Professional Development Guide

Creative ways to hone your teaching skills

By Lori Hadacek Chaplin

“As teachers are the architects of the classroom, professional teacher development and teacher education are the architects of the teacher,” writes veteran teacher Lisa Lucilio in her article, “What Secondary Teachers Need in Professional Development,” published in Catholic Education: A Journal of Inquiry and Practice (2013).

Lucilio continues, “Professional development prepares the teacher to be an active force in improving student achievement.”

For the 2018 Professional Development Guide, TCT focuses on Sacred Art, Creative Writing, English as a New Language, STEM, and Religion.

Seaside chapel at the Sacred Art Institute on Enders Island, Connecticut. Courtesy of Enders Island.


Sacred Art Institute Traditional Iconography Workshop
Held on beautiful Enders Island, located off the coast of historic Mystic, Connecticut, this five-day workshop — taught by iconographer Grace Zazzaro — is an edifying and enlightening experience. Art, history, and religion teachers who want to study the traditional technique, history, and theological facets of Byzantine iconography will benefit from the class. Participants learn the fundamentals of egg tempera paint, gold leaf, the icon board, and more. At the end of the workshop, you will have completed an icon of the Archangel Gabriel. Held June 10-15, 2018.
Cost: $675-$1,150 (add $320 for one credit through Holy Apostles College)
Course Credit: certificate or one credit
Deadline: May 28

Byzantine iconography workshop at the Sacred Art Institute. Courtesy of Enders Island.

Sacred Art Institute Gregorian Chant Workshop
This five-day class introduces participants to notation, vocal technique, and Gregorian chants used in Roman Catholic Liturgy. Taught by John Brodeur, participants learn about Gregorian chant through practice, theory, and theological discussion. Only a basic singing ability is required. Participants take part in a recorded sung liturgy and receive a copy of the recording. Held August 12-17, 2018.
Cost: $660-$1,135
Course Credit: certificate of completion
Deadline: July 30, 2018

Holy Apostles College Bachelor of Arts in Sacred Art
Holy Apostles College in Cromwell, Connecticut, and the Sacred Art Institute of Enders Island recently partnered to create a hybrid of online course through the college and on-site classes through the Sacred Art Institute. Online course options include: Aesthetics in Sacred Art, Theology of the Icon, History of Christian Iconography, Christian Art through the Ages, and several other sacred art courses.
Cost: $320 per credit
Course Credit: three credits for online course and one credit for workshops
Deadline: contact college registrar


Get inspired to write a book at a master class with James Patterson. Courtesy of Patterson Master Class.

Master Class
This online course will help English teachers instill the love of writing in their middle- and high-school student and fuel their own creative fires. The course is taught by best-selling author James Patterson, who demystifies the writing process and shares the secrets of his success. His video series, featuring 22 short lectures, is engaging and highly motivating, and it provides insights into writing that teachers will want to share with their students. For example, Patterson, who has written more than 61 books, says careful outlining is one of the keys to his success. This self-directed course includes a downloadable and printable workbook, “office hours” to submit a video or written questions to the author, and a forum to dialogue with other budding authors. You might even be inspired to write a book!
Cost: $90
Course Credit: personal enrichment
Deadline: none


University of Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE)
“By 2025, it is estimated that more than one in five American school children will be an ELL [English Language Learner].” Looking ahead to 2019, ACE offers three ways to get credit hours in English as a New Language (ENL):
Hernandez Fellows Program
This program is a one-year certification program designed for Catholic schools. As an ENL Hernandez Fellow, you take six graduate-level courses at Notre Dame during a two-week summer session in mid-July and online throughout the year.
Cost: approximately $8,700 (includes housing and food for summer session), with tuition assistance available
Course Credit: 18 credits
Deadline: end of March

