Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership



First Reader/Committee Chair

John Winslade


The teacher-student relationship is multidimensional and fluid. This is especially true for students who come from disadvantaged backgrounds. Educational leaders in the public school setting cannot control which students enroll at their school sites. The only thing teachers, as educational leaders in K-12 public education, have complete control over is the environment they create in their classrooms. Among those student groups most reflecting few gains on state and federal reports of proficiency data are students who typically come from backgrounds besieged with challenges or from historically underserved and marginalized communities. In this transcendental phenomenological study, the phenomenon investigated was how secondary teachers described their experiences in building relationships with students identified as at promise. A secondary public school setting was the focus of this study. The intent of this study was to understand the essence of the lived experiences of teachers as they described their experiences in building relationships with at-promise youth. Teachers must leverage themselves in the quest to form positive and strong relationships with their students. In shifting the adverse narrative about the political identity used to categorize these students, the antipathetic mindset related to these students in public schools too shall shift. Research has demonstrated that at-promise students respond best in school settings that provide a culture where teachers intentionally construct a caring interaction laden with respect and recognition. It is important to foster agency in at-promise students through the understanding of the social, political, and economic structures that served to impact their generational past, inform their present, and prepare their future. This research study focused on the complex dynamic of the teacher-student relationship. This research investigation connected the important role teachers play in the lives of their students, teacher mindset about at-promise student success, and how strong and positive teacher-student relationships have the potential to encourage agency in at-promise students through meaningful recognition of their promise for academic success over their presupposed risks. This study’s findings highlight the critical need for teachers to create intentional opportunities to foster strong teacher-student relationships with at-promise students.