heard of one before?
A micro-credential is a competency-based digital badge teachers can earn. Micro-credentialing allows teachers to learn complex skills, then demonstrate effectiveness. It tells people that you have not only learned the skill, but demonstrated it successfully in your practice.
How did earning micro-credentials differ from other kinds of professional development that you’ve experienced?
Usually, professional development experiences take two or three days. Earning micro-credentials…involved an entire cycle of a month or two where I actually had the chance to apply what I had learned. There was real expectations and accountability, along with resources to help along the way. For me, the longevity and repetition in earning micro-credentials helped me internalize what I was learning. Real learning doesn’t happen until some reflection takes place.
Most professional development programs are short, and it’s on the teacher to make sure they follow up and implement what they learned. It’s really hard to dig deep if there’s no accountability or expectations, so most of the time it just gets lost. In contrast, the micro-credential becomes part of you because of the reflection and application to your work.
And so how did the micro-credentialing process impact your practice?
Having the support from Teaching Matters and someone giving me feedback gave me a different outlook on my practice — a new perspective. I have worked with Teaching Matters for two years in different programs. So much time goes into the learning cycle and completing work, so everything I’ve learned has stuck with me. It’s almost hard to forget the skills because we had done so much to complete the micro-credential.
What impact did the feedback that you got on your micro credentials submissions have on your practice?
When I got feedback, it helped me know if I did something the most effective way, or if I could re-evaluate my approach. In my conversations with teachers, it helped me make sure that the instructional strategies we were trying were the most appropriate ones. Even with the positive feedback, it was great to know what worked so I could make sure to keep doing it.
What impact do you feel the program had on your colleagues?
For one of the micro-credentials, our team focused on questioning and discussion techniques. We mapped out our inquiry cycle and came up with different things that we planned to try out in different classrooms. We had received a “developing” for our last two School Quality Reviews related to questioning and discussion, so I picked that to focus on.
Initially when we would observe classrooms, teachers would ask all these questions, but they weren’t really giving students the opportunity to internalize and respond to those questions. If the students aren’t really given an opportunity to think about the questions that they’re being asked or if they don’t have any structure, there’s no point.
I see the improvement in questioning and discussion techniques now. Reflection provided a structured lens for our teachers to know what questioning and discussion should and shouldn’t look like, what students should be doing, and what you should be doing as a teacher. Now teachers can ensure that learning is taking place in the way that they mapped out in their lesson plans.
What is most challenging about the micro-credentialing process, and would you encourage other teachers to earn them?
Getting the work done within the timeframe was sometimes difficult, but I would recommend this to other teachers. It is important to teachers that education systems value micro-credentials. I also think they should be recognized as part of the application process to get new leadership opportunities.
What motivated you to participate in this micro-credentialing program?
I was motivated because I was learning so much and could immediately transfer those skills to improving my work. It’s not just about checking off boxes. The revision process was where the real learning took place. I learned through the process, not the product. In fact, the learning curve was my biggest drive, because I saw the effect it was having on my practice as a teacher leader. Now I am able to have an impact on so many other teachers and students in my building. That is my motivation.
If there was a teacher who wasn’t sure about participating but was considering it, what would you say to them?
It’s not something you can just brush through. It’s a time commitment, so you have to really want to do it and plan well before starting to make the process easier. You have to be able to put in the time for planning, vision, and reflection. It’s a great way to learn—I’ve learned so much—but you need to be prepared to invest the time and be really strategic.
What you can learn in just one year is amazing. I can see myself using this information and these skills throughout my career in education. I can also apply what I’ve learned with teachers on a larger scale. It’s incredible. It’s given me a more structured lens for visiting classrooms, providing support, and guiding conversations. What I learned from this program is going to guide my future conversations, relationships, and support of teachers I will work with.
Inspired by this story? Start exploring micro-credentials today!