ENL’s online professional development modules
This program features six interactive, self-paced online modules that incorporate research, videos, a discussion forum, and instructional strategies for teaching ENL. The modules include: What Research Has Taught Us about ELLs, Understanding Language Acquisition and Creating Linguistically Rich Classrooms, Instructional Strategies and Technology, Vocabulary Development, Leveraging Culture as an Asset, and Literacy Development.
Cost: $300 per teacher
Course Credit: up to 12 credits
Deadline: January 1

ENL on-site professional development
This program is for schools that have a large number of teachers in need of ENL. A customizable on-site workshop, led by ENL experts, is available in half-day, full-day, or two-day options.
Cost: for up to 300 teachers — $3,000-$12,000 (plus travel), depending on the duration of the workshop
Course Credit: No course credit for on-site workshops. However, Ace is open to working with dioceses to assist teachers in obtaining continuing education credits for the hours that they participate in the professional development day(s).
Deadline: typically a semester in advance


Trustey Family STEM Teaching Fellows
This program covers STEM Integration, Core Instructional Practices, and STEM Impact Plan over the course of three summers and two school years. The application is for middle-school teachers who are part of a three- to five-member STEM team. The two-week Summer Institute is generally held the last two weeks of July, and there’s a RISE Summit in January held in Palo Alto, California.
Cost: Free; Notre Dame also covers food, lodging, and travel for the duration of the fellowship
Course Credit: approximately 100 hours of professional development each year
Deadline: application due the beginning of March

Programming a MINDSTORMS robot at LEGO EV3 workshop. Courtesy of LEGO EV3 Teacher Training.

LEGO EV3 teacher training on-site classes
The program comprises five days of hands-on training at the National Robotics Engineering Center (NREC), part of the world-renowned Carnegie Mellon University Robotics Institute in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It teaches the fundamentals of EV3 programming and pedagogy associated with the accompanying STEM concepts. Participants learn how to program the new LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 robot, how to use the EV3 software, and how to use robotics as an organizer to teach CS-STEM concepts. Typically the class is hosted three times a year in June, July, and August, and online classes are available.
Cost: $1,099 (includes hardware and software)
Course Credit: Certificate of Completion; Teachers living in Pennsylvania receive 48 Credits / 36 hours per class
Deadline: see website

The National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) offers webinars on STEM and STREAM topics. These webinars are archived and available on the NCEA YouTube Channel.
[NCEA’s free webinars are posted every week on a variety of subjects. Educators can follow @NCEATALK or #NCEAWebinars on Social Media to get the updates.] Website:
Cost: free
course credit: certificate of attendance
Deadline: none for archived webinars


Sophia Institute for Teachers
The Institute offers two online courses, which includes The Sacraments and Discipleship: Exploring the Mystery of Divine Love, and The Spirituality of the Teacher: A Spiritual Journey toward Living Your Vocation as a Teacher. Each self-paced course features six 45-minute videos team-taught by a college professor and a master teacher.
Cost: $49 per course
Course Credit: professional
development certificate
Deadline: open

Also from Sophia Institute for Teachers, webinars including Infusing Lessons with Sacred Art and Using Sophia SketchPad to Teach about Holy Communion, as well as programs for other sacraments, are offered. Each webinar, conducted by a master teacher, lasts 45 minutes, includes lesson plan ideas, is self-paced, and has ready-to-use materials.
Cost: $9.99
Course Credit: professional development certificate
Deadline: open

Catholic Distance Learning (CDU)
CDU offers a variety of online adult faith formation courses and independent studies on topics such as Sacred Scripture, Catechism of the Catholic Church, and Vatican Council II, as well as Continuing Education Certificates in Religious Studies, including Apologetics, Catholic Education, Old and New Testament, and much more.
Cost: see website
Course Credit: Certificate of Course Completion or Continuing Education Certificate (see website)
Deadline: open


