Life usually calms down for K-12 educators once the last school bell rings and students head home for the summer months. More and more teachers are using summertime for professional development, and they’re enrolling in courses through Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota Graduate Professional Development for Educators (GPDE).
“We’re getting a lot of students who are taking courses for their own professional development. We’re also getting groups of teachers from the same school who want to be together for a summer class,” said Scott Walker, program director for professional development initiatives in Saint Mary’s Graduate School of Education. “The program was set up years ago for Master of Arts in Education students to take their electives,” Walker said.
Last summer about 1,000 educators took Saint Mary’s GPDE courses offered throughout the state. Walker estimates that this year’s participation will be even higher, in part because the opportunities benefit teachers whether in their first or their 30th year in the classroom.
“We see brand-new teachers who want more information on certain topics,” Walker said. “We also see veteran teachers who are looking to renew their licenses or keep themselves fresh. If you looked at the demographics of our students, you couldn’t pinpoint a certain demographic, because we’ve got them all.”
In order to accommodate the typical school year schedule, GPDE courses usually begin around mid-June with a few starting in May. Courses last for anywhere between a couple days to several weeks, running no later than the second week in August — allowing sufficient classroom prep time for the new school year.
Walker notes that everything from conventional topics to new ways to use technology are offered through Saint Mary’s GPDE. In fact, there are hundreds of course options.
“We offer everything from typical classes on reading techniques up to differentiation,” Walker said. “We get as specific as offering courses on Google, integrating STEM into the classroom, and this year we have a new course being held at Cascade Meadows Environmental Science Center in Rochester. This is our first round into a specific biology course. It’s really appropriate for any grade from 1-12 and taking science from the field into the classroom.”