Peer Learning and Summer PD with Erich Utrie

July 27, 2016

Summer is the perfect time for teachers to seek high-quality professional development.  No matter what their level of experience, all teachers can benefit such experiences.  New teacher PD opportunities are great for building out your professional network, learning new pedagogical concepts, and perfecting your craft.  For mid-level and more seasoned teachers, PD opportunities are great for keeping current on classroom and pedagogical trends, trying out new classroom management techniques, connecting and reconnecting with other professionals, and building and enhancing your repertoire of teaching techniques.  


Professional development opportunities can present themselves in many forms.  We followed one of our Educator Network members Erich Utrie, a veteran teacher from Wisconsin, through his experience at Colonial Williamsburg.  Erich served as a Peer Facilitator at the Teacher Institute at Colonial Williamsburg. Colonial Williamsburg has sponsored the Teacher Institute for 27 years and has provided instruction to over 8,000 teachers to date.  As Erich reflected, “I was honored to serve this summer as a Peer Facilitator, helping teachers translate their experiences at Colonial Williamsburg into their respective classrooms."  Erich took the opportunity a step further by connecting with his fellow teachers around iCivics.  During one of his Application Sessions, he presented a few iCivics resources that met the interests and needs of his fellow teachers at the Teacher Institute.  He found that a few of the teachers were familiar with iCivics and had used the resources in their classrooms prior to his session.  He shared with us that, for him, ”it was a great time for exploration,” and served as a rewarding opportunity to share how iCivics’ games and lesson plans can enhance learning for all students.   


Erich’s experience as a Peer Facilitator provided him the unique opportunity to open a channel of exchanged learning and growth between himself and the other teachers.  This exchange was not only rewarding for the teachers who learned more about iCivics; it was an opportunity for Erich to exercise his knowledge-base, leadership, and teaching philosophy.  


Summer professional development does not have to be formal or boring.  For teachers, many of whom are naturally creative and love learning, professional development should be a hands-on and engaging experience.  Professional development should be embraced as an opportunity for teachers to explore their teaching style, their teaching philosophy, and test boundaries of their teaching practices by learning from others.  At its core, teacher-centric professional development is a time for sharing, for exchange, for making new friends, and for fun.  When done well and experienced with an open mind, it leaves teachers inspired and re-energized for the year ahead!  


Learn more about Erich!

Erich Utrie is a veteran teacher of 22 years.  He currently teaches 8th grade social studies at Jefferson Middle School (WI) and serves his school community as  wrestling coach, Investors' Club advisor, as well as, team leader and Digital Communications Manager.  Erich believes optimal learning takes place when students are engaged and challenged in real world situations.  Check him out on our Educator Network page.  Follow Erich on Twitter!