The Institute for Catholic Liberal Education
“Educating from the Heart of the Church” is the theme of the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education’s 2018 annual teacher retreat and conference. This year’s conference takes place at The Catholic University of America (CUA), in Washington, D.C., and features talks by Dr. John Garvey, president of CUA; Dr. Christopher Perrin of Catholic Academic Press; and Dr. Jem Sullivan, theologian and secretary of education for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., among others. Runs July 23-26, 2018.
Cost: $650 (includes room and board)
Course Credit: certificate of completion
Deadline: open until filled

CiRCE (Center for Independent Research on Classical Education) Institute
The Institute offers a three-year apprenticeship program with master teachers mentoring educators in classical rhetoric and classical modes of instruction. “Assignments include reading Great Books, teaching the Lost Tools of Writing weekly, attending webinars, and participating in our online discussion community. A mentor guides the apprentices through the work of authors like of Homer, Plato, Shakespeare, Hicks, Berry, and Lewis,” says the CiRCE website. Educators spend approximately 6-10 hours a week on the apprenticeship and attend six retreats over the course of the three years.
Cost: approximately $3,750 (includes food, travel, and lodging)
Course Credit: certified CiRCE Classical Teacher
Deadline: contact

Parish swap, creating time for professional development

St. Paul’s Catholic School (K-8) in Nampa, Idaho, makes professional development a priority with “Thursday Enrichment.” The last period each Thursday is set aside for professional development. On three Thursdays of the month, teachers divide and conquer by combining classes so half of the teachers can participate in professional development. For the remaining Thursday, Principal Scott Coulter has found a creative way to ensure that the entire faculty can gather to study the Catholic faith.

Coulter told TCT, “Once a month the parish staff comes over to the school and provides an enriching experience for our students.”

Fr. Caleb Vogel, the pastor at St. Paul’s Parish, told TCT, “I thought it was a great way to integrate the school and parish faculty and staff. Parishes and schools can often run as separate institutions even though they are on the same property.”

With the theme “Our Creed,” the parish staff teaches and leads age-appropriate activities with the students, while the entire faculty meets to study the faith using the Symbolon video series on “Then we’ll have discussions amongst our faculty about how this speaks to us, how we can apply it for our own growth and then turn around and help with the faith formation of our students,” Coulter explains.

Fr. Vogel feels that giving the teachers an opportunity to deepen their understanding of the Church will help them excel in teaching the Catholic faith, which is a high priority for St. Paul’s School.

Coulter shares that his students are enriched by the presence of priests. “I can’t speak for other schools, but I sense that we are somewhat unique in that our pastor has made it a real priority and has found creative ways to engage with our students.”

St. Dorothy School

St. Dorothy School (K-8) in Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania, has the distinct honor of having two of their teachers earn the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) Distinguished Teacher Award in the last three academic years. Sr. Karen Tomasetti, M Ed, who has been advocating professional development for 28 years, credits the school’s commitment to professional development as one of the reasons for teacher success.

Principal Tomasetti plans at least two whole-faculty experiences for professional development in a school year. She told TCT, “Utilizing the results of standardized testing and school surveys, I take into account the needs of the school.”

She believes that learning is an ongoing process, so she has her teachers set goals for each year. “As their leader, I see it as my job to help them fulfill those goals, and if professional development is needed for that, I support their need to attend.”

The Augustine Institute has compiled some of the latest and best books, lectures, audios, and movies to aid Catholics of all ages on their faith journey. Also available are Bible studies, faith formation, sacrament studies, Spanish-language content, and much more. Many parishes subscribe to this service; contact your parish or diocese to see whether it’s available.

Lori Hadacek Chaplin is a senior writer and columnist for Catholic Digest magazine. Her articles appear regularly in Today’s Catholic Teacher, National Catholic Register, Celebrate Life magazine, and OSV Weekly. She lives in Idaho with her husband, David, and their four children.

All content copyright © Today’s Catholic Teacher/ All rights reserved. May be reproduced for classroom/parish use with full attribution as long as the content is unaltered from its original form. To request permission to reprint online, email