Never Stop Learning - Virtual Teacher Professional Development Program

Chelsea Penney
March 21, 2024

Proximity Learning is proud to offer a robust professional development calendar to our virtual teachers. Sessions cover soft skills and technical skills in addition to voluntary PLCs that mimic the brick-and-mortar camaraderie teachers are accustomed to. 

Our professional development team

Our professional development team is led by Katie Oliver, Manager of Professional Development, and Kate Schartel Novak, Professional Development Specialist, who dedicate their time to creating a varied calendar of opportunities for Proximity Learning virtual teachers to share ideas, hone their skills, and stay on the pulse of new edtech.  

The team is highly educated and qualified to lead our professional development program. Katie earned an M.A. in Educational Leadership & Administration and Kate holds an M.Ed. in Secondary Technology-based Teacher Education. Katie and Kate combined spent over 20 years in brick-and-mortar schools before transitioning to education companies. 

Despite the transition, the passion for educating remains. Katie explains, “While we aren't still in the classroom with K-12 students, I think working on the PD team allows us to continue to teach and share information with others.” Proximity Learning is lucky to have them leading our efforts in supporting our virtual teachers with enriching PD sessions that add value to their jobs and their lives.

Varied course list

The team is strategic when creating each semester’s robust professional development calendar. They strike a delicate balance between growing teachers as professionals and as people. They work hard to add personal enrichment, help teachers build collaborative relationships among their peers, share virtual teaching ideas, and introduce new innovative edtech programs. 

Proximity Learning virtual teachers are encouraged to attend at least three PD sessions per semester. The goal is to enrich their lives and careers, not add more requirements to their already busy work schedules. Last fall, the PD calendar boasted 57 offerings for teachers including edtech training for platforms like Canvas and, teaching tips incorporating the use of breakout rooms and accommodations, plus wellness events and socials to help peers connect with one another. The variety of professional development sessions allows teachers to find something they are interested in learning about.

Based on teacher needs

When planning professional development offerings, the team enlists the recommendations of multiple teams. 

“We started out by offering sessions that we felt would be useful or interesting to teachers based on trending topics in virtual instruction,” Kate explains. “The process has evolved to honing in on teachers' needs in the classroom based on their feedback, Teaching and Learning Specialist feedback, and the feedback of the administrators and students at the schools we serve. We also keep a general lookout for innovative and useful virtual teaching tools and be sure to provide support and instruction surrounding them so teachers can use them with ease.” 

The response has been very positive among our live instruction teachers. “Educators appreciate the space to learn,” Katie says. “Often, teachers share that they wish that the sessions were longer and they are eager to apply the learning. I also think one of the valuable things about providing live training for our faculty is that it creates a space where they can come together, collaborate, and build community. It is really powerful to watch teachers connect and share great ideas with one another.” 

Supporting teachers supports students 

The PD team’s work goes beyond software training. It is important to connect teachers to each other and to the internal teams so they feel included and invested in their classrooms. “Our Connected Community initiative works to support teachers by providing an environment akin to brick-and-mortar buildings with frequent opportunities to communicate and build relationships with colleagues as well as corporate staff,” Kate says. “We run PLCs, grant premium licenses to our most popular digital tools, and coordinate teacher-facing communications in order to keep faculty in-the-know.  Building connections like these is my favorite part of this position because it is an opportunity to make a difference in our teachers' lives and work, much in the same way our teachers hope to make a difference in their students' lives.” 

Soft skills are enhanced when transitioning to online teaching. “We have been working closely with other teams this year to push for greater engagement in our classes,” Katie explains. “This is something that teachers see and hear about in PD, in faculty meetings, in resources we send in our newsletters, and from their TLS.” 

The support manifests in student success. “As recently as this week we had a school leader share that she can see all the changes that we have made around engagement and course structure. She shouted-out how our teachers are checking for understanding more than ever and how they are using bell ringers and exit tickets effectively. So schools are noticing the efforts and if schools are noticing, it means that the work is positively impacting our teachers, facilitators and students.” 

Interested in our educator community? Learn more about our teacher support network.

about the author
Chelsea Penney

Chelsea Penney earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Writing from University of Colorado Denver and her Masters of Science in Marketing from Texas A&M University Commerce. She loves living in Austin, TX and working on the frontline as Content Marketing Manager for Proximity Learning.

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